XACTLY A YEAR AGO I WROTE MY FIRST EDITORIAL FOR THIS MAGAZINE. I did not know then (nor did I pay particular attention) that this issue is the one closest to a day that is significant for people living in North America. Memorial Day is a new holiday for me.
May 31 has not been a momentous day in the countries where we served as a family. As I read up a bit about this particular holiday and its origin and meaning I was reminded of a date that marks an important event in my life. In Germany we celebrate October 3 as the Day of German Unity. We remember the incredible events surrounding November 9, 1989,* when the unthinkable happened: the Berlin Wall, high and mighty and deadly, swayed, rocked—and was finally pushed over by thousands of people who dared the status quo that had kept Germans apart for decades. When the Wall was built and a divided Germany became a reality of the Cold War, families were divided by that wall.
A large part of my own family lived in East Germany, and the few times we were able to visit them have become etched in my memory. I remember hours of waiting at the border, cars that were so thoroughly searched (employing German diligence!) that all car seats stood outside the vehicle, mirrors placed under the cars. It was a scary experience. Once inside East Germany you always looked over your shoulder and felt—watched. I remember November 9, 1989, not because I was in Berlin that day. As a matter of fact, when I heard the news in South Africa, where I was studying at that time, I thought it was a belated April Fools’ Day joke. It could not be! But it was.
Many things have changed over the past 21 years, the most significant being the collapse of the east bloc and the incredible moment of Eastern Europe opening to the gospel. However, this too has passed and Adventists living in Eastern Europe and Russia now often struggle to engage the increasingly secular and materialistic culture surrounding them. They too must remember these precious years of opportunity.
Memorials, including Memorial Day and the Day of German Unity, tend to focus upon a significant person or an important event in the life of an individual, a family, a church, or a nation. They look back. They make us stop and reflect upon the past. That’s good and helpful. But if that’s all they do there may be better ways of using our time. We need memorials that link the past to our present and then help us focus upon the future. Sabbath is one of these. It points us back to Creation and tells us about our origins (Ex. 20:11)—but at the same time it reminds us of redemption and unmerited and saving grace (Deut. 5:15). Sabbath rest marks also a promise for the future when—one day—we will be able to enjoy face-to-face time with our Creator and Redeemer. This future “Sabbath” rest will be delicious, fresh, rejuvenating, joyous, plenty, up close and personal, and glorious (Heb. 4:9-11).
I keep on writing editorials, proofreading pages, editing articles, researching topics, but once a week (and not just on May 31) when Sabbath comes around I put down my pen (in a symbolic sort of way), turn off my computer (that’s more the real thing), and enjoy a little bit of the foretaste of a glorious future—no more human tragedies, no more catastrophes, no more deadlines. We will sit around the banquet table, grateful to be there—it will be finished at last. Now that’s a memorial to look forward to.
*October 3, 1990, was the official day of German reunification, when East Germany and West Germany became once again a united Germany.
Gerald A. Klingbeil is an associate editor of the Adventist Review. This article was published May 27, 2010.