HOW DOES ONE HAVE A HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY?
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
24 MAY 1992
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Acts 11:1-3, 15-18
The title for today's sermon came in an interesting way.
A week and a half ago I went into Pittsburgh to see my mother and father, and while I was there, they remarked about how good the cookies were that I had sent to them for Chanukah.
But they also remarked that they were somewhat embarrassed to say this, for they didn't want me to send more, but wanted to order some for themselves.
So I told them that I got them from the wholesale grocery distributor, and that they couldn't just order from them by mail.
And since they told me not to send them, I told them that if they received a
mysterious package of cookies from some unknown person, they were not to think
it was from me.
So, when I sent the package, I wrote on the box, "Happy Memorial Day, love from ???"
And when Mary saw my note, she said, “How can you have a happy Memorial Day?”
I hadn't looked at it from her perspective.
How can you have a happy Memorial Day, when we are to remember those who suffered and died in our wars?
From this perspective of death, we can't.
But if we can remember the fear of the wars before us, so that we won't fight with each other any more, then we will have peace; and we can be happy in that peace, and be joyful that we have learned from our past mistakes.
Proverbs 19:23 says,
23. The fear [or reverence] of the Lord leads to life,
So that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.
Yet at the same time that we have this reverent fear of the Lord, we also have a peace and joy, and are filled with love.
We should be happy that we have come to know the Lord Jesus in a personal way; yet we also know that He died fighting the battle against our sins.
And we can be happy in Jesus, for He rose from the dead, as we who know Him will also do some day; and, as those believers, we memorialize not the death of the past, but the promise of the life to come.
If our view is still from the grave, it is hard to be happy.
But, if our view is beyond the grave, we can be happy.
But we look around the world and at all the evil, and we say, "How can we avoid war?"
And again we can get our answer from Proverbs 20:22:
22. Do not say, "I will repay evil";
Wait for the Lord, and He will save you.
Because we lack faith, as individuals and as a nation, we jump in too quickly, and don't give God a chance to be God and fulfill His promises.
Perhaps another proverb can help us get the perspective. Note Proverbs 17:1:
17. Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it
Than a house full of feasting with strife.
By far, the vast majority of the people in the world seek the things of this world, and fail to seek the quality of life that will bring them peace and happiness with the things that they have and will acquire in the future.
I totally believe that we will have more than we ever thought possible, if we first learn to live with God and our fellow beings.
If we memorialize in our heart and mind the death of Jesus upon the cross, and that by that death He paid the price of our sins, we will learn to die to our pride and to forgive others, so that together we can have joy and peace and happiness; not because we continue to live in that memorialized death, but beyond it.
As we read the Book of Acts and in some of the epistles, we find that even the early church had disputes within it, and believers were fighting with each other over really unimportant things.
Note what we are told in Acts 11:1-3:
1. Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.
2. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him,
3. saying, "You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them."
Instead of rejoicing, that even people who had not formerly believed in God were now doing so, they were now concerned with preserving their Jewish ethnicity.
Instead of being happy in their memorial of Jesus, whose life, death, and resurrection fulfilled the Law, they still wanted to live by the Law.
So Peter begins to explain to them the important things, in order that they would regain their peace.
Let’s pick up the last part of what he says, beginning at verse 15.
15. "And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, just as He did upon us at the beginning.
16. "And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, 'John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with [or in] the Holy Spirit.'
17. "If God therefore gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?"
18. And when they heard this, they quieted down, and glorified God, saying, "Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life."
They had a teachable spirit, because they heard this message of grace.
I pray that we also have heard it.
Sin leads to death, and death leads to hell.
But, in Jesus Christ is the forgiveness of sins which leads to life, and this gift is for every person who will receive it.
Therefore, we can be happy remembering why Jesus died, and rejoice with those who receive.
Now, as we turn ahead to Acts 15:1-2, we see that the same thing happened all over again; but this time, with Paul and Barnabas.
1. And some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."
2. And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue.
Doesn't this sound like problems that are still going on in the churches today?
So, after much debate and a trip to Jerusalem, the apostles and elders came to a somewhat compromised understanding.
They understood that coming to Jesus and accepting Him fully, and participating as a member of the church, was far more important than the form of worship or custom, as long as it didn't compromise the word of God.
And since all parties wanted to be a part of the church and live their lives for Christ, they accepted the elimination of the requirement of circumcision, but kept some of the minor requirements of the Law, none of which was counter to the will of Christ or His word.
Thus they could eliminate the strife that leads to death, and be happy together in their everlasting life to come, for the old things are passing away.
Look at what they decided to do, from verses 22-29:
22. Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas – Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren,
23. and they sent this letter by them,
"The apostles and the brethren who are elders, to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles, greetings.
24. "Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls,
25. it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
26. men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Note that the apostles and the elders are in complete agreement with the decision they have made, and that they are reinforcing the efforts of their men in the field, as being true men of God.
27. "Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will also report the same things by word of mouth.
28. "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials:
29. that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell."
And remember, that if the people were to abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood, in most of these locations, it meant that they should no longer eat the flesh of animals, because such eating would be irreverent, and become stumbling blocks, which Paul discusses many times in his writing.
Nowhere in what they said was there any mention of what those other men had told them.
Salvation is by grace, not by works; nor has circumcision anything to do with it.
What they told these new members in the churches did not compromise the word of God, or His message of grace.
Their message was solely one of encouragement and of advice for keeping them from getting involved again in things that were not of God, such as their pagan idol worship.
This is why we can be happy in the death of Christ.
And I submit to you that war also is a form of idol worship, whether it involves our fellow human beings or the other animals.
We have been set free of the Law and of the death caused by our sins.
We have been saved by grace.
So how does this apply to being happy on Memorial Day?
Memorial Day is a time to remember the horrors of war and the death that is caused by it, so that we would not further engage in such practices, nor encourage others to do so; but that we would do everything in our power to lead others away from war.
And we need to remember that most human beings are also making war against the innocent animals of this world every day, and that many will grill their tortured body parts as part of their Memorial Day celebration.
We need to learn to lead ourselves and others away from this war, too.
It is a day to love one another, and help others to do the same, so that we would stop our warring madness.
And as we establish this peace and life in Jesus Christ our Lord in our hearts and minds, we should also be happy.
Therefore, I wish you a happy Memorial Day.
Your Comments are welcome
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