Summary: We have fond memories of things in the past. But they pale in comparison to the memories to come.
Our Best Memories Are Before Us: A Homecoming Sermon
First of all, I would like to thank you for inviting me back here to speak this homecoming Sunday. I have fond memories of you all and remember you regularily in my prayers that the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ would bless you abundantly.
Homecoming is a day in which we look back to our past. We think of songs like Precious Mempries in which we return to remember the scenes of our earlier life. I think this is altogether fitting that we take time to reflect. We have remembered this day by your decorating the graves in the cemetery, singing, this service, and afterwards dinner on the grounds.
We find comfort in our past, especially as we face the challenges of the present. Life seemed so simpler then. Time indeed heals many wounds, but the good memories linger on. We can still smell momma’s apple pie and the times we enjoyed in the days of our youth. Shakespeare had Marc Anthony say that the evil memories of a person are what is remembered whereas the “good is interred with the bones.” But quite the opposite is true.
As we remember the blessings of God in our past, we also have to reflect on the times of difficulty we have faced. We have faced great wars, and some of you know of the knock on the door and the dreaded telegram delivered from the President and the Secretary of War that our loved one had died fighting for our country. There are several of them buried in the cemetery here whom we remember this Memorial Day weekend. I want to thank you all for marking out the graves of our veterans including my father. This was the original purpose of Memorial Day, and I thank you all for remembering this tradition from our past.
Others here have experienced the awful loss of a child or have faced some great tragedy in your life. Not all memories of the past are good ones. So even after we sing and eat and give our thanks there is still a hole in our hearts that all this celebration cannot fill. We still come to Jordan’s stormy banks and cast a wistful eye as we await the full repair of this hole in our heart.
So how do we come to wholeness of heart. I think the lesson from the Scripture tells us. The original hearers of the Book of Hebrews also lived in difficult times. Some of them had been expelled from their homes and hometowns because of their confession of faith in Jesus Christ. This must have been traumatic as they had to wander from place to place. Hebrews says to show hospitality to these wandering Christians when they came knocking upon the doors of other Christians. To lose one’s citizenship meant to lose one’s identity. Just think what it would be like to be removed from the rolls as an American citizen and cast out of this country without the prospects of ever returning. Many Christians even to this day are experiencing exile and wander about looking for someone to receive them.
So how does Paul address these poor wanderers? He goes to the memories of the past people of God, the cloud of witnesses here in the 11th chapter. The one he give the most attention to is Father Abraham. He once lived in one of the most modern cities of his day, the city of Ur which is in the delta of modern day Iraq. Only Egypt could rival it for splendor. The indications are that Abraham by his name “Abram” lived a pretty comfortable life there. But one day the call came to his father, and the family moved from Ur to Haran at the edge of the desert. We really don’t know about the circumstances, other than it originated in the call of God. But in Haran, after the death of Abraham’s father, the call of God came to him. Even this place of refuge was to be left behind. He was to go to the place which God had called him to. Abraham believed and went out, not knowing anything about this land God had promised to him and to his descendants. If we follow the life of Abraham. He spent most of his life in the wilderness as a nomad. He always seemed to be at the very fringe of Canaan land, He could see the land of milk and honey even as Moses did, but death kept him from any possession of God’s promise. He and Sarah’s burial plot was their only possession.
Abraham and Sarah’s lives were filled with conflict, just like ours. Perhaps at times they looked for comfort of the past, to more stable times. Perhaps it was during the great famine that Abraham remembered to the good times in Ur. But instead of returning there, he went to the other major advanced civilization he knew about, that of Egypt. But Egypt whose name in Hebrew is related in meaning to the word “graveyard” turned out to be a dead end. Soon the Lord intervened and made it possible to return to the fringes of the desert of Canaan Land to continue his wanderings.