Summary: The first sermon of a four part sermon series on family life.
Ten years ago, today Susan and I were driving from Richmond, Virginia to Virginia Beach, Virginia on a ten-day vacation. We had spent a couple of days in Richmond with friends and toured several areas of Richmond including the Civil War battlefield of Petersburg.
One of the most moving moments for me was when Mark asked if I would take a picture of something for him. I agreed and we drove to a cemetery, called Popular Grove, filled with the graves of Union soldiers who had died in the fighting around Richmond. (Overhead 1)
It was officially designated of national importance around 1866 and when we arrived, there were rows and rows of burial plots each with an American flag placed next to the simple white gravestones. I believe that it was Mark’s great great-uncle who was buried there. He died in combat not long before Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House.
From that place we traveled very much back into the 20th century on Memorial Day with a visit to the Naval Base at Norfolk. It was trip that we would had missed had it not being raining on Sunday as we drove to Virginia Beach and I had not bought a copy of the Norfolk newspaper to deal with the rainy day and discovered that it was open house on the base the next day!
Several ships would be open that day, including the USS George Washington, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. (Overhead 2) I got excited! ”We’re going there tomorrow,” I said to Susan.
It was a great time! This is Susan on the flight deck with the USS Eisenhower (Overhead 3) behind her and I am next to what is called the Fresnel Lens (Overhead 4) that is used to guide the aircraft safely onto the carrier deck during landing.
I did some remembering that day and that week because of the visit to the battlefields, the cemetery, and a modern aircraft carrier. I am grateful to God for the freedoms and privileges I have in this country, I thank the Lord for those who serve our nation, and I remember with gratitude and sadness, those who have died in war on our behalf and on behalf of those who have been enslaved by terror and hate.
Will you stand with me for a moment and let us remember those who have fallen. (‘Taps’ is played.)
For some this Memorial Day is very hard. The earth in the cemetery is still freshly turned. The flowers are still fresh. The grief and anguish is very raw and hard. Words spoken to them perhaps bring some comfort but we weep and mourn with them as they grieve the loss of sons, daughters, wives, and husbands in places called Baghdad, Kirkuk, and Kabul.
This Memorial Day is not pleasant for all people.
While is it is painful to remember it is also good to remember. While we never memorialize our faith, we must remember those who made the faith come alive to us.
Let us also give thanks to the Lord for those who service to the Lord made a difference in our lives. We praise God for them. Amen? Amen!
This is also a time of year when we remember the past as our kids and their friends graduate from high school, college, or trade school. Have you seen the Chase Visa card commercial where the father looks at his newly married daughter and sees a little girl? Oh, how the emotions come to the surface.
We acknowledge this day those who are entering a new chapter in their lives. We have mixed emotions about their changes and we have an understandable anxiety of “letting go.”
Our text for this morning, part of one of the Bible’s most important chapters, is really a chapter for Memorial Day. It is a remembrance about faith and those whose faith and trust in God through Jesus Christ has influenced both the original audience of Hebrews 11 and those who have read and heard Hebrews 11 down through the centuries.
One thing that we do when a funeral takes place is the committal service. It usually takes place at the gravesite.
It is a usually short service, less than two minutes. Yet it does something important for us. It helps us to remember that from God and the earth our souls and bodies have come and that it is back to earth that our bodies go and into the hands of God, our souls go for God to decide what is next based on what has happened in this life.
The committal is also important in the process of ‘letting go.’ Now by ‘letting go’ I do not mean the act or decision of forgetting the person as a way of burying our pain and grief. That is an unhealthy thing to do.