OPEN: Memorial Day originated when Southern women scattered spring flowers on the graves of soldiers during the Civil War. They honored the Northern dead as well as their own in this way. After the war, General John A. Logan (commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic) named May 30th as a special day for honoring the graves of Union soldiers. After WWI, the American legion took over this responsibility and eventually this day became a day to honor all those who had given their lives for our country.
Memorial Day is a day set aside to “remember” the price that has been paid for our freedom
And… on Memorial Day, many people set aside time to “remember”
· There are Memorial Day parades in cities across the nation
· There are special services held at Cemeteries
· And, this weekend, there is a new memorial has been dedicated in Washington D.C. to honor those who served our country in WWII.
APPLY: Memorial Day is a teaching tool.
And it’s designed to teach us to (pause…) “remember.”
One day a year our nation sets aside this day - and days like it - to remember things which is important to us as a nation.
I. God did that with His people too.
God set aside three special days – 3 festivals -. designed to teach His people to remember.
* There was the feast of Passover (that we’ve read about this morning). At Passover they REMEMBERED that their ancestors had once been slaves in Egypt, but God had led them out of slavery by His power and might.
* Then there was Pentecost. At Pentecost, Israel REMEMBERED that all their blessings came from God This was also called the feast of the 1st fruits, and during this festival they “remembered” that God had given them this promised land to live and raise their crops.
* Lastly, there was the Feast of Tabernacles. During this festival, the people were to dwell in tents to REMEMBER the 40 years Israel spent in the wilderness
Each of these festivals had several things in common.
· They were all days set aside to remember something about their relationship with God.
· And on each of these festival days, the Israelites were required to come to Jerusalem.
Deuteronomy 16:16 tells us: “Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed.”
This required a certain amount of sacrifice of time and effort. AND, these festivals ALSO cost them a literal sacrifice of - their flocks or herds. They were never to attend these festivals empty-handed.
Now why would God do this? Why would He require His people to leave their homes 3 times a year? Make this trek to Jerusalem? And offer sacrifices at the temple?
Simply put - God wanted His people to remember.
He wanted them to remember who they belonged to and who they were.
ILLUS: Several years ago, William Willimon (Upper Room 1980) wrote these words:
Back in high school, every Friday and Saturday night, as I was leaving home to go on a date, I remember my mother bidding me farewell at the front door with these weighty words, “Don’t forget who your are.”
She did not mean that I was in danger of forgetting my name and my street address. She meant that, alone on a date, in the midst of some party, in the presence of some strangers, I might forget who I was. I might lose sight of the values with which I had been raised, answer to some alien name, engage in some unaccustomed behavior.
“Don’t forget who you are,” was her maternal benediction as I left home.
God wanted His people to remember who they were and so He used various tools – like these festivals - to teach His people. To remember who they were.
II. Now… as Parents… grandparents… or whatever - this is what we want for our families as well. We want our kids to grow up – knowing who they are.
We WANT them to remember who they are…
· when they’re out on a date
· in the midst of a party
· in the presence of strangers.
AND our best way of doing that is to learn to do what God did: To create Godly memories.
Just as God involved His people with religious activities that reminded them who they were, we need to involve our families with spiritual activities that drive home who they are, and who God is.
It starts with Church… but it goes so much farther than that.
As I examined these 3 festivals I discovered 5 principles we can use to strengthen our families
1st - Our faith must not only be real… it must be urgent.
Exodus 12:11 tells us that when the Israelites ate the Passover mean: This is how they were to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.
There was an urgency to that festival.
There was a spirit of expectation.
A lot of people, when they go to church, don’t go with that spirit of expectation, that spirit of anticipation that God is going to do something for them that morning.
There’s no urgency to their worship
They just go thru the motions… And their kids pick that up.
ILLUS: When I was in Glee Club at Purdue the director told us that one of the mistakes groups make when they sing softly is that loose their intensity. The sound comes out lifeless and dull.
So this director would use a unique hand motion when he wanted the men to sing softly. His right hand would motion for us to reduce our volume… but underneath, his left hand was in the form of a fist. And his hands would literally vibrate.
He was telling us that he wanted intensity and power
He wanted a sense of anticipation and expectation even in the softest notes, and the resulting sound was a subdued excitement.
That’s the way we should be approaching Sunday Worship
That’s what our children/ grandchildren/ nephews & nieces ought to sense when they’re about us
2nd - Not only should we be approaching worship in anticipation… we should make every effort to make it an enjoyable and pleasing experience. These 3 festivals were just that – festivals. They had their somber and reflective moments but they were also a time of celebration… celebrating the goodness and love of their God.
ILLUS: Erma Bombeck tells about a little boy at church with his mother. He was a good little boy, quiet and well behaved. He didn’t cause any problems. But every once in a while he would stand up in the pew, turn around, look at the people behind him and smile at them.
His smile was infectious, and soon everybody behind him was starting to smile back at him, too. It was all going fine until the mother realized what the little boy was doing. When she did, she grabbed him by his ear and twisted it a bit, told him to sit down and remember that he was in church.
Then he started sniffling and crying, and she turned to him and said, "That’s better."
The fact is, worshippers can get caught up in being so serious about their faith, about their worship… that there is little room for smiles. For enjoyment. For happiness. Some kids turn away from church because they sense that church isn’t so much a happy place as it is a dull experience filled with rules and regulations. Worship should be a time of excitement and pleasure for our families.
3rd - Use your “worship” experiences to teach your children about our loving God.
Exodus 12:26 told the Israelites “… when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’"
God’s people used the festivals to teach their children about God. In the same way, we can use our church experiences to teach our children about God.
ILLUS: Communion is a great tool for this. 1 Corinthians 11:26 tells us that “…whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” Kids always seem to wonder why they can’t eat that little piece of bread and drink out of that cup – thirsty.
This is a great teaching moment, to tell about Jesus’ death and what it means to us.
And when someone is baptized (or as my daughter says: bath-tized) this is an excellent time to tell them about being born into Christ. How the old life is buried and washed away and how we’re risen up to a new life.
Use your worship experiences to teach your children/ grandchildren, etc. about the love of God.
4th - Incorporate sacrifice into your children’s experiences
Deuteronomy 16:16: Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed
Worship should include sacrifice. Our children should see us giving of our time and talents to God. When you volunteer for work with the youth in the church, you are setting them an example. We should find ways to train our children to give financially to God’s kingdom… to help the poor and the hurting… to involve them in ministry that requires them to work for God
ILLUS: Brad (our youth minister) tries to do that with the teenagers by having them help with various responsibilities around the church building. Arranging chairs. Moving items on and off the stage. He’s also involved them in a soup kitchen in South Carolina, the Emmaus ministry right here in Logansport and collecting perishable good to give the poor.
Lastly, one of the great disappointments of parents is that – even if they do everything right. Even if they do everything we’ve just outlined… there are still times that it doesn’t seem as if their kids are responding to their efforts.
It’s worth noting that God never gave up on Israel. Even tho’ Israel didn’t always behave like a people who had remembered who they were and who their God was… God never ceased reminding them through the feasts of the Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles.
Similarly we shouldn’t worry if our efforts seem to be ineffective once in awhile. We should be persistent and faithful and trust God for the outcome.
ILLUS: Several years ago, a man wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper and argued that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday.
"I’ve gone for 30 years now," he wrote, "and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me I can’t remember a single one of them. So I think I’m wasting my time... and I believe that preachers are wasting their time by preaching those sermons to begin with."
This started a real controversy in the "Letters to the Editor" column, much to the delight of the editor. It went on for weeks… But then, one day, someone wrote the following letter:
"I’ve been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But for the life of me, I cannot recall what the menu was for a single one of those meals. But I do know this: they all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me those meals, I would be dead today."
CLOSE: Memorial Day is a day to remember the price that has been paid for our freedom.
But, as Christians, we meet every Sunday to remember the price that has been paid for our freedom… our salvation.
This is the greatest memorial that we can pass on to our families… but we cannot do it effectively if we are not committed to our Savior. That’s why we offer an invitation at the end of every service…