This weekend not only marks the unofficial beginning of Summer, is a great time to work in the yard and plant those vegetables you are going to purchase today and have a picnic with family and friends, it is also the time we set aside to remember those who gave their lives serving our nation during times of war. We also take this opportunity to thank those who are serving and have served in our military because we can never say thank you enough but we have holidays to help us honor these special people. Armed Services Day is the day we remember those who are currently serving, Veterans Day is to remember those have served our nation and that is November 11, and Memorial Day is to remember those who died while serving.
There is one more group of military heroes and families we need to remember who are often overlooked and that is those who are missing or imprisoned. While the official day for this is the POW/MIA Recognition Day, the third Friday of September, we should remember them today as well because while some may still be listed as missing in action, they gave their lives for their country.
One of our own, Major Lewis P. Smith, is just such a person. He was serving in the Air Force during the Vietnam War when his plane was shot down in Laos on May 30, 1968, 48 years ago tomorrow. For his family and many families like his, there is little closure when there is no body to hold on to and no grave to visit. We need to remember these families today and we need to pray for the Smith and Burger family as they continue to try and find some resolution to this situation.
Today is a day to remember so I want us to actual look at that word for a moment – Remember. While the definition is to think of someone or something from the past or to keep information in our mind, I want us to think about the word in a slightly different way. Re-Member. The word member means being part of a body. We are not only a member of an organization like the church, but our leg is a member of our physical body, our arm is a member and if we re-member them we are re-attaching them or re-connecting them. So to re-member someone can mean to re-attach ourselves or re-connect with them in ways that keep us united and together. When people say, remember me, they aren’t just asking for us to think about them, they are asking us to re-connect with them or to attach ourselves to them in some significant way, usually in ways that will support and help them.
When those who served and died for our nation say, Remember Me, they are asking us to live with the same conviction and sense of selflessness and sacrifice as they did. This Memorial Day weekend we need to do more than just think about those who have gone before us – although that is a great place to start – but if we really want to honor them and re-member them then we need to be willing to embrace and live out the values that we have seen in them.
Are we willing to live for a purpose larger than just ourselves? When we look around at our nation and world and see injustice or people in need, are we willing to set aside our own wants and needs and help serve others? This doesn’t mean we have to join the armed services but we all can embrace the spirit of sacrifice and service that moved the men and women in our military to give their lives in service. What would it look like for us to serve a greater purpose and work for a cause greater than our own well being and the security of our own families? What might we need to sacrifice or die to in order to lift up others? This weekend needs to be more than just a time to reflect on those who died for the cause of freedom and justice around the world; we need to re-member them which means connecting ourselves to the values of their lives and finding ways to follow their example.
It’s not just those who died in service to the country who are asking us to re-member them, so is Jesus. On the most important and difficult night of Jesus life, Jesus asked his disciples to remember him. This was not just a casual request on the part of Jesus who wanted his followers to think about him in the days to come, this was a request Jesus made and continues to make to his church over and over and over again for us to be connected to him. Jesus asked us to remember him the night he presided at the last Passover meal he shared with his disciples on the night before he was crucified. It is part of what we know as the Last Supper. Luke 22:14-19. Do this in remembrance of me – or another way to say this is – When you do this, remember me. But Jesus didn’t just want his friends to think about him and all he was willing to do for them; Jesus wanted them to follow him. Jesus wanted his disciples to live the way that he lived, to love the way that he loved and to act the way that he acted. That is true remembrance – and that is what Jesus wanted then and it’s what He still wants today.
When we share in communion we aren’t just thinking about what Jesus did, we are connecting ourselves to Jesus and committing ourselves to once again live the way that Jesus lived and love the way he loved. We forgive because Jesus forgave. We serve because Jesus served. We worship and pray because Jesus worshiped and prayed. We love others more than ourselves because Jesus loves us more than himself – which is why he was willing to sacrifice for us.
When Jesus said we are to remember him in the breaking of the bread, it was a specific call for us to be willing to be broken ourselves in our love and service to others. And here is what is amazing about this, the call to remember me is really an invitation to help and support Jesus in God’s work in the world. God is inviting us to be part of loving His world and all who are in it and to share with them the good news of who Jesus is and what Jesus has done. Jesus is asking us to help him in his mission and ministry and the reason we know this call to remember is more an invitation and plea for help than it is a command is because many other places in the bible we hear these same words and in each case they are used by people asking for help.
In fact, the next day as Jesus hung on the cross one of the criminals who was crucified with him said, Remember me. Luke 23:39-43. When the criminal asked Jesus to remember him, it wasn’t just for Jesus to call him to mind when he entered into his kingdom, he was asking for Jesus to give him grace and mercy which would usher him into the kingdom of God with Jesus. He was asking Jesus for help and Jesus responded by assuring him that God will remember him, or re-connect with him by bringing him into His kingdom, Today you will be with me in paradise.
In the Old Testament we find several people crying out for God to remember them and again they aren’t looking for God to think about them, they are asking God to be gracious and help them in some way. Look at Judges 16:28. Samson was looking for God to give him strength so that he could destroy his enemies and God did just that. Judges 16:29-30. This plea, remember me, wasn’t just to be thought of, but to be helped and for God to re-connect with Samson in ways that would allow him to use God’s strength and power.
In Psalm 25, David asked God to remember him and what he specifically asked for was forgiveness and grace. Psalm 25:7. David is asking God to remember him in ways that bring forgiveness for his sins. David is looking for God’s mercy and grace and when God remembers him he helps him. The same is being asked in Psalm 106:4-5. They don’t want to just think about them, they want God to help them. They want God to come to their aid, to share his joy and to give them life and salvation. The words remember me aren’t just a plea to be thought about but a request or an invitation for help. It’s a request to be connected to God in ways that bring God’s power and grace and life.
This weekend is a time when many are saying to us, Remember Me. Those who have served our country and given the ultimate sacrifice of their lives are calling us to remember them in ways that embrace a spirit of selflessness and sacrifice. Military families are saying, remember me, which is an invitation and plea for help, understanding and support. Jesus is asking us to remember him in ways that fully embrace his life of service, sacrifice and love. May we truly re-member or re-connect ourselves to the values of sacrifice and service seen in so many others and seen in Christ Jesus and may we live in ways that show the world the love, grace and power of God.
Let us also not be afraid to cry out to Jesus with those same words – Remember Me – because every day we need to be reconnected to the power, love and grace of God that was given to us in Jesus. If we are going to follow God and embrace the values of sacrifice, service and love seen so powerful in Jesus and others then we need to be re-connected to God each and every day. We can’t do this in our own strength, we need to be connected to God and draw upon his strength and power. So Jesus, please, remember me. Remember us in your church and remember us a nation. For we ask this in Jesus name.
1. Take time on this Memorial Day weekend to reflect and give thanks for those who gave their lives in service to our nation.
• Stop at the Missing Man table after worship and read about the symbols found there. Pray for the families of those still missing.
• Pause in downtown Bellefonte to read and reflect on our hometown heroes.
2. This weekend, decide as a family how you can sacrifice for and serve those in need in our community, nation and world.
• Volunteer in and through the church with children, youth or shut-ins.
• Help at the FaithCentre or Food Bank.
3. Identify three specific areas where Jesus wants us to be re-connected to him. What changes do you need to make to truly remember Jesus in these areas?
4. Read Psalm 25 and Psalm 106. In what specific ways do you want God to remember you? Write a psalm or a prayer to God where you say to God, Remember Me.