Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
Tomorrow is Memorial Day. It is the day that our government has set aside to remember those who have given their lives for the sake of their country and those who live in it. As Christians we also honor these men and women, for as Jesus himself said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
Today, I would like to also remember two young men who laid down their lives not for their friends, but for their faith. Their names were Johann Esch and Heinrich Voes. These two men are generally recognized as the first Lutheran martyrs. They were Augustinian monks who were burned alive at the stake after refusing to recant their beliefs. It was their martyrdom which in fact inspired Luther’s first hymn, “A New Song We Raise.”
Of course these young men are only a few of the many who have gone before us. These men and others like them serve to remind us not only of what we believe in, but also of those who believe along with us. It’s easy to think that you have to go it alone. That relying on other people makes you not as good of a Christian.
But the exact opposite is true. Relying on others, and asking for help when you need it, is in fact one of the signs of a mature Christian. This ought not be surprising for you. After all, ultimately, all Christians rely on one person, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Jesus is the one who truly stood alone and did what was needed. Thanks to Him, we never have to stand alone. We have not only Jesus Himself, but all of our brothers and sisters in the faith. Both those who are living now, and also those who have gone before us and left us with their examples.
This Memorial Day, don’t forget to honor those who have given their lives for our country. Don’t forget those who have given their lives for their faith. And never forget the One who died for all, and achieved salvation for the entire world.