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05.25.14 Meaningful Remembrances Psalm 66:8-20 Sermon Summary

by on May 28, 2014

In 1971 congress made Memorial Day a 3 day weekend, crippling the original intent of making meaningful remembrance of those who have died while in military service to the USA. So in 2000 congress invited us to observe a National Moment of Remembrance at 3 PM. Scripture gives us a better way to make meaningful remembrances.

Summary Points

  • True thanksgiving for our freedoms
  • Three characteristics of meaningful remembrances
  • A sacramental example

Most Americans on Memorial Day consider it the unofficial beginning of summer. We enjoy a day off, hosting barbeques, and taking advantage of “three days only!” sales. But is this the best way to commemorate the countless dead who have secured our freedom?

With freedom comes responsibility, as Paul instructs the Galatians, “Do not use your freedom for self-indulgence, but serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13). Instead Psalm 66:13-14 says, “I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will pay you my vows, those that my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.”

Making meaningful remembrances includes not forgetting the troubled times. The psalmist puts it this way, “You have tested us as silver is tested; you have brought us into the net, laid burdens on our back, let people ride over our heads, sent us through fire and water.” (Psalm 66:10-12) There is no denial or neglect of the troubles that led to deliverance and freedom. This is especially important for those of us who, like the psalmist, now live in a “spacious place.” (verse 12)

A second way to make meaningful remembrances is, in the spacious place of better times, to “pay our vows.” In our times of need we offered prayers and made promises. In better times, we make meaningful remembrance by living up to those prayers and promises.

A veteran of the Iraq war told me that people often thank him for his service. Without diminishing their intent, he invites them into a new perspective. It is that everyone is called to serve, not just the military. “Not everyone serves in the ‘made for movie’ heroic roles of a soldier,” he said. “But everyone can serve.” He then thanks them for their service.

The question is, How are you “paying your vows” as an expression of meaningful remembrance?

The “Aeropagus” is the Hill of Ares (in Greek) translated in Latin to “Mars Hill”. It is here that the judicial council of Athens held court. There Paul found an altar “To an unknown God”. In proclaiming the God he knew to these agnostic people, Paul quotes Epimenides, a 6th century BC Greek philosopher: “In God we live, move, and have our being.” The 2nd century church father Clement of Alexandria said Epimenides was one of the “seven wisest philosophers of all time.”

What this teaches us is that God is not found only in church, or in doctrine, or even in Christianity. God is found wherever God reveals himself. For Paul, two places were common: our shared human origins; and the Providential characteristics of our lives (cf. verse 26). The point is, to make meaningful remembrance of what God has done for us, we need to be open to where God is leading us. Following God in the present honors God’s faithfulness to lead us in the past.

So there are three ways to make meaningful remembrances

  • Remember the troubles in our lives
  • Pay our vows
  • Remain open to God

One of the most profound meaningful remembrances we make as the church is the sacrament of baptism. Baptism reminds us of the trouble we were in; we, with the whole world, were slaves to sin. Peter illustrates this by alluding to the great flood and the deliverance found on Noah’s Ark. True gratitude remembers what life was like before the gift.

True gratitude also reflects the gift that is given. In terms from the psalm, includes making and paying our vows out of gratitude for Christ’s deliverance. Baptism is the covenant ritual of making and renewing vows. Peter says, “Christ suffered for sin once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring us to God.” (1 Peter 3:18) He reflects Paul’s theology of baptism which states, “The death Christ died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:10-11) In other words, pay your vows out of gratitude for deliverance.

Finally, baptism opens us up to being continually led by God, for in baptism we receive the Holy Spirit and our calling. Peter says, “Jesus was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:19) Paul says, “We have been buried with Jesus by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4) Jesus promises the Spirit after his resurrection, to be in us, and us in God. And so it is truly the case, as Epimenides says and Paul quotes, “In God we live, move, and have our being.”

All of life, not just Memorial Day or the day we were baptized, but every day is a day for making meaningful remembrances. Every day is one in which we remember our trouble, give thanks for our deliverance, and follow God in our lives.

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