As many of you know, Linda and I went to France this summer. One of the highlights of the trip for me was going to the Normandy beaches and the American cemetery, where well over 9000 WWII dead are buried. The cemetery itself is very well kept and beautiful, and the memorial there is stately and impressive.
As part of the tour, we all gathered at the memorial overlooking the cemetery; listened to a brief talk about the thousands buried there and their sacrifice; and then turned toward the cemetery to sing the Star Spangled Banner. It’s difficult to describe how moving this short ceremony was for everyone in attendance; there was truly not a dry eye in the place (mine included) at the conclusion.
I’ve heard patriotic sentiments often expressed on Memorial Day weekends, but on that day the real, enormous price was graphically displayed before my eyes in a way I had never known. The sight of uniform row after row of white crosses and stars of David that just went on and on brought home the enormity of the price in young lives that was paid for our (my) freedom — their lives given in defense of ours. And there was a unity found in the singing of the national anthem. It was sobering, humbling, and thought provoking (to say the least). I had heard, as we all have, that “freedom is not free”; but had not fathomed just how expensive it had been — and in just this one place.
This has made me reflect anew how expensive my salvation is. Yes, like every sincere Christian, I’ve known the cross, have tried to wrap my mind around the costliness of man’s redemption, and have cringed seeing the movie “The Passion of the Christ”. I still tear up, still after over 50 years of being a Christian, as some hymns movingly speak of Christ’s sacrifice for me; I thought (I hoped) that I “got it”. But now I’m not so sure, and the words of an old hymn (When this Passing World is Done) come back to me with fresh power…
When I stand before the throne,
Dressed in beauty not my own,
When I see Thee as Thou art,
Love Thee with unsinning heart,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know,
Not till then, how much I owe.
It wasn’t just a really good man whose life was given for our own. It wasn’t 9000 plus lives of courageous young men who were sacrificed for our salvation. It wasn’t an angel, an archangel, or the whole angelic host that was offered. It was much, much greater than all of them combined. It was the exquisitely and supremely high price of the very Son of God, offered up only because nothing less could do what needed to be done. That’s why the sky darkened and the earth quaked in aguish as the breath-taking, heart-stopping, agony-filled “impossible” happened; God (2 Corinthians 5:21) “…made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Now, much more, my prayer is…
E’en on earth, as through a glass,
Darkly let Thy glory pass;
Make forgiveness feel so sweet;
Make Thy Spirit’s help so meet;
E’en on earth, Lord, make me know
Something of how much I owe.
Won’t you make it your prayer, too? As we together take the bread and cup this Lord’s Day and every Lord’s Day, let us together try to fathom anew something of how much we owe.