Summary: Symbols are very important - In light of the overwhelming power of Christ, it is unwise to take him lightly…
Tomorrow morning, of course, is Memorial Day. Memorial Day is that sacred day which Congress set us aside to remind us that your local car dealership has deep discounts on new and used vehicles. Oh wait, that’s not right. That’s the day we set aside to tell us that summer is starting and the pool is opening up, right? I keep forgetting – sometimes it’s hard to tell.
No, Memorial Day, of course, was actually set up to honor the fallen who died in the Civil War. Actually, to be specific, it was originally only to honor the Union dead. It was originally a holiday that was extremely offensive in the South. We had this holiday called Decoration Day which more or less honored the Confederate dead, and Memorial Day was set up to compete with it. It was, in fact, so offensive that originally many Southerners would boycott it – they knew what it meant and wanted no part of it.
What changed was World War II. When the entire nation fought to preserve liberty, we realized that the symbol that united us held far greater power than even our own division. You see, symbols hold a great power.
They remind us, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, that the brave men, living and dead who fought here have hallowed this place far beyond our poor power to add or detract. It is rather for us, the living, to take an increased measure of devotion from those who gave the last full measure of devotion.
What we do on Memorial Day is honor the presence of those that have laid down their lives for us. It is altogether fitting that we should so that. You see, one way or another, each of the men and women who died for this country are a vital part of who we are. They are in our midst, because of what they have done for us. This Memorial Day, we are surrounded by the symbols that remind us of what they did for us.
We can choose to honor the symbols, or be offended by the symbols. But when we choose to ignore symbols, to take them lightly, we treading on thin ice.
Earlier, I skipped over a commandment. This morning, Memorial Day, I think it is appropriate that we come back to it.
In Exodus 20:7, God simply commands us this – Do take the name of the Lord in vain. He goes a step further and tells us why – he says, “Surely, the Lord will not hold guiltless – that is he will punish anyone who takes his name in vain.
Now, typically, when we think about this commandment, we view it as the ‘No cussin’ clause.’ Sometimes we’ll use the word obscenity. We live in a day and age where obscenity and profanity are common place.
My grandfather really wanted to like Eddie Murphy. He thought he had great potential as a comedian. But I’ll never forget what he said about him. He said, anyone can make people laugh by talking about sex and swearing. It takes skill to make people laugh without resorting to that. What he was saying was that symbols are doing the heavy work – the comedian’s who whose shtick revolves around profaning symbols is really just being lazy.
Some day, I wish show you clips from a movie called Dogma.
There is one scene where an evil angel begins to get so angry at mankind that he starts ranting and practically foaming at the mouth about the fact that we as humans are God special chosen ones, and yet, we totally ignore him. I’m going to paraphrase - He starts saying, “What are these humans any way? God made them just a little lower than us angels, What are men that he is so mindful of them? And what do they do with that? They ignore him! They take him for granted!” It’s an amazing theological statement. I’m convinced is not at unintentional that this dark angel starts quoting Psalm 8 – as a curse on us! The demons know God, and they tremble.
I said one day I’d love to show you that, but I can’t. Do you want to know why? That scene in particular is filthy – so loaded with swear words, that if I were to show it to you, you’d.have good reason to question my judgement. Now, I guess you can say artistically it fits the character, but I still don’t want to promote it.
But as full of cussing as that movie is, I’ll tell you that its obscenity is mild in comparison to the rest of the world we live in. I doubt if you caught it this week, but Madonna started her new tour. Do you know how she begins it? Her prop is a giant, mirror-encrusted cross, and her arms are tied to it. Now, unlike our lord, there are no nails, and she gets a nice little platform, but you can see what she’s trying to do. She’s trying to be obscene. She’s trying to provoke us and call it ‘art.’