What do you think of when you think of Memorial Day – the beginning of summer vacation, barbecues in the back yard, family get-togethers?
In most churches Memorial Day is ignored because it is not one of the holy days on the church calendar. But I believe that it would be good for us to consider what Memorial Day really represents, for its very name calls us to remember.
The ability to remember is a wonderful gift God has given us. In a flash we can be a child again,
skipping rocks across a pond, or walking in a meadow. Through memory we can fall in love, get married, & enjoy our children all over again. All this is possible through the blessing of memory.
Some of our memories are happy as we recall wonderful experiences. But some are sad, & we may weep as we remember them.
Memories are also very practical. If we couldn’t remember that a red light means “stop” we’d be in trouble. If you weren’t able to remember what day it is, or your anniversary or wife’s birthday – you’d be in big trouble. So memories are practical.
The problem, though, is that sometimes memory fails us. Sometimes we forget.
I’ve always liked the story of the 3 old widows who lived together. One sister got up to go to bed, half way up the stairs she stopped and asked “was I going up or was I coming down”
One sister replied with hint of aggravation, “you were going up to bed.”
A second sister headed into the kitchen to make herself a sandwich. Once in the kitchen she hollered back to her sister who was still down stairs; “what did I come in here for”
The sister responded again with a trace of irritation, “you went in to make yourself a sandwich” after which she said; “I’m so glad I am not as forgetful as the both of you are” as she knock on the end table.
And then she got up and walked over to the door and said “Who is it?”
Yes, we are a forgetful people. And from my vast experience I have concluded that forgetfulness is not a respecter of age. And there fore we come up with all kinds of ways to help us remember; (string around finger; post it notes, day planners, memory courses). And most of us do need a little help to remember.
Or Maybe you have heard about a guy named John who had a serious memory problem. One day John ran into a friend he had not seen in a long time. He greeted him & said, “Bill, do you remember what a bad memory I had?”
Bill answered, “Yes, I certainly do.” “Well, it’s not bad any more. I went to a seminar that taught us how to remember things. It was great, & now I have a wonderful memory.”
Bill answered, “That’s great! What was the name of the seminar?” “Well,” John said, “wait a minute, my wife went with me. I’ll ask her.” He turned & saw his wife nearby.
Then he turned back to Bill & said, “What’s the name of that flower with a long stem & thorns & a red bloom?” “Do you mean a rose?” Bill answered. “Yeah, thanks,” John said. “Hey, Rose, what’s the name of that seminar we attended?”
There are events that we should never forget. And Memorial Day commemorates some of them.
This special day started near the end of the Civil War. And within a few years the practice of placing flowers on military graves had spread throughout both the north & south & was being called by almost everyone, “Decoration Day.”
Then, after WW1 it became a national holiday dedicated to remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms that we enjoy.
And it is also a day upon which we remember our loved ones who have gone on before.
But people tend to be forgetful, & we seem to need helps to jog our memories. In the Bible we find that God has given us many such reminders.
After God destroyed the earth in a flood, He told Noah, “I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” (Genesis 9:11)
Then God stated, “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, & it will be the sign of the covenant between me & the earth.” (Genesis 9:13) So every time we see a rainbow, it serves as a reminder of God’s promise, This is the true reason for the rainbow not how some has perverted it.
Another memorial was erected when Joshua led the people of Israel across the Jordan River. Remember, the water stopped flowing just as the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant stepped into the water at the river’s edge. Then they stood in the middle of the river until the people had crossed safely into the Promised Land.
While they were crossing, Joshua told 12 men, one from each of the 12 tribes, to go into the middle of the riverbed & select 12 large stones. They brought those stones up onto the riverbank & made a monument out of them there.
In Joshua 4:6-7 Joshua tells them, “In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord.
“When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
There are special days & times in the Bible designed to help us remember specific events. I want to call your attention to 3 of them this morning. You know the stories behind each one, but listen again & see how God uses them to jog our memories & help us remember important things.
I. THE FEAST OF PASSOVER
A. The first one is the Feast of Passover. You know the history behind it – that the people of Israel had been sojourners & then slaves in Egypt for over 400 years. Then God called Moses & said, “Moses, I want you to go back to Egypt & say to Pharaoh, ‘Let my people go!’”
Moses did as God commanded, but Pharaoh refused to listen. So, to reinforce His demand, God sent plague after plague upon Egypt. And every time, when the plague was at its worst, Pharaoh would say, “Stop the plague & I’ll let the people go.” But after every plague Pharaoh would renege on his promise & continue their slavery.
Finally, Moses tells the Egyptian officials, “This is what the Lord says, ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die… There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt – worse than there has ever been or ever will be again.’” (Exodus 11:4-6)
B. Then God gave instructions to the Israelites, “Each family is to choose a year-old lamb, one without spot or blemish, the best in all the flock.”
You know, one of the things we have forgotten today is that we’re supposed to offer our best to God. Instead, we tend to keep the best for ourselves, & God gets the leftovers. But the Biblical principle has always been the same: God deserves our best. And if we love Him, then we will give Him our best.
God told them, “Kill that lamb, & drain its blood into a basin. Then roast the lamb. But before you eat, “Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin & put some of the blood on the top & on both sides of the doorframe.” (Exodus 12:22)
“On that same night I will pass through Egypt & strike down every firstborn – both men & animals – and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord.
“The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; & when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” (Exodus 12:12-13)
So someone in every Jewish home took hyssop, dipped it in the blood, & put it on the doorframe. And that night, just as God had told them, He brought judgment upon Egypt, & there was weeping & wailing in the homes of the Egyptians. But wherever God saw the blood of the lamb, those homes were spared.
The next morning, Exodus 12:33 tells us, “The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country.” After 400 years of bondage they were free!
God said, “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord – a lasting ordinance.” (Exodus 12:14)
Over 3,500 years have passed since that day, & every year faithful Jews still celebrate, still remember Passover. And it’s important that we don’t forget, either.
II. THE DAY OF WORSHIP
A. Now the second memorial I want to mention is today – the day of worship.
It all started in the beginning when God created the heavens & the earth. God worked 6 days in creation, & on the 7th day He rested. The Bible tells us that God consecrated that day & called it the Sabbath, a day for rest.
In the Ten Commandments God told the Jews that they were to remember the Sabbath day & to keep it holy. So the Sabbath became a day of worship & rest.
Centuries passed & the Jews began to twist & distort the Sabbath day that God had set for rest & worship. In fact, it became so bad that Jesus cried out to the Pharisees, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).
B. When Jesus was crucified & buried & then raised from the dead, He was raised on the first day of the week.
Then the Day of Pentecost came, another first day of the week. The Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles, & the church began as 3,000 responded the first time ever that the Gospel was preached.
Soon the early Christians were meeting regularly upon the first day of the week to worship God & encourage one another. And in the Book of Revelation the Apostle John spoke of this day of worship as “The Lord’s Day.” And so it is to those of us who gather to worship Him on this day.
I pray that this church will always recognize that whenever we come together we have come to meet a holy & righteous God – to remember what He has done for us, & to rededicate ourselves to Him.
III. A MEAL OF REMEMBRANCE
Finally, there is a meal of memory. It was the night before His crucifixion that Jesus met with His disciples in the upper room to celebrate the Passover together.
It was to be an evening of remembering, as God had long ago commanded. But as they ate, Jesus gave them something new, something greater, to remember. For Jesus “…took bread, & when He had given thanks, He broke it & said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’
“In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this … in remembrance of me.’” (1 Corinthians 11:24-25).
Have you ever wondered what Jesus was talking about when He said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood…”? Do you know why He said it? It was because Jesus was the fulfillment of a prophecy God had made centuries before through the Prophet Jeremiah.
“’The time is coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant… I will put my law in their minds & write it on their hearts.
“I will be their God, & they will be my people… For I will forgive their wickedness & will remember their sins no more.’” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
No longer were some of the ingredients of the Passover meal simply to be a reminder of their release from Egyptian bondage. Now the bread & the cup were to be eternal reminders of Jesus, of His sacrifice & His love. That’s why Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
And when Paul wrote about this, he added, “Whenever you eat this bread & drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
So when you & I partake, we’re proclaiming to the world, “I believe in the death & burial & resurrection of Jesus. I may not be able to speak eloquently. But I can proclaim my faith through these emblems. So I partake in remembrance of Him.”
When Paul writes about the Lord’s Supper he says, “Is not the cup of thanks-giving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?
“Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (1 Corinthians 10:15-16).
So there should be unity here. We have all traveled the same dusty road. We’ve sinned, & we’re
not worthy to be here. But we do not partake because we’re worthy. We partake because God is holy, & God invites us to come into His presence & be a part of His supper as we share it with each other.
We have much to remember. Whatever you do, don’t forget how we got here. Don’t forgot the price that has been, & is being paid, so that we can live in freedom & enjoy the blessings that God has given us. Please don’t ever forget!
A few years ago, a young & successful executive named Josh was traveling down a Chicago neighborhood street. He was going a bit too fast in his sleek, black, 12-cylinder Jaguar XKE, which was only 2 months old.
He was watching carefully for kids darting out from between parked cars & slowed down when he thought he saw something. As his car passed that spot, no child darted out, but a brick flew out & – WHUMP! – it smashed into the Jag’s shiny side door.
SCREECH!!! He slammed on his brakes & his gears ground into reverse, tires spinning the Jaguar back to the spot where the brick had been thrown.
Josh jumped out of the car, grabbed the kid & pushed him up against a parked car. He shouted, “Who are you? And what the heck are you doing?” Building up a head of steam, he went on. “That’s my new Jag, & the brick you threw is going to cost you a lot of money. Why did you throw it?”
“Please, mister, please…I’m sorry! I didn’t know what else to do! I threw the brick because no one would stop.” Tears were dripping down the boy’s chin as he pointed around the parked car.
“It’s my brother, mister,” he said. “He rolled off the curb & fell out of his wheelchair & I can’t lift him up.” Sobbing, the boy pled, “Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He’s hurt & he’s too heavy for me.’
Moved beyond words, the young executive tried desperately to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. Straining, he lifted the young man back into the wheelchair & took out his handkerchief & wiped the scrapes & cuts, checking to see that everything else was okay. He then walked with them to make sure that the younger brother was able to get them back home all right.
It was a long walk back to the sleek, black, shining 12-cylinder Jaguar XKE – a long & slow walk. Josh never did fix that side door. He kept the dent to remind himself not to go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at him to get his attention again.
INVITATION: If you’re here without Jesus Christ as your Savior, don’t wait for someone to throw a brick to get your attention. We invite you to come & accept Him as your Lord & Savior. Will you come?