JOYS AND CONCERNS


May 24, 2020
   
They are called Honor Flights...flights that recognize American for their sacrifices and achievements by flying them at no cost to them to Washington D. C. to visit the war memorials dedicated to their service.  This is one small way of honoring veterans who served our country in earlier times and enabling them to visit the memorials dedicated to their service.  One such destination is the World War II Memorial in the National Mall which was opened back in 2004...a memorial that is dedicated to the spirit and sacrifice of the American people and to all who supported the war effort from home.  Here in our congregation of the First United Church of Christ, we are quite familiar with Honor Flights...for one of our very own members...Mark Wegener...was a participant in an Honor Flight out of the Quad Cities back in April of 2018.  And not only was Mark a participant...he was an honored participant ...For he was the 4000th veteran to take a Quad Cities Honor Flight.  Mark, serving with the Army Air Corps, helped guide World War II pilots safely through the skies by analyzing weather information that came in on the teletype and informing pilots on the weather they would be encountering on their flights.  And although Mark, who was a very humble man, tried hard to avoid the publicity that came with being the 4000th veteran on the Quad Cities Honor Flight, it still was an honor thrust upon him which will be remembered fondly by his family and friends.  As we pay honor this Memorial Day to all military veterans who served their country in uniform, we will also especially remember Mark, who was not only one of our nation's veterans but also a true veteran of the cross...a man who served the Lord throughout his life.  And even as we do so, we will remember Mark in a new dimension...for Mark took a most significant spiritual Honor Flight possible on the evening of May 6th of this year when he threw off the bonds of human life and soared upward to be with the Lord He loved and served so faithfully during his 99+ years of life here on earth.  Now even as I have called your attention on this Memorial Day weekend to Honor Flight and the veterans they serve...and to memorials in Washington D.C. That serve as reminders of their service to our nation...I also want to call your attention to memorials erected in Bible times to serve as reminders of God's care and support of His children.  This mornings Old Testament reading from the 4th chapter of Joshua provides us with one such example of a memorial made up of twelve stones.  Follow along as I read the first nine verses of Joshua, chapter 4 found in the New International Version of the Bible.  When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, "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 are standing and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.  So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe and said to them, "Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan.  Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you.  In the future, when our 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 of the LORD.  When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.  These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever."  So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them.  They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the LORD had told Joshua; and they carried them over to their camp, where they put them down.  Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood.  And they are there to this day. In the years before these twelve stones were erected as a memorial in the middle of the River Jordan, many chapters in the lives of the Israelites had been written...chapters that began with the years of slavery in Egypt...followed by the arrival of Moses to lead them out of that slavery and in to the Promised Land.  Between these two events, the Israelites had wandered in the wilderness for forty years while being fed with manna from heaven.  Many were the times the Israelites had made the life of Moses almost unbearable as they whined and complained because life was less than perfect for them in the wilderness.  But eventually...Moses and the Israelites arrived at the Promised Land for the second time, only to find the River Jordan swollen with raging waters which created a barrier between them and the entrance to the Promised Land.  To gain a better mental image of this situation, allow me to read some selected verses from the 3rd chapter of Joshua:  And Joshua said unto the children, Come hither and hear the words of the Lord our God.  And Joshua said...Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you and that He will...without fail...drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites...and the Jebusites.  Now, therefore, take you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, out of every tribe a man.  And it shall come to pass as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the LORD shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon a heap. 
And it came to pass, when the people removed from their tents, to pass over Jordan, and the feet of the priests that care the ark were dipped in the brim of the water, that the waters which came down from above stood and rose upon a heap.  And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the LOD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until ail the people were passed clean over Jordan.  Does this story of the parting of the waters of the Jordan River sound somewhat familiar to you?  Like perhaps, the day the Israelites arrived at the banks of the Jordan River for the first time...fleeing from the Egyptians army that as chasing them...with the intention for taking them back to slavery in Egypt?  Remember, how, on that day the Israelites berated Moses for taking them away from Egypt only to have them drown in the Jordan?  And remember how God instructed Moses to stretch out his rod over the muddy waters...which then rolled back ...Creating dry land for the Israelites to cross over to the safety of the other side?  Talk about history repeating itself...after forty years of wondering in the wilderness...the Israelites are back when they started and once again Good has rescued them by rolling back the waters to create a safe path to the Promised Land for them.  And because God wanted to insure that the Israelites would remember this event, God told Joshua to erect a monument of twelve stones in memory of their passing through the Jordan River. God wanted the Israelites to remember,...and never forget...His Love and His concern for them...and His willingness and His ability to meet their needs, no matter how overwhelming they seemed to the Israelites.  Now...this morning we have touched on various memorials...including the Honor Flights and the Memorial stones erected at God's insistence by the Israelites.  Honor Flights and War Memorials have been established to honor and pay respect to humans...the 12 Stone Memorial in the Jordan River was established by God to honor God.  In the pages of Scripture, there are many more memorials established by God to remind people of His love, His forgiveness and His watch care.  But the most important memorial established by God is not made of metal...or marble..or even stone.  Instead, it was created with a simple loaf of bread and a cup of wine by God's Son, Jesus in an Upper Room in Jerusalem.  We call this Memorial the Lord's Supper...or Holy Communion.  This was established as a true Memorial as evidence in the Words of our Lord that were spoken as He passed the bread and the cup to His disciples..."As oft as you eat this bread and drink this cup do so in REMEMBRANCE of me".     This then is a living Memorial...given to us by Jesus...a Memorial that calls us to remember that night in the Upper Room when Jesus shared the Last Supper with His disciples.  And even as we remember that night in the upper room, we are also reminded of the events that followed, the betrayal of our Lord, by His own disciple...Judas...and later, His arrest...His trial ...And His Crucifixion.  And thus this living memorial called the Lord's Super or Holy Communion serves as a reminder that Jesus shed His precious blood on the Cross at Calvary for our sins.  He gave His life to give us the freedom to accept the previous gift of Salvation that He purchased for us there.  On  this Memorial Day weekend, let us give thanks and appreciation to all who have served our country in uniform, especially those who gave their lives while serving in the military.  But we must not stop there in giving thanks.  Let us also give thanks to God for sending His Son, Jesus, to serve as the Way, the Truth and the Light...and to teach us about the love and forgiveness of God.  And when we next gather around the Lord's Table to share in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, let us remember His Sacrifice on the cross that we might accept the gift of Salvation and have eternal life. May His Sacrifice prod us to live our daily lives in such a way that the Sacrifice Jesus made for us will never be in vain.  Jesus loved us enough to die for us.  May we love Jesus enough to live for Him.  For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son   to God be the glory and the praise.  Amen.  Let us pray:  Loving God, in a world torn apart by a vicious outbreak of virus, and overwhelmed with fear and doubt, we stand in Your presence in this hour and pray for the peach You have promised us.  With our eyes turned toward You, we once again affirm our faith in You and in Your Promises to be with us where ever we are.  During this weekend set aside to remember the great cost to those men and women who gave their lives to defend the many freedoms, we enjoy, may we also remember the great cost of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who sacrificed His life for us on the cross.  Open ou eyes this day to see Your glory in the message we have shared and in the beauty You have created in nature.  Remove the barriers from our hearts so that we will truly welcome the stranger and draw closer to our family and friends.  Most of all,enable us to more fully know Jesus so that we will live in His love and abide in His ways.  And may the words that have been spoken and the message shared bring honor and glory to Your Name, we pray.  Amen.