A Day of Infamy

On December 7, 1941 at 7:53 a.m., Japanese warplanes launched a surprise attack on the U.S. feet at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The battle lasted slightly longer than two hours, and after it was over, 2,403 Americans were dead, 8 American battleships were damaged or destroyed, and the Pacific Fleet was crippled. The next day, President Roosevelt asked congress to declare war and proclaimed that December 7, 1941 would be a day that would live in infamy.

Next year will mark the seventieth anniversary of this day that shall live in of infamy. But as the years roll by, that day becomes more and more of a distant memory. The world that existed then no longer exists today. The only threat that Japan represents is in terms of trade imbalances. As the world of 1941 fades into history, it would be so easy to forget the horror, the sacrifice and the bravery of December 7, 1941. I checked most of the main news websites this morning—CNN, MSNBC, ABC, FOXNEWS. While all the news sites reported that the date was December 7, none of them mentioned the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. (Google News did have several articles). I guess there have been so many more days of infamy in the intervening 69 years that we don’t focus on one day 69 years ago.

If you visit Pearl Harbor today, you will see an imposing and impressive memorial that is there to ensure that we never forget. There the U.S.S. Arizona still lies in its final resting-place at the bottom of Pearl Harbor where it has been since December 7, 1941. And there 1,102 of the men who died on the Arizona still lie; their ship has become their tomb. Spanning, but never touching, the mid-section of the sunken battleship is a 184 foot-long memorial. All of the names of all of the men who died on the Arizona are engraved there on the ship. I visited the memorial once and stood there as Dad videotaped each and every name inscribed on the memorial. My Aunt Laverne’s fiancé, a man who would have become my uncle were it not for that day of infamy, is one of those 1,102 names. That memorial is there to make sure visitors to Pearl Harbor never forget the horror and the sacrifice of that day so long ago.

Each Sunday, the church gathers today to remember another day that lives in infamy. At the center of Christianity is a story of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is easy to forget that this is the part of our faith that is “of first importance” (1 Cor 15:3). The sacrifice of Jesus took place so long ago; there have been so many other days of infamy that have taking place between that time and today—infamy in our world and in our own lives. We have heard the story of the cross so many times that we can become dumbed to its power and importance. We can forget that this story is the very heart of our Christian faith. It is still the greatest story ever told. And it is our story.

It is a story we must never forget. So on the night before the story, Jesus created a memorial to himself. The Christ memorial is not nearly as imposing as the one in Pearl Harbor, but it is a memorial which has endured for two thousand years… and it will endure until Jesus returns again. By eating bread and drinking wine/ juice, we remember a day that lives not only in infamy, but in hope and in salvation. Each week we are called to gather around the table to remember Jesus cross and recommit to living in the way of the cross throughout the week and throughout our lives.