Memorial Day Message
Presented: May 30, 2011
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Dear fellow citizens,
Death. We see it all around us here, gravestone after gravestone. We make it look pretty with green grass and fragrant flowers and kind words, but that does not change the reality. Death stalks each one of us.
Why do we die? Because of sin. And I'm not talking about blaming my problems or the country's problems on other people's sins. I'm talking about my own sin. My sin earns me death. "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23) the Bible declares. You see, sin is not only bad actions that hurt others. Sin is what happens in my heart: my greed, my worry, my lust, my selfishness, my pride. Examine your heart. How have you failed to love your neighbor as yourself? How have you failed to love God above all?
As soon as you and I began life at conception, we were all sinners. Evil desires filled our unborn self. There was no good in us, no good at all. The fact that death can strike anyone at any age proves we are all sinners.
I cannot pay for my sins. All the good I attempt cannot pay enough. All the tears I shed in sorrow cannot pay the price. None of the sacrifices I make will be enough even for one sin. And what does death bring for the sinner? Unending hell, ceaseless torture, where the flame does not go out, total separation from God's love and so the complete abandonment of all hope. That's the real hell, infinitely worse than anything in this life.
"But God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). I could not pay for my sins and you cannot pay for yours. But Jesus did. We could not pay, so God himself became one of us. His death pays for the sins of the entire world. The Father gave his eternal, almighty Son to die on the cross for you.
Think about that. Sometimes people will die for a good cause or a close friend. But for whom did Jesus die? He died for rebels. He died for his enemies. He died for you and me. For sin had made us enemies in rebellion against God. But Jesus died for the wicked, that means you and me. The guiltless One in place of the guilty. How amazing his grace and love!
Jesus died because of our sins. And Jesus rose from the dead because God has declared all sinners, including you, not guilty because Jesus has paid the full penalty for all sins. What a verdict of Good News! That's the Gospel. We could never have discovered this on our own, but God has revealed it in his Word, the Bible -- the only book that is word-for-word God's Word. The Bible brings us Jesus. And only through Jesus do we know the Father. Jesus alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Without Jesus no one can know the true God.
So what a tragedy that many hear the Good News of Jesus, our God and Savior, but do not believe! The do not trust in Jesus alone. They leave behind the payment Jesus has made for them. Then when death comes, they will stand before him covered in their sins, damned to hell.
How precious the faith in Jesus, which the Holy Spirit creates through Baptism and his Word! "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16). How precious this faith that trusts Jesus alone as true God and true man, our only Savior from sin and death! How precious this faith, for we could not by our own thinking or choosing believe in Jesus Christ our Lord or come to him. For we were dead in sin. A dead heart can make no choice or decision for Jesus. But the Holy Spirit calls us through the Good News of Jesus, the Gospel that comes through Baptism and his Word. Through these he brings life in Jesus, spiritual life eternal life.
This living faith treasures Jesus as more precious than anyone or anything else. This is what faith says: “Why would I choose to do wrong when Jesus has already died for me? Now I live for him.” This living faith says, “With Jesus risen from the dead and reigning over all things, I serve him by doing what is right no matter what the cost because he will take care of me.” Faith treasures Jesus. Faith gladly hears his Word and cherishes it. Faith shines out with his love. Faith speaks his Good News. Even if faith in action brings a life full of suffering, Jesus has still prepared the blessedness of heaven for his faithful people.
What a blessing that we live in a country where faith in Jesus can shine out without persecution from the government! In several countries, if I would have said in public what I have spoken here today, I would be libel for imprisonment and maybe even put on trial for my life. What earthly freedom the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, has blessed us with! How much we owe to family, friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens who have sacrificed their time, their bodies, and even their lives to preserve this freedom for us.
Let us take a minute of silence. As individual Christians give thanks to God the Father and the Savior, Jesus Christ for the freedom he has blessed us with in our country.