Due to some technical difficulties we didn’t get an audio recording or Pr. Todd’s sermon on Memorial Day – it’s definitely worth the read!
2nd Sunday after Pentecost St. Peter’s – Lafayette Hill, PA.
Text: Luke 7:1-10 May 29, 2016
Preacher: The Rev. R. Bruce Todd Memorial Day Weekend
“Are We Worthy?”
Yep! It’s still there. The flag from the state of Georgia. That flag has caused a few tense conversations over the years that I have been the pastor here. I had the father of a bride ask me to remove it before the wedding. I had an African American say that they were uncomfortable seeing that flag. That particular flag contains the Confederate Battle Flag as a part of its design. I pointed out how those flags represent those who occupied St. Peter’s during the time of the American Revolution. I also point out that it is good that we are a bit uncomfortable with the Confederate Battle Flag, because it serves as a reminder to us to never let those things happen again! The time of Slavery in our nation is not something we can be proud of, but it is a part of our History – a part that we can never allow to happen again.
When I was following Paul’s Missionary Journeys on a Study Tour, we were passing a Concentration Camp. It was not a part of the scheduled tour, but we were asked if we wanted to stop. I walked through the barracks where Jewish people would have been crowded together. I stood in the showers where poisonous gas instead of water came out of the shower heads. I saw the ovens where thousands of bodies were cremated and discarded. The Holocaust was a tragic time in our History. Those Concentration Camps remain as a reminder to never allow that to happen again!
Last summer my friend Jaakko was visiting from Finland. We went to New York City. While we were there, he wanted to see the 9/11 Memorial Pools at the World Trade Center. On the granite that surrounds those two pools, you can read the names of the 2,996 people who were killed during the Terrorist attacks on that day. I try to remember them when I am waiting in the long security lines at the TSA checkpoints at the airport, taking off my shoes, and emptying my pockets. We do this in an attempt to keep something like that from ever happening again.
This is Memorial Day Weekend. Tomorrow is the day our nation sets aside to remember – to remember all of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice during our wars to secure the freedoms we enjoy each and every day. Many of us were personally affected by these wars, and the people who were lost. My Father was a flame-thrower instructor and disarmed land mines. I’m surprised I’m here. My Uncle Oscar was a pilot who was killed in a search and rescue mission.
Memorial Day is a day to remember all those who died, and to serve as a reminder that we should do everything possible to keep war from happening again.
When a National Holiday falls on a weekend, I try to see how the Gospel might connect to it. The story of the Centurion who sent some Jewish friends to ask Jesus if he would heal his servant, didn’t seem to connect. Not until I read the part that said, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not Worthy to have you come under my roof.” Jesus was impressed, both with this Centurion’s humbleness as well as his faith.
Are WE Worthy? Are we worthy of all those lives that were lost during the Civil War in the effort to eliminate slavery? You might wonder, considering the prejudice and bigotry that still seems to be alive and well in many areas of our country. Are we Worthy of the lives that were sacrifices in those Concentration Camps, especially with the views about immigrants in today’s climate? It’s hard to believe that some people deny that the Holocaust even happened.
Are we Worthy of all those lives that were sacrificed for us in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq, Afghanistan? Do we respect our Freedoms as the cherished gift they are, or do we treat them as an entitlement that we deserve? Would the Soldiers we honor this Memorial Day feel it was worth their sacrifice if they saw how we use our freedoms?
What about Jesus? The Centurion knew that he was not Worthy to have Jesus come under his roof. Faith and Humility are linked together in this Gospel lesson. Are WE Worthy of the Sacrifice that Jesus made for us? Judas betrayed him. Peter denied even knowing him. The crowd was quick to yell “Crucify Him!” We are told, “Remember that you are dust, and to Dust you shall return.” Judas, wasn’t Worthy. Peter wasn’t worthy. The people in that crowd were not Worthy. We are not worthy – – – but Christ sacrificed his life for us anyway.
On our own, we are NOT Worthy. But because of Christ’s actions, we have become worthy in the eyes of God. Christ died for us before any of the people we remember on this Memorial Day sacrificed their lives for us. Christ made the ULTIMATE Sacrifice – so that the sacrifice made by these others need not BE the “Ultimate” sacrifice, because they now have the promise of Eternal Life after their earthy life ends.
So on this Memorial Day let’s be a bit Humble in remembering those who sacrificed for us – including Jesus. The Centurion in today’s Gospel sets an example of humbleness for us to follow. It made me reflect on the words from our next hymn: “We are called to act with justice, We are called to love tenderly, We are called to serve one another – to walk humbly with God.”
If we Remember ALL those who sacrificed their lives for us – we can’t help but be humble. Amen.