Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day Sermon

Sermon texts:
Psalm 66: 8-20
John 16: 20-22, 33
1 Peter 3: 13-22

It may have been a memorial day weekend when my whole mother’s side of the family visited the Mud Island in Memphis.  They have a miniture replica of the Mississippi river made from concrete that runs the length of an island that river pirates and outlaws used to meet on for knife fights to the death or other nefarious behavior. 

The hanging monorail train that shuttles you to the island from Memphis is featured in the Tom Cruise movie “The Firm,” and while you are there, you can also see the famous Memphis Belle B-17 Flying fortress.  This is the same model airplane that my grandfather flew in during WWII, and though he’d never really spoken much about his service (and even at 10 or 11 I could kind of read his discomfort when speaking about the experience that left his arm disfigured and shorter than the other), it was by that plane like that one that he had no doubt suffered for many hours in as he held his arm in place after nearly having it shot off, that I asked him to tell me more about his service.

There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless. 15 So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.

What can we, who benefit from the good that the veterans have suffered for, do for them?  Honor and memory. 
They deserve that, don’t they.  That’s what marks the difference between the righteous and the wicked.  We don’t necessarily get what we deserve out of life or death.  Sometimes the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer, but Peter reminds the newly baptized that though their baptism does not function as some kind of protective shield against strife and difficulties, it does make us part of a community who bears all things as one body. 

Think about your life and what you have brought to the world at large.  What will be those activities that have such an impact that they will be remembered when you are gone?  Will people some day gather at my funeral and reminisce about how much I enjoyed coming up with witty comments for other people’s facebook page?  “Man, that Nathan sure could give some snappy comments!”   No—what endures is a person’s contribution to things that are larger than oneself. 

Suffering for the faith.  John Wesley one of his co-workers had been thrown off a bridge to his death when they evangelized the rough mill towns of SW England. 

It seems that this man’s life was full of suffering, and yet he did something that will be forever memorialized.  He contributed in a positive way to an event that held tragedy. 

Interesting idea that you used to suffer quite a bit of persecution just for being a Methodist.  Perhaps when we aren’t suffering for our faith we end up suffering in our faith.  We atrophy.  Our spiritual muscles get weak.  Some of the early church desert fathers and mothers knew this about faith life, so while theologians bickered about the ins and outs of who God was and who Jesus was, they went out to the desert to subject themselves to the elements and desolation in an attempt to mimic Christ’s example.   

This Thursday is Ascension Day.  40 days after Easter Sunday, when some Christians mark the occasion when Jesus ascends into heaven and leaves his disciples with the promise of the Spirit’s power to guide them, as we heard about today. 

The Ascension means that Christ is not only risen, but that he reigns.  As he tells his disciples in the passage from John that we heard today, even when we suffer for being his disciples, we can  know that In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

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