Written by Steven Liechty
" . . . that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and rise up and tell them to their children …" - Psalm 78
Inside the old town hall with the pressed tin ceiling, crumbling revolutionary flag, voting booths pushed into a corner, the gathering was small. Memorial Day draws a better crowd because of the band, and companies let people trade this holiday for the day after Thanksgiving.
A frail gray-haired woman with snapping eyes leaned, shaking, on the chair in front of her. She addressed a group of school children with their moms.
"I remember Armistice Day, when we believed there'd never be another war. Oh, it was grand! The churches rang their bells all day long. There were bonfires. Women ran out of their homes to bang spoons on pots and pans. Every couple hours neighbors would decide they wanted a parade. They'd find a flag and march around the streets. The boys and the fathers were coming home."
Psalm 78 reminds the Israelite people of God's saving actions in the past and criticizes their short memories and ingratitude. It charges them to keep the stories of the past alive, both the ones that make them feel like heroes and the ones of which they are ashamed, for the next generation. On Veteran's Day, begun in 1918 as Armistice Day, we remember the gifts and sacrifices of those who have served, our country's honorable military history, mistakes we wish to never repeat, and our ultimate trust in God's compassion. Then we tell these stories to children.
God, help us to learn from history and teach it truthfully. Amen.
Maren C. Tirabassi is Pastor of Union Congregational UCC of Madbury, NH. From the Psalms to the Cloud: Connecting to the Digital Age, published by The Pilgrim Press and written with Maria Mankin.