Summary: On his death bed, these are the words of advice given by King David to his son Solomon.

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Be Strong, Be Courageous, Be Faithful

I Kings 2:1-4

May 28, 2006

The Greatest Spectacle in Racing takes place today. The Indianapolis 500 has been a Memorial Weekend tradition ever since 1911 with the exception of a few years during wartime when it wasn’t run.

I will be the first to admit to you that I am not a race fan. I know some of you are. My brother-in-law Todd is a great NASCAR fan and sees a couple of races a year. My father-in law likes racing. I have friends who like racing. My daughter likes racing – I’m not sure she would say that, but that is my conclusion after hearing about her latest speeding ticket.

I remember when I was a kid growing up. My dad would usually find something to do out in the backyard or in the garage during the race. He would take a radio out and plug it in so he could listen to the race as it progressed through the afternoon. The great IndyCar racing names of my youth were guys like Parnelli Jones, A.J. Foyt, Bobby and Al Unser, Mario Andretti, and Roger Ward.

I have a new favorite on the racing circuit…Danica Patrick who placed fourth last year and starts this year’s race in 10 place on the inside of the 4th row. I really love to see women compete with the best and not only hold their own, but do better than anyone ever expects.

In 1912, a driver by the name of Ralph DePalma held the lead for 198 laps. On the final lap of the race, he had an eight lap lead and was a sure winner…or so everyone supposed. No one is exactly sure what happened…he either had an oil leak or broke a piston…but whatever happened, he went dead on the back stretch of the final lap. He and his mechanic jumped out of the car – those were the days when your mechanic rode along with you – and pushed it for more than a mile to the finish line. During their desperate attempt at victory, Joe Dawson passed them to win and DePalma was disqualified. Apparently a car has to be running under its own power in order to win. There’s always a catch, isn’t there? In 1915, DePalma actually won the race even though a connecting rod broke and he had to coast across the finish line.

I’m talking about racing today because it is Memorial Day and we are remembering those who have crossed the finish line of life and have entered life triumphant and eternal. It is difficult to prove where and when this holiday really began. A number of cities across the United States claim to be the place where the first Memorial Day celebrations were held. But it was officially declared a holiday in 1868 by General John Logan, Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. Many states in the south refused to recognize the day until we began to honor the dead in all wars, not just the Civil War.

Although we remember our military dead today, we also recall all of our loved ones who have passed on or in the words of King David in the text for today, have gone “the way of all the earth.”

Have you ever wondered what these deceased people would say to us if they had the chance? What do you suppose their counsel to us would be if they could rise from the grave for just a few minutes? What advise would they share with us?

Sometimes people in the last throes of the dying process have very profound things to say. John Newton, a former slave trader turned Presbyterian minister and author of that famous hymn “Amazing Grace” said upon nearing his death, “I am still in the land of the dying; I shall be in the land of the living soon.”

Other times, they don’t say too much. Lady Nancy Astor, the first woman member of the British Parliament who lived from 1879 to 1964, woke up for just a moment from her deathbed to see her entire family surrounding her. She looked around and said, “Am I dying or is this my birthday?”

The very last words of P.T. Barnum were, “How were the receipts today in Madison Square Garden?”

Just before he died, Pancho Villa said to a friend, “Don’t let it end this way. Tell them I said something.”

Marie Antoinette, on the way to her death said, “Pardon me sir” after she stepped on the toe of her executioner.

King David had some advice for his son Solomon as he lay dying. When his time drew near, he charged his son Solomon with these words: be strong, be courageous, and be faithful. Sounds like pretty good advice to me; advice that still resonates a few thousand years later.

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