Theme: Memorials help us remember God's great deeds and blessings with gratitude.
Some years ago, my family visited the capitol. We toured some of the great memorials. Most prominent are the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. Then there is the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, and more recently the WWII Memorial.
Of course, all these memorials are expensive. It takes plenty of tax dollars to design them, build them, maintain them + protect them. So why do we do it?
Because memorials help us remember things we should remember. Our memories need to be prodded; otherwise we are prone to forget. We forget what a precarious experiment democracy was when George Washington became our first president. We forget how easily our country could have been split except for Abe Lincoln. We forget the world's future really hung in the balance when Hitler rolled over Europe.
In our Joshua text God’s people are poised to enter the Promised Land. But their path is blocked by the Jordan River swelled during a spring flood stage. Then God did something spectacular: he stopped the river’s raging force- completely. It’s as if he placed the Hoover Dam upstream: the water simply piled up in a heap. And the whole nation of Israel crossed over on dry ground.
Notice the symmetry in the journey of God’s people. To exit the land of slavery, the people crossed the Red Sea on dry ground. Now to enter the land of prosperity, the people cross the Jordan River on dry ground. Both display God’s immense power and miraculous provision for his people.
And get this: while God is performing this great feat, he is already arranging a memorial. It’s as if General Washington rowed across the Delaware + stopped to set up a landmark, before catching the British off guard in a surprise attack. Or as if Union soldiers had no sooner repulsed Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg then they preserved their cannon and flags for a war memorial.
Joshua 4:1 Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.
Then vs 6: In the future, when your children ask you: What do these stones mean? Tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant... These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever. I'll call it the Jordan River Memorial.
Now, there wasn’t any visitor center there or any park rangers to give a tour. But picture generations of children in the Promised Land coming across those stones. Picture their descendants being told what happened there. Our text notes that when the book of Joshua was written, the stones were still there. The stones were still standing to remind people that God had done a great wonder.
Memorials help us remember things we should remember. When we forget what God has done, we are the poorer. Our faith in God grows fainter. When we forget, we are prone to wander from him.
Generations after the Israelites reached the Promised Land that very thing happened. Judges 3:7 says: They forgot the LORD their God. They forget what he had done. They forgot the awesome plagues he sent on Egypt. They forgot how God parted the Red Sea to let them walk through on dry ground.
They forgot Gods provision of quail and manna and water in the desert. They forgot his stopping the Jordan River to let them march into the Promised Land. They forgot how the hand of the Lord conquered the mighty people in the land. And in their forgetting they ran after other gods.
Memorials help us remember things we should remember. And the remembering is more than just keeping the historical record straight. The physical presence of a memorial prompts a remembering that moves us. At memorials there is emotion, sometimes tears, often a deep sense of gratitude.
I think of people finding the names of loved ones on the Vietnam War Memorial. Tracing the name etched in stone; tears in their eyes. When I visited the Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania there was a sense of awe: awe at the horror of terrorism that can strike anywhere + gratitude for heroic passengers.
In the same way, the memorial stones were meant to move Gods people. Look at those stones! They come from the middle of the Jordan! God stopped the force of this entire river! Isn’t he great? Look what he’s done for us!! Now we possess a land flowing with milk and honey! Those twelve stones were meant to inspire worship!
Memorials help us remember things we should remember. Remembering gives proper attention to what God has done. Remembering is really a window to God. It helps us know him- that he is powerful. Remembering helps us trust him and live by faith in the present.
Now, I don't think the twelve memorial stones are still standing today- 3,000 years later. None of us live near the Jordan river. Does that mean we have to do without memorials? Absolutely not. Memorials still have an important place for us.
First, there are personal and family memorials. You know that both my boys were adopted- while I was a church planter in California. At the last-minute Paul's birthmother invited us to come to the hospital for his birth. We dropped everything, got in our car and drove the four hours to get there.
But here’s another detail: we did have the presence of mind to pack a video-camera. And we put it to good use to capture the action around Paul’s birth. A while ago, we got out that tape and watched it as a family. We hooted; we hollered; we poked fun; we laughed; we cried. It helped us remember. And we praised God all over again for his goodness in making us a family.
Some people know the time and place where they accepted Jesus into their lives. Celebrating a spiritual birthday can be a memorial- to remember God’s saving grace. Wedding anniversaries can be a memorial- to savor God’s gift of committed love. Recovering alcoholics may celebrate the date they stopped drinking + remained sober. What about you? What special moments of grace in your life ought to have a memorial?
Second, there are civic memorials. I've already mentioned the various national monuments in Washington DC. And holidays like this function as a memorial. We specially remember all those who served in the military and laid down their lives to defend liberty + justice for all. Memorials of God’s grace.
Third and most important, we still have God-given memorials. The twelve stones at the Jordan are long scattered and gone. But in a broad way the Bible itself acts as a memorial.
Through the Bible every new generation remembers what God has done. Through the Bible we learn about God's great deeds- from the first day of creation to the last day of redemption. Through the Bible we remember and give thanks that God stopped the Jordan River, so that his people could cross over into the Promised Land. About 1400 years later a more important event took place in the waters of the Jordan. We don't know if the twelve stones were still there. But in his gospel Mark writes: Jesus came... and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
Having been baptized and filled with the Spirit, Jesus began his work of redemption. He conquered giants in the land- disease, spiritual blindness, evil spirits + Satan himself. His final victory was accomplished by dying on the cross to save us from our sins. His redeeming work was so important the Holy Spirit inspired four accounts about it.
And already the night before his death, he set up a memorial. This time he didn’t give us stones; he gave us bread and wine. Eat this bread; drink this cup in remembrance of me. For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Memorials help us remember things we should remember. What stones should you set up to mark God’s power and grace in your life? What memorials should you be visiting? God’s people must always look forward in hope. But may we also know the importance of remembering.
Neil Jasperse Faith Church Nashville Memorial Day Service
Text: Exodus 20:12; Mark 7:5-13 Theme: Honoring parents takes different forms: for kids- obedience; for teens- respect; in middle years prizing them, and in later years caring for them.
Perhaps you went shopping for a Mother’s day card this week. The variety of cards is amazing: religious ones, sentimental ones, humorous ones. There are regular sized cards and huge ones; fancy ones and even more fancy ones. However, there’s a better way to show appreciation to your mother: how you treat her. As the fifth commandment says: Honor your father and your mother.
Honoring our father and mother over a lifetime involves different stages. Each stage of life brings different challenges as we and our parents grow older. I will highlight four stages of honoring our parents.
The first stage of honor is to obey. The Apostle Paul makes that clear in Ephesians 6: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
Boys + girls, the quickest way to dishonor your parents is refuse to listen to them. Make a mess with your toys even when Mom repeatedly told you to pick them up. Grumble every time Dad asks you to help with chores. Make a fuss when its bedtime. But if you want to honor your father and mother, cooperate. Obey them!
Here I think of a great scene from beloved book: Anne of Green Gables. When Anne first arrived on Prince Edward Island, she discovered it was all a mistake. Marilla Cuthbert had actually asked for an orphan boy- to help on the farm.
Well, Matthew takes this freckled, skinny, talkative orphan to Green Gables anyway. After great reluctance and a trial period, Marilla finally announces Anne can stay. Anne is thrilled? She says: I'm so happy. I'll try to be so good. It will be uphill work. Mrs. Thomas often told me I was desperately wicked. But, I'll do my very best.
Boys and girls, a willing spirit of cooperation and obedience is what counts.
Jesus himself is a fine example. At age twelve, Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. He wanted to be in the temple- his Father’s house. His knowledge wowed the people. When his parents returned + found him, they scolded him for causing them such worry.
How did Jesus’ respond? He went along with them and was obedient to them.
So kids, when you get home, don’t just ignore this: obey your parents. When you get up each morning, pray: God, help me to obey my mom and dad today. That’s one of the main duties you have in life right now. Honor your father and your mother. A second facet of honor is respect. Respect is really a synonym for honor.
You may obey your parents on the outside. But that doesn't mean you respect them inside. I can remember friends who would call their parents “my old man" or "my old lady." Saying my old lady kind of took their mother down a few notches. Then what she said didn’t seem as important.
I never could bring myself to talk like that. Maybe I feared my parents too much. But I think I also respected them too much.
Respect your father and mother. Perhaps this specially applies to teens + young adults. During these years we start to think more independently. We notice other families. We discover: not every family does things like our family. And sometimes we like how other families do things better.
I remember this stage: it was easy for criticism and disrespect to creep in. For some teens it can be a favorite pastime with peers: to cut down your parents. Here's a real challenge: to respect your parents- to their face and behind their backs.
Now, that doesn't mean that your parents' decisions won't gripe you at times. It doesn't mean that you pretend your parents never mess up. But it does mean that you give them respect- because God made them your parents.
You know, I think one important ingredient in respect is appreciation. When we truly appreciate what someone has done, we’re much quicker to respect them. And nine times out of ten there is no one who has done more for you than your parents.
The investment parents make in their kids is incredible! Just giving birth: the discomfort of a pregnancy and then the pain of labor! Then there are all the diapers. A baby has what- nearly ten diaper changes a day? That means in the first year alone parents change diapers over 3,000 times! When we truly appreciate what parents have done for us, we'll be quicker to respect them.
So, young people, if you want to wipe your parents out, never show any appreciation. Just assume they owe it to you. It’s what every kid deserves anyway. But if you want honor them, then show your appreciation- for the meals Mom makes, for taking you places, for sending you to sports camps or music camps, for cheering you on, for just being there for you.
Honor your father and your mother. A third facet of honor is to prize highly. This is a special challenge for middle-aged adults. You are busy. You are busy with work; you are busy with kids; busy keeping up the house and yard; you are busy with church; you’re just plain busy. At this time in life it’s easy for your parents to get the leftovers in your schedule.
To prize highly means to hold your parents as a high priority in your life. Make time for them. Take initiative with them. Do special things for them. Involve them in the lives of your kids. That will be a great joy to your parents. Middle-agers: how might you prize your parents- in this busy stage of life?
During my years as a pastor I never lived closer than 200 miles from my parents. But one old-fashioned thing I could always do is write. And I did- nearly every week. Thru those letters my mom/dad stayed deeply connected with my activities + thoughts. They read those letters and re-read them. They saved them. They deeply appreciated that I prized them enough to take the time to write.
Here I want to say a word to anyone whose parents have been a disappointment. Because of that truly honoring them may seem impossible. They hurt me too much for me to honor them. They don't deserve it. My father was never there for me. My mother always made me feel inadequate. You wouldn't expect me to honor that woman if you knew what she did.
These are deep, agonizing hurts. It may take years to work through pain like that. Yet God doesn't say: Honor your father + mother if they've never done you wrong- if they've been really good parents. No, God says: Honor your father + mother- period.
The Heidelberg Catechism wisely adds this: be patient with their failings. To do that may not be easy. But the Holy Spirit offers the power to make this possible.
Honor your father and your mother. A fourth + final facet of honor is to care for. In our gospel reading Jesus got after the Pharisees for not caring for their parents. The Pharisees encouraged that money to help parents be given instead to the temple. Jesus angrily rebuked them: You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!
Jesus himself gives us a tender example of care for his mother. It’s on the cross. He's being mocked by the crowd. He's racked with pain. He’s in the middle of dying. And yet Jesus saw his mother there + the disciple whom he loved standing near by. And he said to his mother: “Dear woman, here is your son” and to the disciple: "Here is your mother." Despite his own suffering, Jesus provided for his mother!
Caring for your parents. This especially becomes an issue when they grow older. Then they may not be able to provide for themselves. Then roles are often reversed. Then children honor their aging parents by ensuring that all their basic needs are met.
I think of Ruth’s father. He was an engineering professor, author + college president. All his life he has been highly capable and competent- providing for so many others. But at age 99, his mind has slowed; he gets confused; he can no longer do basic things.
Fortunately Ruth has three siblings who live right in town. A sister takes care of his checking and finances. She often goes shopping for him. A brother lives a few blocks away and can scoot over if some need arises. Another brother is a doctor who can consult various health issues. It’s a beautiful thing: the children honoring their father by caring for him.
You never know when you’ll get that phone call. That phone call... saying that your Mom or Dad has died. And when you get it, won't it be great if you've done everything you could for them? Caring for aged parents may the greatest opportunity of all to honor them.
Honor your father and your mother. Each stage of life presents different challenges. For children there is obedience. For teens there is respect. For busy middle-agers there is taking the time to prize highly. And when parents are well advanced in years, there is the challenge of providing care.
It’s interesting that only the fifth commandment ends with a promise: Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
Ephesians 6 gives us the New Testament version of that promise: that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth. As we honor our parents, God promises to honor and bless us. It’s a circle of grace.
This morning I want to leave you with a challenge. For those with parents still living, look to honor them in some special way. Think about them and your stage of life. What would they appreciate? Be creative. Do something which says loud and clear: Mom, Dad, I honor you with all my heart.
Neil Jasperse Faith Church (Mothers Day) Nashville, Tenn.
Text: Matthew 6:25-30 Theme: The secret of worry-free living is proper perspective and trust in God.
In many respects we have it better today than any era in history. We have freedom. We have ample food + clothing. We have many appliances that reduce life’s drudgery. We have handy transportation. We have advanced medical care.
In many ways we have it so much better than ever before. And yet we worry!
I once asked my Bible study group this question: How many of you are worriers? Of the ten people there, seven of them confessed they were worriers. A few even qualified as world-class worriers.
Worry. We worry about the quality of our schools. We worry about our finances. We worry about the influence of television- its violence, trashy language, sexual scenes; We worry about global warming and the seeming increase in devestating tornadoes. We worry about a dysfunctional US government. We worry about terrorism. Some have labeled ours as the age of anxiety- or the age of prozac.
I don’t view myself as a worrier. But I have to admit that all kinds of anxieties creep in. Worry about my boys doing well in school once; now about their work + relationships. Worry about developing a fresh, Christ-centered sermon that will nourish the soul. Worry about someone in the church family who is really hurting or struggling . Worry about if my Green Bay Packers will bounce back to their former greatness. Each of you could probably add your own personal list of worries.
Worry is a cousin of fear. Fear is a stronger emotion that arises from an actual threat. Worry is a low-grade fear that something bad might happen.
None of our worries may be that big in themselves. But they nag at you. They cloud over your peace of mind. They take some shine off your happiness. They have a way of keeping you on edge. Does this sound familiar?
Jesus knows all about that. In Matthew 6:25 he speaks to our situation. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life.
Now, perhaps that sounds a bit unrealistic. We’ve all heard people say: I've always been a worrier; my Mom was and so am I. Or: That's just how I am. I can't help it. It’s as if worry is a gene some are born with. The implication is: You can't really expect me to stop worrying. But may we dismiss Jesus' words that way? Notice that verse 25 isn't just a wish. It isn’t just a suggestion. It’s not just for those born without a worry gene. It’s an exhortation- really a command. Jesus commands all his followers not to worry.
And notice that it’s not a low-key command! Jesus issues this command three times: vs 25- do not worry; vs 31- do not worry; and vs 34- do not worry. It’s as if Jesus knows what a problem worry is. He knows it keeps popping up like unwanted weeds. So he repeats himself to show he means business: do not worry.
I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Jesus knows worry is a besetting problem. So Jesus fortifies his command with reasons.
Reason #1: there are more important things than ordinary, physical needs. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? In other words, don't sweat the little stuff. Don’t sweat the daily stuff- like food + clothes.
When I grew up in Sheboygan nearly every wife was a full-time homemaker. Many in my church believed that cleanliness was next to godliness. I think they spent half their lives making sure their house was swept and spotless.
But how insignificant compared to really important things- being there for your kids; growing in Christ; serving in your church; helping the hungry or the homeless; or sharing the gospel with a neighbor. So I officially declare that worrying about keeping things pin neat is unspiritual.
Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? In other words, Jesus wants his people to have a sense of priorities. Set your sights on what matters in life- things of eternal value. Don't sweat the little stuff. I'll let you fill in the blank about what is little stuff in your life.
I tell you, do not worry. Here is Jesus’ second reason: God will provide for you. Vs 26: Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
One day in Michigan I was driving back from the hospital on a frigid winter day. By the bridge over the Grand River I saw an enormous flock of birds. In fact, there were more birds than I think I’ve ever seen at one time. They half covered the sky. It reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller, The Birds.
Now, those birds had no tools for farming. They had no furnace-heated homes. They had no capacity to think, communicate, or love God like we do. And yet those birds were thriving- on a bitterly cold day. Jesus' logic moves from the lesser to the greater: Are you not much more valuable than they? I In vs 28-30 Jesus basically restates this same point, only he uses another example. See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" Hard to argue with that logic.
Let's zero in on those last few words: O you of little faith. Here Jesus cuts thru all our excuses. Worrying is not just a matter of how you were born. It is not just a matter of whether things are going well or not. Ultimately it’s a matter of trust. Do you trust God to take care of you? Do you have faith?
Here we find a wonderful dimension of the gospel. The Bible talks about all the benefits we receive through faith in Jesus. Well, one major benefit is worry-free living. Proper concern? Yes! But worry? No!
Think a moment how wonderful life would be without any worries- none at all. No worries about how well-liked you are; no worries about your kids’ future; no worries about a difficult relationship at work; or making ends meet financially; no worries about health. More faith means less worry. That's what Jesus wants for us!
The prophet Habakkuk provides a powerful example: "Though the fig-tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior."
I think of a lady from my congregation who had trouble with a lingering cough- on top of a dropping blood count. The doctors weren’t quite sure what was going on. When I visited June she simply said: I’m not going to worry about it; I’m in God’s hands. And that’s right. If God provides for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, he will provide for you and me.
You know, it’s easy to talk about our faith in God- or to sing about it. But here’s a practical test: how much does your trust in God cut down on your worry? I tell you, do not worry. Reason #3: worrying won't do you a bit of good. Vs 27: "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"
Worrying won't do you a bit of good. Just the opposite: it takes the fun out of life. Worry is worse than a pesky mosquito in your tent at bedtime.
Worry won't add a single hour to your life. But it will raise your blood pressure; it will create headaches; it will cause ulcers; it will shorten your life.
When someone turns 100, they’re often asked about their secret to long life. I’ve heard many interesting answers: I rolled with the punches. I never smoked or drank. Or I drank a beer every night. But I’ve never yet heard: Because I worried a lot.
I tell you, do not worry. Here I want to suggest a take-home assignment. As yourself: what two or three things do you worry about the most? Once you've identified them, give it the three-part analysis. Will worry gain you anything? Is it really that important? And do you or don't you trust that your heavenly Father will provide for you?
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.