May 29, 2015 Memorial Day
You know the term memory has been changed as have so many of our words by the computer age. Memory is no longer thought of as what we remember but how many gigabytes our computer has. Computers have changed a lot of our terminology: a keyboard used to be a piano, now it is our computer's well, keyboard. There are others, a mouse is no longer a four legged animal but the thing we move our cursor with. And a cursor used to be someone our mom told us to stay away from. An application was what we filled out when we wanted a job. Windows were something to look out of. I could go on, but for us old-timers, we remember these terms much differently than the younger generation.
On this Memorial Day weekend, I want to talk about our memories, about remembering. Specifically, remembering the men and women who have gone on before us blazing the trail for the freedoms we enjoy. But also our heritage as Christians and as Presbyterians.
World War II made the news in Litchfield this week as some of you were privileged to witness the procession that passed through town Thursday evening. On D-Day, John E. Anderson was serving on a boat involved in the Normandy invasion. He was killed and buried in a grave for unknown soldiers. His family was told he was lost at sea. Recently, his remains were discovered and returned for burial in Willmar. He was recognized in a funeral procession as it passed through each town from the Minneapolis airport to Willmar.
And on Friday, Ardes Shea of Forest City was laid to rest. Two weeks ago she shared her story at the GAR hall. In 942 she was working on a project that even she did not know the end result. In her short book, It's Classified she told her story of her days as part of the process for developing the nuclear bomb. And President Obama visited Hiroshima this week too. Kind of a convergence of connections to a war that ended 61 years ago coming together as we enter Memorial Day weekend.
In our gospel reading today, Jesus responds to the request of a Roman soldier, a centurion. This soldier was one of the good guys, he was a friend of the people and the leaders of Capernaum. In our lesson we find those leaders coming to Jesus on behalf of this soldier. His slave was sick, could Jesus come and heal him? This soldier showed great faith and later sent word to Jesus that he was unworthy to even have Jesus come to his house. He so believed in the power of Jesus that if Jesus just said the word, his servant would be healed. The soldier explained his understanding of the kind of authority Jesus had, here is the message he sent Jesus, “For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, `Go,' and he goes, and to another, `Come,' and he comes, and to my slave, `Do this,' and the slave does it." Jesus was well pleased with his faith, the servant was healed.
We remember this weekend our soldiers who went to war as they were called to serve in our country. Many of you remember Tom Brokaw's book, The Greatest Generation written to acknowledge particularly that World War II generation, serving in war and growing the country upon their return. He wrote, “These men and women came of age in the great depression, when economic despair hovered over the land like a plague. They had watched their parents lose their businesses, their farms, their jobs, their hopes. Then, just when there was a glimmer of economic recovery, war exploded across Europe and Asia. This generation was summoned to the parade ground and told to train for war. They answered the call to help save the world from the two most powerful and ruthless military machines ever assembled. At a time in their lives when their days and nights should have been filled with innocent adventure, love and the lessons of the workaday world, they were fighting. New branches were formed to get women into uniform ...other women went to work in the laboratories and factories.” They answered the call. But it wasn't only those who carried rifles who answered the call. People throughout the country did what was necessary to defeat the Axis powers and make the world safe for democracy. We salute all those who served in uniform and all who served here at home. And not just World War II, the holiday was created to remember the Civil War veterans, but every generation has its war and we remember all who served.
My family has the Memorial Day tradition to visit my grandparents graves in Ripley cemetery. It began, I'm sure, when my grandmother died young, then my uncle shortly after. I don't remember either, but five generations of Pennertz's have found their way to the gravesites and the Memorial Day program on an annual basis. And this has nothing to do with military service. It has to do with remembering the generations before us and what they have meant to our lives today. And we can do the same with our church family. We've lost so many over the past few years. We receive memorials by which we remember. Memorials have a long history with the followers of God. In the book of Joshua, when the Israelites crossed over the Jordan into the promised land, the Lord had them take twelve stones to make a small memorial. When the people wondered why, the Lord said, “When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial forever.” (Joshua 4: 6-7)
It is important to have memorials so the generations that follow will not forget; particularly the blessings of the Lord. This building in which we worship is a memorial to the people that built it but more to the faithfulness and grace of God that led them to believe. Most everything here is a memorial to faithfulness, this pulpit is given in memory of my grandmother Esther who's grave we will visit tomorrow. The offering plates, in memory of Irving Peters, Albert Mosler, and Mrs. John Sheay. And these windows, let's just go around the room: Ed and Leona Ackman, Eunice and Harold Harding, good shepherd Otho Harold Campbell, Kay Curry; Bill Curry, Members and friends, Members and friends and Wm Weeks, Ray Bren, Marlin and Forence Booth, Dad, choir Marlene and Aaron Barrick.
It is good to remember these people who did so much for our church. But none of this is to be done to glorify the people we are remembering, but we give glory to the God who called them as adopted children, God who walked with them through this life and with whom we trust they have been called home to be with eternally. Memorials to God's faithfulness.
The volunteer choir sang Amazing Grace; My Chains are Gone. We are to remember every minute of every day, God's grace has freed us. Not from the tyranny of human dictators and wars—although we do celebrate that this weekend. God's grace frees us from sin and guilt, from self-centeredness and selfishness, from greed and pride. From the sins with which each of us struggle. For we are living in a fallen world and every one of those vices still affect us, but Christ has defeated the powers of this world and has given us the Holy Spirit by whom we are empowered to overcome. Our chains are gone, we've been set free. And that is what we are to remember. And then to live under the truth of God's mercy and grace. Don't be bound by the sins that threaten to hold us. We heard in our epistle Paul's introduction to Galatians, and he wrote this, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age.” To set us free. On this weekend where we are especially aware of the freedom we have in this country, let us not forget to remember the freedom we have through the sacrifice of Jesus and the grace and love of God the Father.
On Thursday, we had the funeral here for Bette Leaf Eckman. I didn't realize how many people did not know the story of this altar cross. It was given in memory of her daughter, Missy Leaf, who died way too young. It tells a story in itself, God the Father in the burning bush, the Holy Spirit coming down in the form of a dove and the cross upon which Jesus gave his life. Love, power and grace represented in this memorial to a beloved daughter. When we look at the cross we can, like the children of Israel, ask what does this memorial mean to you? And the answer will be different for each of us, but it will always deal with freedom through grace; amazing grace that set you and me free. Remember. Remember that Jesus loves you, Jesus cares. He cares when we face the trials of this life, when we suffer grief, when we doubt. Remember, Jesus cares. Remember. Amen.
Hymn 416 HLC Does Jesus Care?