It’s very appropriate that Veterans’ Day falls on a Sunday this year, a day when our Hebrew’s scripture passage focuses on the theme of sacrifice. Today we honor and pay tribute to those who have served in the armed services and who have sacrificed so much for the cause of freedom. Their service to our country has been no small sacrifice.
This Veterans’ Day prompts me to examine my own life and ask myself the question, “How willing I am to live sacrificially for the sake of others?” Today is also a sobering day because like Memorial Day and the church’s All Saints’ Sunday which we observed this past Sunday, Veterans’ Day reminds us that life is short.
Sometimes, we think that the goal in life is to simply live as long as possible. But even if we do everything that we can to be healthy, we are still faced with our mortality. It doesn’t matter if you spend two hours a day sweating at the gym . . . It doesn’t matter if you take every vitamin found in a drug store . . . It doesn’t matter if you never let a cholesterol-laden piece of food cross your lips . . . It doesn’t matter if you obey every safety regulation ever written for any product . . . It doesn’t matter if you drastically reduce the stress factors from everything you do . . .
We won’t live forever.
There is an old story about three friends one afternoon who were vaguely contemplating the inevitability of their own deaths. They posed the following question to themselves: “When you are in your casket and friends and family are mourning you, what would you like to hear them say about you?”
The first guy said, “I would like to hear them say that I was a great doctor of my time, and a great family man.”
The second guy said, “I would like to hear that I was a wonderful husband and school teacher who made a huge difference in our children of tomorrow.”
The last guy replied, “I would like to hear them say: ‘LOOK!!! HE’S MOVING!!!'”
Death is inevitable, no matter how much we try to deny it or not think about it. The author of Hebrews is careful to point this out from our scripture passage this morning when he writes that it is established that everyone will die at some point. He’s not writing this to ruin our day and put us into depression but to help us keep things in perspective and to make every day count.
Our veterans who we recognize today remind us of the importance of living sacrificially for the sake of others. I officiated at a funeral of one of a church member who was in the Army during World War II. His son shared a war story with me about his father. A German pilot had been shot down and he had to eject from his plane. He landed in a nearby orchard and was hiding there.
His dad was to find this German pilot which he ended up doing. He faithfully carried out his orders but he also saw this German pilot as a fellow human being and they even got to know each other by sharing stories. Not only did his dad risk his life for his country, but he did so in a very honorable and humane way. This little story and many others are why we are honoring our veterans today. The sacrifice they have made and are making is no small sacrifice.
The writer of Hebrews also points us to the ultimate sacrifice that was made through Jesus Christ. He writes that Christ sacrificed and died to bear the sins of many. It’s because of what Jesus Christ has done for us that we have forgiveness and new life. That’s why we gather here on Sunday mornings. We give thanks for all that Jesus Christ has done for us through his death and resurrection and then we are sent from this place to serve in sacrificial ways in his name.
When we remember that what Jesus did for us was no small sacrifice, we can’t help but to live sacrificially for others. This is why I am so thankful for the author of Hebrews so that we will never forget what Jesus has done for us.
Two summers ago, I visited the Rutherford B. Hayes presidential library up in Fremont, Ohio. It’s the first presidential library and was built back in 1919. Hayes was the 19th president of the United States serving from 1877 to 1881. His life was one of service in many different ways.
Before he had become president, he served as a Union officer in the Civil War and was wounded five different times in various battles. He and his wife Lucy attended a Methodist Church in Fremont which now goes by the name of Hayes United Methodist Church. There is a large portrait of Rutherford B. Hayes in the back of the sanctuary of that church.
Hayes and his wife, Lucy were known to be very generous and sacrificial in their giving to make their community a better place. They spent a lot of time in social causes including the education of children. They also did a lot of work for the mentally ill and prison reform. Those needs were just as important in the latter part of the 19th century as they are today.
I was so impressed with this president who I didn’t really know all that well until that tour of the museum. Not only was he this known politician, he was also a veteran, and someone who made lots of sacrifices, big and small to help make this world a better place.
As I was nearing the end of my tour there, I took notice of a large bulletin board that had around 300 index cards that contained brief messages from young children. These cards were put there in response to the question, “What can you do to make this world a better place?”
Here’s a picture of all of these cards…
It also had this quote from Rutherford Hayes which he said in 1881. “Let him, like every good citizen, be willing and prompt to bear his part in every useful work that will provoke the welfare and happiness of his family, his town, his state, and his country.”
I read several of the children’s responses. Here are a few of them:
• Help people in the nursing home.
• If someone falls, help them up.
• I love this one. It just says, “Be You.”
• Treat everyone as you would like to be treated. Stop bullying!
• To end gun violence!
• Honor those who serve our country.
• Slow down and take it all in. Enjoy the everyday.
• Treat people with respect and help them reach their dreams.
The Hayes presidential library wants to leave every person with that very important question.”What can you do to make the world a better place?”
Three hundred ways people pledged to make a difference in the world!
Our church motto in a lot of our advertising is “Putting Athens First.” It’s a play of words based on our church’s name, Athens First. It helps us to remember that the reason we exist is to live sacrificially in the name of Christ.
Many of us wear red Athens First t-shirts that has a quote about living sacrificially. It’s a quote attributed to John Wesley, the founder of Methodism.
It goes like this:
“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
I love this quote. It says it so well.
Every Sunday when we gather in this place, we remind ourselves of living sacrificially. Through worship, we are reminded who God is calling us to be and we pledge to live out our faith in big and small ways throughout the week. Jesus’ way is the way of sacrificial giving. We gather in the name of Christ, but then we leave from this place to serve in the name of Christ.
Every Sunday, when we leave from worship, we do something very similar. Through worship, we are reminded who God is calling us to be and we pledge to live out our faith in big and small ways throughout the week. Jesus’ way is the way of sacrificial giving.
I want you to know that every prayer, every time you attend worship, every gift you put in the offering plate, every way you serve through the life of the church, and every time you share your faith with someone, it is no small sacrifice. Like the author of Hebrews, you are helping people to know of the sacrifice Jesus was willing to make when he died on a cross to take away our sins.
Our Hebrew’s scripture reminds us that life is short and one day, our time here will come to an end. But even when that time comes, because of what Jesus Christ has done, we can have an assurance that we will be with him forever.
Acts 13:36 summarizes King David this way: “For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep.” In the words of a wonderful benediction, “May you live until the word of your life is fully spoken.”
Would you repeat that after me and this time use the word, “I” instead of “you.”: “May I live until the word of my life is fully spoken.”
When Jesus died on the cross, the word of his life was fully spoken. His death, like the way he lived was no small sacrifice. And there’s no reason why the same can’t be said one day about you and me.
No Small Sacrifice
Small Group Questions
November 11, 2018
Today is the 99th anniversary of the observance of Veterans’ Day, a day to remember those who have sacrificially served and are serving in the various branches of the military. Our Hebrews scripture talks about Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf when he died not he cross for the sake of the world. The sermon began with this question for all of us to ponder. How would you answer this question?
How willingly am I to live sacrificially for the sake of others?
The sermon mentioned Rutherford B. Hayes who fought in the Civil War and became our 19th president. He is buried in Fremont, Ohio where the first presidential library is located. President Hayes and his wife, Lucy were Methodists who believed in living sacrificially for the sake of others. The Hayes museum has an exhibit that invites people to complete a card with a simple way that we can personally live sacrificially for others.
If you were filling out one of those cards, what would you write down as a way that you can live sacrificially for others?
There is an old benediction that goes like this: “May you live until the word of your life is fully spoken.”
What is that “word” that you are seeking to fully speak in your lifetime?
We are called to pray for those serving in the military as well as for their families. Pray this prayer together as a small group:
Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.