Tag Archives: Memorial Day

Decoration/Memorial Day Thought

As I prepared the sermon, I started remembering how our family handled Memorial Day, which we called Decoration Day.  The day was a process–beginning in the morning picking flowers from our own yard.  No purchased ones were ever used and I never remember not having fresh ones available.

The next step was wrapping old Folgers coffee can with aluminum foil, filling them with the flowers and then water–enough to get to the cemetery before we added more there.  The flowers filled the trunk of the car and then for the next step.

My memory includes picnics.  Mom would pack the picnic basket–now sitting in my dining room with one broken handle–with either fried chicken or ham.  No potato chips, instead there would be potato salad and/or deviled eggs.  At least that is what I remember.

Then off we would all go–all four of us.  No one stayed home as this was a family event.  We started in Middletown.  I remember it because that is where Ote West was buried, along with his wife.  Our farm had been his, but when he died, it became Dad’s.  And with each grave, came the stories. Little did I know the value of the stories then as I do now.

From Wellsville, we drove to Millersburg where Mom’s birth mother and an older brother are buried along with others from her family.  This is where we learned of the heartbreak Mom experienced having lost her mom when she was only 2 1/2 years old and growing up to know she had had an older brother, too.  What we did not know until 1980 was that her mother had been pregnant when she died.  But the stories continued.

As I remember, we often had our picnic at Dixie Lake which is only a few miles from the Millersburg Cemetery.  In terms of a lake, it is rather small by my adult standards, but as a young girl it was huge.

After lunch, we drove back to Montgomery City’s cemetery where Dad’s family was buried.  There were more graves to visit here, but Dad’s family was much larger.  One memory is of my cousin Sally’s family.  She was the only infant to survive due to RH factor.  The graves of the babies are not an accurate reflection of that heartbreak as some were turned over for scientific study.  But the story is laid out along the rows of graves in that cemetery along with aunts, uncles, great-grandparents, and now even our own parents.

Today I live on the other side of the state.  Trips to the cemetery are far and few between.  The cemetery is a location, but the spirits are always present.  I rather miss the traditions and being able to share the stories I learned from decorating the graves, but location determines many decisions.

I know that Memorial Day is really designed to honor the veterans, but for me it is honoring the history of my family.  We did not have many who were veterans as most were farmers and escaped being drafted.

One uncle did serve in World War II and suffered from malaria off and on during his life.  Plus my dad and his cousin Donald did enlist at the end of World War II when the draft called them.  (Enlisting rather being drafted reduced the months of service.)  Later his brother also served.  Yet they returned home to continue farming until their lives ended in a non-combat manner.

Today, the Tuesday after, I wonder if I should have made the drive across state to visit the cemeteries.  No.  My memory always honors those who have gone ahead.  The cemetery is just a place.  My decoration is the life I now live honoring them in who I am.  I am sure they know.

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Cloud of Witnesses lead by faith

Sermon for Memorial Day Weekend Sunday, May 27, 2018.  Another connection to Church of Resurrection’s stained glass window.


As we enjoy the Memorial Day Weekend as a holiday, the purpose of the holiday can easily be ignored—at least in today’s social environment. Memorial Day, the last Monday of May, began in 1868, and its origin may surprise you:

[show CBS video on Memorial Day from You Tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7ozdFkwHP8].

Memorial Day became familiar to me as a time to decorate the graves of family and friends more than just a time to honor veterans. I remember picking peonies, iris and roses, putting them in aluminum wrapped coffee cans filled with water and driving to at least three different cemeteries, leaving the flowers and sharing some of the people’s stories of the graves we visited.

Maybe the emphasis, or maybe I should say the de-emphasis, on veterans was due to the fact that we did not have any family veterans. My relatives were farmers and very few actually served in the military until my dad and his cousin enlisted at the end of World War II and the beginning of the Korean Conflict.  And none were killed during their service. Instead, Memorial Day honored those who defined our family.

Each of you has your own family history and your own traditions on holidays like this.  I am sure some of you do have family who died while serving in the armed services.  I am sure some of you spend time this weekend visiting graves and decorating them with flowers.  And while you do this, you remember all those who have contributed to who you are in one way or another.

These same family members and friends modeled their faith and helped define your own.  Their lives witnessed their faith in their own ways, much like the Cloud of Witnesses depicted in the Church of the Resurrection’s stained glass window.

The list of witnesses includes Old Testament and New Testament figures.  The window cannot possibly include all the characters in the Bible, but there are 23 images faintly imprinted through the stained glass cloud.  The images visible are:

Old Testament:

  • Hagar–Sarah’s handmaiden given to Abraham to have a child, Ishmael
  • Jachebed—Moses’ birth mother who hid him in the bulrushes
  • Joshua—successor of Moses
  • Rahab—the harlot who sheltered Joshua’s men in Jerico
  • Caleb—founding father of Cabbites and spy with Joshua
  • Samuel—son of Elkahan and Hannah; tutored by Eli, prophet and king of Israel
  • Deborah—Rebekah’s nurse; Israelite judge and prophet
  • King Solomon—son of David & Bathsheba, succeeded David
  • Isaiah—prophet
  • Jeremiah—son of Hilkiah; prophet

New Testament:

  • Zechariah—(four listed) father of John the Baptist, one of the Old Testament minor prophets
  • Elizabeth—wife of Zechariah; mother of John the Baptist; cousin to Mary the mother of Jesus Christ
  • Joseph—(also a common name) faither of Jesus
  • James—son of Zebedee, brother to John and both apostles
  • Lazarus—brother of Mary & Martha; Jesus raised him from the dead
  • Martha—Jesus’ close friend & follower
  • Mary—(seven different ones listed); mother of Jesus is one; another was a close friend & follower who was sister to Martha and Lazarus
  • Joseph of Arimathea—took the body of Jesus from the cross to the tomb
  • Matthew, Mark, Luke & John—the gospel writers.


These witnesses carried God’s story forward through history.  They have served as models of faithful living.  They also created The Church, at least the ones in the New Testament who continued Jesus work after his resurrection.  The Church today exists by the faith of a cloud of witnesses.

Scripture:  Hebrews 11:1-3

Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.

    By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.


Reading through Hebrews 11, the list of Old Testament witnesses continues.  The author includes many more witnesses, but each one is introduced by the key phrase “by faith”(a sampling Hebrews 11:7, 8, 32):

  1. It was by faith that Noahbuilt a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.
  2. It was by faith that Abrahamobeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. 10 Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.
  3. 32 How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets.33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35 Women received their loved ones back again from death.


The Church depends on the cloud of witnesses.  The stories filling the pages of the Bible, whether in the Old Testament or in the New Testament, are available to us yet today, in the 21stcentury, because their story is the same as our story.  We face challenges to our faith daily, and the battle of good versus evil can wear one down.  For this reason we turn to scripture to strengthen our resolve, our faith.

Reading on in Hebrews 11:35-40, the author continues the illustration of the Old Testament witnesses:

But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half,[d] and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.

     39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.

Over the last several weeks, we have reviewed so many stories of Biblical characters and other historical figures who have kept The Church growing.  These individuals share the common advice in Hebrews:  live by faith.  God’s story and the work of the witnesses have continued Jesus’ message.  The Church has grown and continues to exist by faith.

Hebrew’s author, and experts cannot agree on who that is with only the clue that it could be Paul, Luke, Barnabas, Apollos, Silas, Phillip or Priscilla due to the reference that the letter includes to Timothy as “brother,” does not list witnesses from the New Testament.  Those we might consider New Testament witnesses would have been contemporaries or peers.  The stained glass window’s references are based on the same criteria, though, they are the ones whose written record show that they lived by faith.

The letter to the Hebrews continues (12:1-13):

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.[e] Because of the joy[f]awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people;[g] then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

     And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children?[h] He said,

“My child,[i] don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and don’t give up when he corrects you.
For the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”[j]

     As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?[k]

     10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

     12 So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. 13 Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.


The words provide guidance for us yet today.  The scripture is timeless.  The message remains steadfast.  The crowd of witnesses knew God’s story and their lives were as typical as our own.  We are fortunate that we do have the stories.  We study scripture independently and in community in order for us to remain faithful when life challenges us.

Today is an ideal opportunity to add names to the cloud of witnesses that are personal.  I know that you have examples of faith that fills your memory.  They might be family members who lived by faithor maybe a best friend survived a challengeby faith.  I invite you to share the names of those who you would add to the cloud of witnesses (have members share the name and the story that nominates someone to be added to the cloud of witnesses: for example):

  • Betty:pastor’s wife, cancer patient, teacher
  • Kern:assistant superintendent, fellow Methodist, my dyslexia tutor
  • Beth:dairy farmer’s wife, Polio survivor, mother, friend
  • Bill:UMC pastor, son of a manic depressed mother


The names we share inspire each of us to live by faith.  The promise of life eternal may be realized by so many of those we consider to be witnesses, and we have so much work left to do in our earthly life.

We are blessed to know the stories of the cloud of witnesses.  We are blessed to know witnesses personally who have provided us guidance in living our own lives by faith.  This weekend we honor those who have served to protect us, who have served as our teachers, who have guided us in our own faith journeys.  May we, too, live our faith out loud so others may know us as part of the cloud of witnesses when we leave our earthly lives.

Closing prayer:

Dear Father Almighty,


Daily we are challenged to live by faith.

The news darkens our world

And we need your light.

The chores we work through in our homes

Tire us and we grow weary.

The relationships in our lives become strained

Yet we continue to love one another.

Evil seems to creep up on us in quiet

And we need strength to defend ourselves.


Thank you for the cloud of witnesses

That has walked this earth before us.

Thank you for the Biblical stories guiding us

On how to live by faith

Thank you for those Christians whose stories

Preserve and grow The Church by faith.

Thank you for the Christians witnesses

Who have walked by faithbeside us.


Guide us through these examples of faith.

Guide us in reading the scriptures.

Guide us in fellowship growing in faith.

Guide us as we share our own stories

So others may see us living by faith.


Amen, Lord, amen.

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Jesus assures us, prays for us

given on Sunday, May 28, 2017–Memorial Weekend

Scripture connections: scriptures are from the NLT


John 16:20, 22-24

20 I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy.  . . . 22 So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. 23 At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name. 24 You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.

John 17:5—prayer for self

Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began. . . .

John 17: 10-17—prayer for Disciples

10 All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. 11 Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name;[c] now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. 12 During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me.[d] I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.

13 “Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. 14 I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do. 17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.

John 17:20-26—for future believers

20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. 24 Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!

25 “O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. 26 I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”

Reflection: Jesus assures us, prays for us. We must follow.

How many of you grew up with the traditional visits to the cemeteries on Memorial Day? For our family, the tradition began with preparations that included a picnic lunch and the coffee cans wrapped in aluminum foil and filled with freshly picked iris and peonies. Once we got done, the whole family (the four of us in our case) loaded up the car and off we drove.

We even had a route—first Wellsville, then Millersburg, and there we had the picnic lunch. From there we drove back to Montgomery and went to the cemetery there. Some years we would even drive to Bellflower or Truxton to visit graves of the generations beyond our immediate families.

Today, that tradition has disappeared. Why? Well, primarily I have lost my parents and the distance over the past 30 years has separated me physically from those cemeteries. I suspect that my memory of the Wellsville cemetery would be too rusty to locate the graves there. But I know I can locate the ones at Millersburg and Montgomery easily.

Honestly, though, I would have to say I do not need to make that journey either. Memorial Day is created to focus us on remembering those who have given their lives in service to our country, and we have added to that purpose remembering all those in our own lives who have guided us to the place we are now. Today, I can look back over the years and know that those in my lives that I honor are ones who I anticipate seeing again.

In today’s scripture, I find a promise that confirms my hope to see my life teachers—Mom, Dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and so many other significant people in my life. How do I know? Jesus’ words are recorded in John, especially in the closing prayer he said before his arrest, crucifixion and resurrection. Verse after verse provides me such insight, promise, and assurance that I can hardly wait to share it with you. (That is why I have printed a special version of the readings for you that include my notes and space for yours, too.)

To begin, Jesus uses every teaching technique possible to make sure that his followers understood God’s Word. He modeled the behaviors, taught the Word, healed the sick, forgave the sinners, and loved the unloved. He demonstrated the behaviors even following his own mother’s request to turn water into wine at a wedding knowing that he was really not ready to show others who he was.

Yet, at the end of the three years, as his earthly life was drawing to a close, he had to be very direct with his disciples about who he was and what they were to know as outlined in these two chapters of the gospel John. In these verses, Jesus answers those who still found that who he was impossible to believe. He confirmed what everybody was checking out in order to believe. And those in the audience certainly had a personal encounter with him as a man in their immediate world.

Looking at the scripture in chapter 17:5, I find one of the most difficult realities of Jesus addressed–Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began. . . . These few words, in Jesus’ prayer to God concerning himself, he identifies his personal relationship with God as timeless. Time is irrelevant in relationship with God.   The human body of Jesus is just a vessel, nothing more.

That same verse also clearly states that Jesus and God are one. They shared the same glory always. Even the fact that John, the author of the book, had to use human language to share that knowledge limits the human reader, too.

And then there is that word “glory”:

glory (n.): c. 1200, gloire “the splendor of God or Christ; praise offered to God, worship,” from Old French glorie “glory (of God); worldly honor, renown; splendor, magnificence, pomp” (11c., Modern French gloire), from Latin gloria “fame, renown, great praise or honor,” a word of uncertain origin.


The etymology as *gnoria “knowledge, fame” to gnarus “known” and i-gnorare has been acknowledged by some scholars, and rejected by others. In its favour speak the semantics of words for “glory”, which in Indo-European societies mostly have to do with “spoken praise”, “reputation by hearsay”. Against the assumed etymology speak the phonetics. [de Vaan]


Meaning “one who is a source of glory” is from mid-14c. Also in Middle English “thirst for glory, vainglory, pride, boasting, vanity” (late 14c.), Sense of “magnificence” is late 14c. in English. Meaning “worldly honor, fame, renown.” Latin also had gloriola “a little fame.” Glory days was in use by 1970. Old Glory for “the American flag” is first attested 1862.


The Christian sense are from the Latin word’s use in the Bible to translate Greek doxa “expectation” (Homer), later “an opinion, judgment,” and later still “opinion others have of one (good or bad), fame; glory,” which was used in Biblical writing to translate a Hebrew word which had a sense of “brightness, splendor, magnificence, majesty of outward appearance.” The religious use has colored that word’s meaning in most European tongues. Wuldor was an Old English word used in this sense. (Harpter n.d.)


The historical study of this one word that is found throughout the Bible adds a deeper understanding of the little we do know about God’s glory. From this detailed explanation of the word glory, we can only imagine how wonderful it will be to join in God’s glory.

Memorial Day Weekend is the right timing to reach an understanding of what a tremendous reward God’s glory is for those who believe. As we spend time this weekend remembering all those who have served in the name of God whether through military service or whether through God’s service teaching and demonstrating God’s love for all those possible, we can only anticipate the experience of joining in God’s glory.

What is God’s glory? Answering that with confidence can only be done through Jesus’ words:

22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. 24 Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!

The descriptors of God’s glory are not as concrete as we want to know, but I really feel Jesus is praying aloud so we hear his promise to all who hear his words. We all have the same opportunities to join in God’s glory as believers in Jesus Christ who died to take away our sins. We all will join in God’s glory when we have done whatever we can to share the Word with others so they too may be transformed by God’s love.

Take confidence in Jesus’ words as they are the truth. Take confidence that God has forgiven you of your sins—and will always forgive you as long as you turn to him and admit that you have sinned and ask for his forgiveness. Once you have accepted Jesus and asked for forgiveness, then move forward and look towards the day when you, too, will join in God’s glory.

Jesus has promised us that we are forgiven when we ask in his name. Jesus has promised us that we will receive life eternal because we believe in him as the son of God and the son of man. Jesus has promised that he will be with us in the form of the Holy Spirit. Jesus has promised to return to us personally, too.

The one thing that we seem to need is to know when all these promises will happen. This is the one human question that cannot be answered. Yet, this Memorial Day weekend, we must trust in God that what he said through the life and the words of Jesus Christ will be revealed to us personally and we will experience God’s glory as so many of our family and friends have already done.

Our Memorial Day weekend should be a time of rejoicing and remembering. We rejoice that those who died are already with God. We remember all that their lives have taught us about God and our own faith practices. And together, we pray some of the same things that Jesus prayer in those final moments of his human life:

Closing prayer (in the model of Jesus’ words):

Dear Father in Heaven,


We pray for you to be with us

And to guide us in our lives.

We give thanks for sending your son

To demonstrate and teach us

How to live life by your plan.


We pray for the disciples

Who walked with Jesus personally

And for the disciples

Who have followed the Word

Since those first believers.


We pray for those yet

To meet you personally

And for us who continue

To grow in our own faith

and to serve in unconditional love.


Be with us now and forever

Through our faith in you,

The father, the son and the Holy Spirit.–Amen


Works Cited

Harpter, Douglas. Definition of Glory. Edited by Don McCormack. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=glory (accessed May 26, 20107).

The Life Application Bible. Vol. NIV. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991.




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Remembering and Trusting in God’s Promise


 given on Sunday, May 29, 2016

Scripture connection: Revelation 21:3-7, NLT

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.[a] He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”


And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.


Memorial Day Weekend: our culture has decided this opens summer. The kids are out of school, vacations are planned, family reunions begin, and for a few days work is not a priority. The enormous rains from this week even have the farmers stepping away from the fields.

Yet, Memorial Day was created to remember those who served our country. Our country’s history developed due to the sacrifices of its citizens. War birthed the nation, and the battles that have preserved its declaration of independence and its constitution have filled cemeteries from coast to coast. The red in the flag reminds us of all the blood shed through this country’s history.

The historical significance of Memorial Day is dwindling, though, and it is important for us to remember that the veterans who have died and those still with us answered a call to serve at the risk of their own lives in order that we may live safely as Americans.

Sadly, the Church’s significance is dwindling, too. This Memorial Day Weekend can also serve to remind us of the saints who have also remained faithful to God’s call to love one another. Cemeteries around this world are filled with the bodies of those who died for their faith. Some are martyrs whose death was violent, vicious, unprovoked, or silent while sitting in prisons.

There is absolutely no way to prove to the skeptics the promises shared in the Bible. There is no way to guarantee that certain statements of faith or even lifestyles assure us that life is eternal. Yet, the words captured in the Bible, first shared orally and now translated and printed in every language found in our world, continue to tell us that God does offer us life everlasting even though our bodies do not.

John’s book, Revelation, challenges today’s readers’ perception of God’s promise. The imagery teases us with the beauty promised, but the surrealistic images also cause us to question the truth of the words because they do not match our understanding of reality. Yet we are drawn to read and understand what John is telling us.

Understanding the words depends on our willingness to trust that God speaks to us through these words, but also through our experiences and even those of others. Memorial Day can be one more time that we remember God’s promises while remembering those in our lives who have done all they could for others in all kinds of ways.

In John’s words shared in Revelation 21:3, we hear a promise:

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.


These words provide hope for the living. This weekend we hear those words and know that God is with us as we travel the highways, as we work the fields, as we clean our homes, and battle the tiresome routines of living. Our faith in God provides us hope in managing all that we do.

As we remember all those who have lived and died in our lives, we can see example after example of those whose faith made it possible to manage all the trials and tribulations of living. We can take courage in knowing that they lived with God, and even now are still living with God.

Today, celebrate the living by living with God in your lives. Celebrate those who you loved and even those in the generations before you who lived with God in their lives. Celebrate Jesus, too. God did whatever he could to make our faith real. He even stepped down beside us in the flesh as Jesus to demonstrate how easy it really can be to live a Christ-like life, a God-driven life.

We have witnessed faith in others, and we know we can live with faith, too. The trials and tribulations, even the battlefield’s trials and tribulations, can be managed with our faith and the hope that God’s promise of eternal life will erase all the negatives of the here and now.

The words from Revelation 21 continue:

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”


Tears may well be part of this Memorial Day Weekend as we feel the loss of family and friends, but the promise that God provides and has provided throughout history wipes away the tears and the sorrow.

In the study notes from the Life Application Bible, we hear hope in words that share an understanding of John’s revelation:

Have you ever wondered what eternity will be like? The “Holy City, the New Jerusalem” is described as the place where God will “wipe every tear from their eyes.” Forevermore, there will be no death, pain, sorrow, or crying. What a wonderful truth. No matter what you are going through, it’s not the last word—God has written the final chapter, and it is about true fulfillment and eternal joy for those who love him. We do not know as much as we would like, but it is enough to know that eternity with God will be more wonderful than we could ever imagine.


We do not know the reality of life eternal, but we have faith in those who have learned the reality. This Memorial Day Weekend is the perfect time to remember that God loved us so much that he gave his only son Jesus Christ so that we might have life eternal, too.

I have had family and friends who wanted me to believe, and I only hope that those in my life know I want them to believe, too. How I share that news may not be as open and honest as it should, but John did not hesitate to share what God shared with him in his revelation:

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.


The promise is shared. The promise gives life purpose. The promise is the reason for living and for remembering all those saints who now know that God is the Alpha and the Omega. The saints we honor this weekend are those who now share the cup and the bread with God, the father, the son and the Holy Spirit along with the multitude of saints already there.

Closing prayer:

Dear God, the Alpha and the Omega,


Wipe away the tears of those who suffer,

Who feel the pain of loss and loneliness.

Wipe away the tears of those struggling

To understand the promise of life eternal.


Use us today to share your love

To provide hope to the hopeless.

Use us today to share your love

To ease the pain and suffering.


Give us the words to assure the questioning

That living Christ-like lives gives purpose

To our daily lives and all its ups and downs

And will lead to the ultimate life eternal.


Thank you for all of creation.

Thank you for the gift of unfailing love.

Thank you for the saints in our lives.

Thank you for the blessing of life eternal.


In your name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, amen.


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What is the legacy of this church?

given on Sunday, May 24, 2015

All too often we have a holiday weekend and discover that Sunday’s worship service is smack dab in the middle of it. For those who meet each week, worship is part of the basic routine. For many, though, this is the weekend to get away and attending church quickly is checked off the plans.

Over the decades since Memorial Day was established as a national holiday, another basic expectation was to decorate the graves of the family members. The American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, even the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Sons of the Confederacy all participated in special events honoring all those who have served.

The legacies of all these individuals are celebrated. Today, the practice of decorating the graves is dwindling, as families look more toward the holiday events of the living. The legacy of the young families today is changing—some for the good and some for the bad. The practices that we have used to honor the legacy of those before us are disappearing.

The historians of our congregation have outlined the legacy of this church today. The people and the events that were central to the healthy status of the church did indeed leave a legacy. The concern is whether or not today’s congregations are able to continue the legacy.

Today is not a day for answers or for arguments; rather it is a day for reflection. Hearing the history of the church is important so the younger ones know the legacy they are going to leave.

Today is also Pentecost. According to the scripture, this is the day all the Apostles were meeting and the Holy Spirit descended upon them and the other early disciples who were present. The Holy Spirit is the working force within each Christian that lights that candle of hope on the dimmest of days and the brightest of days.

The scripture from Acts is the most familiar concerning the reports of the Holy Spirit’s baptism, and it was the words of the followers that created the biggest surprise—speaking in tongues. Many still question how this happened, but that concern serves no purpose, as it is one gift among many that God gives the faithful followers.

The anointing of the Holy Spirit is important in understanding the legacy that people leave. It is part of the legacy of the church, too. As difficult as it is to explain the concept of the Holy Spirit, it can be easy to explain how to recognize it within one’s self. The Holy Spirit is the way that God uses us to spread his love, to meet the needs of others, and to heal the sick whether mentally or physically. The Holy Spirit is God alive within each and every one of us.

Memorial Day Weekend is the perfect time to honor the legacy of all the men and women who have served to protect our country, but it is also the perfect time to honor the legacy of our churches.

And honoring means reflecting. What have we done? What are we still to do? What legacy are we leaving today? These are questions all churches must ask.

Over the coming week, consider these questions:

  1. Do we do our ministry with little organization to guide it?
  2. How long has it been since there has been a full time pastor?
  3. Does our church mission appear to simply maintain what the church has?
  4. How well do the worship services match the congregation?
  5. When was the last new member added?
  6. Is our church open for more than Sunday morning worship?
  7. What is the main age group?
  8. Does the church have a good way of making decisions?
  9. How often do we talk about what the church did in the past rather than what is being done now?
  10. Are we actively inviting others to join us at church?

We have to be honest about our ministry, and we need a clear vision of what the church in this community is called to do. The Holy Spirit will provide the guidance. The lectionary this week explains how the Holy Spirit works:

  • From Acts 2:1-21, the story of Pentecost is shared historically, but the Holy Spirit is God’s presence within us.
  • In Psalm 104, we learn how God’s spirit created the word, but also sustains
  • The message from Romans 8 explains that God’s Spirit mediates and maintains God’s presence even when things are broken.
  • And the reading from the gospel of John “knits” together the words of Jesus and the testimony of his disciples from creation through eternity.

As we move into summer and look towards the next year in ministry together, we must evaluate what the legacy of the church is and what ministry we have to do. Use this week to review those questions and to read the lectionary. Next week we begin the conversation of what will be this church’s legacy or ministry.

Closing prayer

Dear Father, Son and the Holy Spirit,

Over and over we learn how much you love us.

Today we learned as Jesus’ left, you sent the Holy Spirit.

Help us to recognize the Holy Spirit within us.

Help us rely on the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

As we join in ministry, we know the Holy Spirit

will work through us to continue your work.

This holiday weekend, we acknowledge the legacy

of our churches and the generations before us.

Let us also begin to reflect on the future before us.

Guide us in decisions that will define the legacy

of this church in this community.

We thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit;

may we continue ministry in your name.


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Memorial Day: Remembering good works strengthens foundations

given on Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Day 2013:  Remembering Good Works


                  Trees snap like toothpicks or fly upward, wrenched from the earth.  Whole rooftops sail, cars tumble like toys, walls collapse, . . .A [tornado] cuts and tears, and only solid foundations survive [the] unbridled fury.  But those foundations can be used for rebuilding after the storm. . . .


Memorial Day was established to honor the fallen service people who gave their lives for us.  Horrible, tragic events leave scars and memories, yet from them Americans typically rise up and decide to transform those blemishes into a way to remember the good.  The events have a way of binding people together rather than pushing them away from one another.

The words in the opening were taken directly from the introduction of the book of Job as written in the Life Application Study Bible.  Searching for the answer to how do we manage to face the losses in our lives, I found myself looking into the book of Job.   This man living maybe as long as 4,000 years ago provides us a model of living a Christian lifestyle despite trials and tribulation piled up on one another.

Today may be a holiday, but it is a time to remember.  The events of only seven days ago serve as another reminder of how bad things happen to good people.  Like Job, the Moore citizens did nothing to be targeted for all the destruction; they simply built their foundations in a community located in a region where tornadoes are simply part of the environment.  Humans have no control over nature’s forces, we simply must adapt.

Job had no idea that God and Satan were in a battle, so to speak, to prove the strength of his faith.  Certainly no one wants to be targeted by physical and emotional trauma, but faith in God is the foundation that allows us to rebuild and continue forward.  The Moore citizens now know this, too.  Their foundations remain, now it is time to rebuild—again.

The first news reports aired after Monday’s tornado seemed so familiar.  Only two years ago this week, the reports were about the Joplin tornado.  During the late fall months just last year, the reports were from Hurricane Sandy hitting the eastern seaboard.  And for the Moore community the reports were eerily reminiscent of May 3, 1999, when they were hit with a similar tornado.

Yet in all these disasters, the same qualities of humanity surface:  survivors searching for survivors, rescuers, without thought of self, running right to the worst to save others, strangers appearing from every corner of the earth to help, and the cries of determination as victims declare that as long as their families were alive they would rebuild.

Memorial Day is just this:  a celebration of life, a reaffirmation that with God, all things are possible, and a break from the routine to reward us for the work we do daily that maintains the foundations of our lives.  We hear the words of God and reconnect ourselves to faith, so we may begin the daily routines on Tuesday with confidence that even when bad things happen, God is with us.

Another value for Memorial Day is that it places in mind the examples of those who modeled faith to us personally.  I cannot face this weekend without returning to my own family examples.  There are so many who have demonstrated how faith works.  Whether those we honor are parents, grandparents, friends, neighbors, or even strangers, Cemeteries are full of the very foundations on which we build our own lives.  Our emotions may seem overwhelmed as we review the list of our personal heroes, but each one of them added more strength to our foundations.

Gathering around the tables, we share the stories once again:  stories about health battles, rebuilding after fires, serving in various war zones, terrible wrecks, children lost before their time, family crisis, and many, many more.  Yet a common thread develops through the storytelling—one that provides a faith foundation for us continuing our earthly journey.

Job demonstrated that with each announcement of loss, he experienced pain.  He may have felt as though the world was closing in on him.  He may have thought life was unfair.  Go back to his reaction:

20 Job got to his feet, ripped his robe, shaved his head, then fell to the ground and worshiped:

21 Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
naked I’ll return to the womb of the earth.
God gives, God takes.
God’s name be ever blessed.

22 Not once through all this did Job sin; not once did he blame God.

Certainly he was hurt, upset, even angry, but he would not let go his foundation of faith.  Never did he blame God, nor did he abandon God.  Even Satan witnessed this.

The stories do not end with Job’s.  The Bible is full of them.  The good goes with the bad, and the bad goes with the good.  No matter what happens along our journey, the one constant is God.  He is with us at all times, even when we lose a child, a spouse, or our material possessions.   He is everything, and the people in our lives bless us even if they are gone from us.

God did not say life was going to be easy.  Neither did Jesus say it was going to be easy.  Only Satan ever tells someone it can be easy, but in story after story, Satan loses the battle.  God wins.  We win.  Even Paul knew that when he wrote his letter to the Philippians from his jail cell:

. . . everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die.

Little did he know that being thrown into jail that time was not going to be the last time.  Paul’s life itself is an example of how bad things happen to good people.  Even when he was the Jewish leader persecuting the earliest Christians, God was there and had to make his presence known in a very dramatic way—striking him blind right there on the road to Damascus.

Paul’s life and Job’s life certainly look like so many of our lives.  Whether the stories are from 4,000 years or 2,000 years or just a week ago, the proof of how strong a faith foundation really is comes from the stories of those who are now gone.  Memorial Day may be a weekend holiday for all of us, but for those of us who continue to build and to strengthen our faith foundation, this is a weekend designed for remembering good works of those faithful who have gone before us.

Looking forward from today, reflect upon these questions:

  1. How strong is your personal faith foundation?  Do you need reinforcement by rebuilding solid faith practices?  Do you need others to help you maintain the foundation?  Have you lost anything that could weaken your faith foundation?
  2. How strong is your church’s foundation?  What needs to be done to make the church a cornerstone in the community?  What work do you need to improve the health of the church?  Can the church survive the shrinking of its foundation?

The theme for annual conference is “Praying Hands and Dirty Fingernails.”  The image this theme creates is duplicated day after day after day each time a disaster hits, each time we put in an honest hour’s labor, each time we stop to wipe the tears in the eyes of a child of God.  After we take this small break in our busy lives, remember the good work of others before us, let’s start afresh on Tuesday with praying hands because we are the church.

Dear God,

Bless those in Moore today.

Provide them the strength to rebuild,

Guide the volunteers as the work

side by side with the residents.

Keep them safe,

keep them fed,

keep them rested.

Rally those near and far

to show God’s grace and love.

As the work moves on and on,

give them rest, peace, and hope.

Like Job, Paul, and all those before

be remembered, honored, and modeled

as we work to strengthen

our own faith foundations.



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