Preaching Articles

Every preacher knows the pressure of holidays and the expectations that come with preparing a Sunday message appropriate for the weekend. Memorial Day is no exception. Memorial Day is about remembrance, and as preachers the important questions we face are what should we remember and why?

Our nation may be tired of war, but we are not tired of remembering eternal values. Here are seven questions designed to transform your Sunday message:

1. Why would I choose to preach about Memorial Day? Great leadership—including leadership from the pulpit—should start with "why."

2. What values do Christianity and military service have in common? Memorial Day can be a great source of gospel illustrations, if they are put to their proper use. Consider this encouragement from the Apostle Paul: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

3. Do I serve this nation or God’s Kingdom? Is my message about America or the Kingdom of God? Here’s a simple test: when our sermon is over, will we stand before Jesus or George Washington?

4. What does Memorial Day mean to my congregation? The shepherd tends the sheep. If your church is filled with active duty soldiers or veterans, then Memorial Day is a big part of their lives—and a good pastor tends to such needs. Likewise, if your congregation is removed from military, they have needs as well. Can you minister to either group?

5. Is my message merely cheerleading—playing to the crowd’s emotions? Every preacher faces this temptation: tell the people what they want to hear. That pressure might be all the greater this weekend. How have you resisted that temptation in other settings?

6. Is my message hurtful troublemaking—am I exploiting emotions just to make a point? This is the other side of the same coin: It’s too easy to “preach boldly” by simply taking a contrarian view. Shock value may have a place in entertainment, but not in preaching.

7. Does my message make Jesus the center? As with so many other preaching choices, what is my mission? If my congregation comes away more in love with—and committed to—Jesus, then I’ve brought a faithful message.

What about you? What issues have you faced related to Memorial Day? How have you answered them? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Editor's note: Check out SermonCentral's extensive collection of resources for preaching on Memorial Day.

Ray Hollenbach helps pastors and churches navigate change. He's the founder of DEEPER Seminars, weekend leadership retreats focused on discipleship in the local church. His newest book is Deeper Grace, a guide to the connection between grace and spiritual maturity. Ray currently lives in central Kentucky, coaching and consulting church leaders. You can visit his blog at Students of Jesus.

Browse All

Related Preaching Articles

Talk about it...

Keith B

commented on May 23, 2014

Mother's Day...Father's Day....4th of July....Labor Day....then we get into the big holidays in the Fall/Winter! If I preached a special message for every special day...I'd never get through the book I'm preaching through.

Bill Williams

commented on May 23, 2014

Keith, I would really appreciate a response to the question I asked you under yesterday's post. Do you have any Biblical evidence to support the idea that preaching and teaching is limited only to pastors? My brother, if you're going to make such assertions, intellectual integrity demands that you support it with Scripture when challenged.

E L Zacharias

commented on May 21, 2015

Bill, even a cursory glance at Acts reveals that the ministry of Word and Sacraments is vested through the apostles by careful and prayerful selection that preceeds the "laying on of hands." Even the diaconal office, which focused on practical matters (equal distribution of aid, "waiting on tables"), was one that was closely guarded. Stephen, one of those deacons, is a man whose life was one of deep loyalty and devotion. Note that while he was not on the level of the apostles, he still had been "elected" and verified by the laying on of hands. The preaching office is not open to any willing soul; consider Simon Magus who sought the office and was denied. We could go on, citing Paul's references to those selected for the pastoral office. respect for the office of the ministry will be seen in a lack of respect for the Word itself. Having respect and love for the Word, such passages remind us of the special way God delivered his Word to us in the past and designs to pass it on to generations that follow.

Jared D

commented on May 25, 2014

Keith, I'm in the same situation! I've been in the book of James for quite some time now. Thankfully, the people don't seem to be tired of it (probably because of all the special occasions that keep us out of the normal study). I'm ready to move on out of this series - especially because I've got another series I really want to start. So for a while I will only do special messages for the big holidays. Also, stating that we disagree and a basic reason why should be enough. Debate (arguing in most cases) online rarely helps anyone, and no one should feel compelled to participate more than they are comfortable.

Kevin Cross

commented on May 23, 2014

Keith, you have a good point. Choose wisely or give a brief message somewhere else in your service to meet the concern peoplemay have on how holidays may or may not apply to a Christian's life. Let's not forget the Jewish people celebrate holidays/holydays, too.

Suresh Manoharan

commented on May 24, 2014

Good, practical tips! Coming to the larger question as to whether we have to tailor our Sermon as per some important events occupying public mind,let's remember Jesus too wrapped His messages around events playing on public mind..."for better connectivity" -Luke 13:1-5. For that matter, our Lord's way of speaking would always register on His audience's mind...beside the Jacob's well, He would speak about the "Living waters" to the Samaritan Lady, likewise beside the Sea of Galilee, He would call His disciples' to be "Fishers' of men".

Ronald Johnson

commented on May 21, 2015

This year, Memorial Day falls on the Sunday of Pentecost. I would have a hard time justifying the observance of a secular holiday over a Christian holiday. It would be a little like celebrating something other than the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. When the two are not on the same weekend, I am still very cautious about observing a secular holiday. We will often offer a special prayer. We might have a celebration of some kind after our worship service. But I have a really hard time celebrating secular holidays in the worship service.

Jerry Dodson

commented on May 21, 2015

Preaching the Hallmark calendar over the liturgical calendar is pastoral malpractice. I'm deep in Ephesians 6 (in the armor of God section), but I'm not tying it to Memorial Day. There is neither Jew nor Greek nor American in Christ.

Larry Neal

commented on May 21, 2015

What's a fella to do? May 24 is Memorial Sunday in America, Heritage Sunday among Methodists, Aldersgate Day among Wesleyans, and Pentecost among most of us. On this day, I intend to speak on the importance of having memories of those who have gone on before us (like the characters in Scripture), read from Luther's Preface to the Book of Romans (whereupon John Wesley's heart was strangely warmed), sing some Charles Wesley hymns (to indicate our heritage) and preach on Pentecost (to celebrate the church's birthday).

Lawrence Webb

commented on May 21, 2015

I plan to focus on Pentecost on May 24 in keeping with the lectionary reading from Acts 2. There will be enough flag-waving activity locally and on TV without my contributing to it. People, including some preachers, blur faith and patriotism as if they are the same or at least siamese twins.

Join the discussion