Summary: Remembrance Sunday: living out of others’ expectations for us just makes us feel pressed. Relief from grief comes when you pursue what you know God wants for you.
One place I am quite sure I can stay away from is the National Museum of Beverage Cans. No matter how many times I may travel to and through Nashville, Tennessee, whether it be on Baptist business or as an accidental tourist, I feel quite certain that I can avoid even so much as a swift glance toward the National Museum of Beverage Cans.
I just wouldn’t be interested. As far as I am concerned, when you’ve seen and crunched one eight-ounce Diet Pepsi can, you’ve seen and crunched them all. But, amazing to say, that is not true for the folks who have created this monument to American thirst-quenching. According to the news reports, one day someone in the family brought home an unusual-looking beer can, and they kept it, and then there was another, and another, and still others …and they became a thousand, and now more than five thousand different kinds of beverage cans.
The can collection just about took over the home, of course, and so when the family moved to Nashville they took their collection with them and built a special building to house it. And gave it a new name - the National Museum of Beverage Cans. And they have not quit -- by no means have they quit. They press on, trying to make it complete -- trying to find those elusive, rare cans that are a little different from what they now have. They press on, toward the goal of having one copy of absolutely every variety of beverage can ever made in this country!
Well, to each his own, they say. But I cannot help wondering what will become of all that one day. Man and Dad will get old and will die, and who will take care of 5000 empty cans? How will they decide what to do with stacks and stacks of "tastes great" and "less filling"? Will the kids take up the cause? Will Junior inherit the beer cans and Sister the soft drink cans? Will long-lost cousins show up, claiming a few hundred as their share? Will they unload it all on the local Baptist church and ask for a tax deduction?
Or will someone determine that the whole mess needs to go to the recycling center, where it can be melted down – which, on Earth Day, seems to me like the proper thing?
One person’s pursuit is another person’s problem. One person’s collection is another person’s concern. And what one person may press on to complete another person finds out is just pressure. What one person invests his life in and commits himself to and strives for, someone else may find is nothing but a flimsy facade and a burden too bulky to carry.
Today many of us find ourselves the recipients of a legacy of one sort or another from those who have gone before us. I’m not talking about the will or the property; I’m talking about a personal inheritance. I’m talking about how those who have been here before us and whom we have lost have affected our lives. They’ve left us something to deal with.
This thing you’ve inherited: is it worth pressing on for, or is it just something that makes you feel pressed? This legacy we have received from those who have gone before us: is it a worthy heritage, which gives us challenge and a goal and a sense of moving in the right direction? Or is it, after all, just an unnecessary burden that presses us down and keeps us from becoming?
There is a difference.
Let me say it again: what we have received as a legacy from those whose memories we honor today can be a challenge to us, it can urge us to press on. It can be a powerful stimulant to us to press on to complete what they gave themselves to. And, if that happens, we will complete our grieving successfully.
But it is also possible that we might receive a beverage can museum! We might have received a legacy that is nothing but a worry and a burden. We might have received something that is nothing but pressure, something that presses us down and holds us back, and if we do not get rid of that, we will keep on grieving.
On this Day of Remembrance, then, as we honor the memories and the legacies of those who have gone before us: are we pressing on, or are we just pressed?
The Apostle Paul gives us a pretty good idea of what it feels like to be the heir to a pressure heritage. Paul can report with real eloquence everything he inherited from those who had gone before him. He tells us quite clearly that he knew what his parents and his culture and everything else had given him and expected him to carry.