May 29, 2016 | text: Joshua 4:1-7
Memorial Day began after the Civil War as Decoration Day, founded by a group of Union veterans in Decatur, IL to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers. Today Memorial Day honors all men and women who died serving their country. Christians disagree sometimes over how much patriotism to bring into our worship service. (Christians disagree sometimes may be one of my greatest understatements of all time.) Jesus is no more American than he is Russian or Chinese. I get a little uncomfortable with crosses covered in stars and stripes or portrayals Jesus draped in the American flag. Sometimes American ideals are in direct opposition to the values of Christianity. I believe we can celebrate our national identity and honor God in the process but don’t forget what we said last week about being deliberate and intentional. At all times we have to think about what we are doing and the message we are sending. Remembering those who have gone before us, honoring the dead, even setting up a memorial, is very biblical. Memorials are established because we so easily forget.
Remember what God has done. Wednesday night we read Joshua 3 to provide some background and context for chapter 4. An entire generation had died off after 40 years in the wilderness so the miraculous crossing of the Jordan River is almost a repeat of the crossing of the Red Sea. An entire new generation of Hebrews will get to see God working, doing God-sized things that only God can do, establishing faith in him and in Joshua their new leader. And God tells them to build this memorial so they don’t forget it. I didn’t tell my Bear Bryant story on Mother’s Day; he was filming a commercial for South Central Bell and the scripted line was “Don’t forget to call your mother.” He added “I sure wish I could call mine” and that become perhaps his most famous quote. The long distance business was good that year on Mother’s Day. We have Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, American and religious holidays throughout the year in order to pause from all our busyness and remember those things that are most important. Some things are worth remembering.
This Do in Remembrance… In a few minutes we will observe another memorial. Passover became the Lord’s Supper when Jesus broke bread with his disciples and instructed them to continue the tradition but in remembrance of him. The Hebrews had observed an annual Passover celebration since the night Moses led them from Egypt. After the Passover lamb was slain, and the blood displayed on the doorposts, the Angel of Death visited Egypt. The firstborn of every household was taken but those who were obedient to God’s instructions his judgement passed over them. The Passover meal had commemorated that event for 1500 years by the time Jesus desired to have it one last time with his disciples. He took a ritual they understood well and gave it new meaning. He broke bread and told them to think his body being broken. He passed the cup and reminded them his blood would be poured out. He did not say how often to do it, but he did say “This do in remembrance of me.” Our religious holidays of Easter and Christmas came much later; they are not ordained in scripture. Jesus said do this.