Summary: 2008 Memorial Day Sermon
(Slide 1) The song we have just heard serves to remind us that service, whether of faith, family, or country, is very, very costly. This is a weekend in which we are reminded that freedom is not free, it is a very expensive thing.
This is also a weekend that is more important than the opening of the summer driving season. It is a weekend in which wives and sweethearts (and some husbands as well); mothers and fathers and children, too, are aware of both old and painful memories of a telegram and newer and fresher ones of a knock at the door.
(Slide 2) Video clip ‘72_for_freedom’ from sermonspice.com is played here.
Yesterday, I felt strongly led to change the main text for today’s thoughts and so we will not be looking at Matthew 22:15-22. Instead, we will be reading portions of a very important chapter that speaks directly to the value and importance of remembering and memorializing those who have gone before us and sacrificed their lives for our faith, and as we so importantly remember this weekend, our nation. It is a chapter that reminds us of the importance of sacrifice for a noble and important cause.
Our text is portions of Hebrews 11, referred to as the ‘Faith Chapter’ because it recounts the cost of faith in the establishment of what we now call Christianity. We begin our reading with verses 1 through 3. (I am reading out of the New Living Translation).
(Slide 3) ‘What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see. God gave his approval to people in days of old because of their faith.
By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.’
Faith is a vital aspect of life. I would go further to suggest that it is an even critical aspect of life.
All of us have to have a measure of faith to get up in the morning and walk out the door to work, school, the store, a neighbor, and other places. (If we did not, we would never leave the house!)
This morning, we have to have faith that the pews upon which we sit are going to hold us up. We had faith that our cars would start (even at $3.99/gallon!) and that they would get us safely here.
We really cannot live without faith at a certain level. Faith implies a trust in something or someone. It also implies a reliance on and a conviction in something or someone.
The opposite of faith is mistrust and disbelief. In its more extreme form it is paranoia in which a deep and overwhelming fear is present.
The writer of our text speaks of ‘confident assurance’ and ‘the evidence of things not seen.’ We have faith in many such things, some of them abstract instead of concrete, such as ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’
This idea has given shape to our nation over the centuries. It has motivated people to take the actions of public service, elected office, and military service. It has required of them sacrifice, including the ultimate sacrifice, their own lives. As I think about our faith in ideals such as ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ I think about a line from the movie Gettysburg in which Robert E. Lee says to his second-in-command, James Longstreet, ‘they do not die for us’ by which he meant he and Longstreet.
Those who have served and died in far away places such as Verdun, the Ardennes Forest, Pearl Harbor, Tawara, ‘Pork Chop Hill,’ DaNang, and Baghdad, have died not for their leaders, they have died for us – their families, friends, and even for those with whom they politically disagreed.
Those who rushed into the twin towers on that fateful and tragic September morning, did not die for us, they died for those they were trying to save and rescue. Those that were recently remembered right here in our city a few weeks ago who died serving our communities and state in the line of duty, died so that we might be free and safe.
They believed in this nation. Many believed in God. They believed in this great American experiment. They had faith, they had a ‘confident assurance’ that this radical ideal of democracy would work. And it has, hasn’t it! (Not perfectly, but it has worked.)
In the New Testament, we read Jesus’ words about building a house on the sand and building a house on a rock. We spent the past two months looking at some important building blocks that need our lives need to be built on.