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Posted: May 28, 2010 12:00 a.m.

Grace Notes: On love and laying down one’s life

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus said that. He said it on a day we call Maundy Thursday. He said that the day he handed himself over to the Jewish and Roman authorities. He said that the day before he died on that cross… for us. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
 
We’d have to agree, huh? There’s nothing more one could give, right? I think of those soldiers willing to do just that, and I stop in awe. I’ve always been proud to be an American, and nothing makes me feel more patriotic than seeing soldiers in uniform — knowing the sacrifice they are making and willing to make for the good of their country, for the good of my country. Even growing up, I was fascinated by famous patriotic quotes of historical figures: “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country” (from John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address). “Give me liberty or give me death” (Patrick Henry in the Revolutionary War). “I regret that I have but one life to lose for my country” (Nathan Hale as he was about to be hanged by the British in that same war). 
 
We citizens of the United States have a proud history of patriotic men and women willing to sacrifice everything for our freedoms, for us. This Memorial Day Weekend, please take some time and thank God for their courage and love. Even though they don’t know you, those men and women in our armed services are willing to live and die for you, their countrymen and women. That’s worth remembering.
 
Now consider this. God knows you. He knows the times you’ve betrayed a friend or failed a family member. He knows your weaknesses and your selfishness. He knows when you haven’t asked what you can do for someone else, but what they can do for you. And still, he loved you enough to lay down his life. 
For him, it wasn’t just risking a life. The son of God took human flesh with the express purpose of giving his life — dying for you and me. 
 
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” But Jesus did one better. He lay down his life for us when we were acting as his enemies. Romans 5 tells us: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 
 
Now that is worth remembering. On Memorial Day, we specifically remember those men and women that have died serving their country. That’s worth remembering more than once a year. How much more then, ought we not remember the sacrifice God made for us — every day? Open your Bibles and be reminded. Get to a church that focuses on that truth every Sunday. And bask in God’s love. Stand in awe at his sacrifice. Greater love has no one than our God. Happy Memorial Day.

The Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.
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