Chuck Terrill: Reflecting on Memorial Day
On Memorial Day we remember the heroes who have given their lives in the service of our great nation. Those who spend time in military service have an uncomfortable life. Field duty is an expected ordeal. No matter what branch of the military, there will be C-Rations or MREs. Time will be spent cleaning weapons, standing guard duty, and braving the harsh elements. There will also be long hours spent living in a tent.
For our military men and women, a tent is frequently “home sweet home.” Tent living is a part of military duty. But, no one lives permanently in a tent. It may SEEM like it at times, but the truth of the matter is, that at the end of every field exercise soldiers return to their barracks or quarters.
The Apostle Paul was a tentmaker. He knew what it was like to live a nomadic life under harsh conditions. In II Corinthians 5 he writes: “We know that when this tent we live in is taken down and folded up, when we die and leave these finite bodies, we will have wonderful new resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not fashioned by human hands—and we will never have to relocate our ‘tents’ again. Our new homes will be ours forevermore” (my paraphrase).
Paul presents an interesting word picture. Paul says that our bodies are a lot like tents. They provide a place to live, but only for a brief portion of our existence. Like the canvas of a tent, our flesh is a temporary structure. Paul’s idea of death is breaking down a tent and folding it up, in preparation for moving into a permanent facility. At the end of life, we can add these words to our obituary: “TO BE CONTINUED.” There is more to come. When soldiers are on maneuvers, they talk about how they “can’t wait to get back home.” The misery and hardship our military women and men endure make homecoming all the more sweet.
Sometimes we might think the tent we’re living in is the real world—it’s not. What we are experiencing is but a shadow of reality. God offers the confident assurance that when our earthly existence is over, we will leave our tents and dwell forever in our permanent home. This life is the only life we’ve known, but there’s another life coming. Death is merely a transition in life, like getting orders for a new assignment. We who remain are left with sorrow, but we find comfort in the certainty of reunion and rest. We who remain, grieve--but with hope. To be absent from the body--this temporary tent--is to be at home with the Lord.
May God’s promises be the measure of our hope and expectations. And may God bless those we remembered on Memorial Day.
Chuck Terrill, who has doctorates from Master Theological Seminary and Trinity Seminary, is the senior minister at First Christian Church in Cassville. He may be reached at 417-847-2460.