Joshua 4:1-9; Hebrews 11:32-40
If you’ve been following the news lately, on Sunday, May 19th, billionaire Robert F. Smith said he will pay off the student debt for all graduates in Morehouse College’s class of 2019. Mr. Smith made the announcement on Sunday as he gave the commencement address at Morehouse College in Atlanta.
“On behalf of the eight generations of my family that have been in this country, we’re gonna put a little fuel in your bus,” Mr. Smith told the new graduates. “This is my class, 2019. And my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans.” The news surprised the roughly 400 graduating seniors, many of whom leaped to their feet after Mr. Smith’s announcement.
Mr. Smith, who also received an honorary doctorate Sunday, is a co-founder of the investment firm Vista Equity Partners and had already pledged $1.5 million to the college, according to the Associated Press. One graduating student, Aaron Mitchom, told the AP that he had drawn up a spreadsheet to calculate how long it would take him to pay off his $200,000 in student debt — 25 years, according to his math. “I can delete that spreadsheet now,” he said. “I don’t have to live off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I was shocked. My heart dropped. We all cried. In the moment, it was like a burden had been taken off.”
What is the proper response toward this generosity? In my opinion, the Morehouse College Class of 2019, should never forget two important things. First, they should never forget how much they’ve been given. Second, they should pay forward in living the same kind of generosity with others.
I believe one of the most important days we celebrate as a nation is Memorial Day; the day to remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our national freedom. Without their bravery, heroism, and sacrifice, our daily pleasures and freedoms would not be possible. This is a day to pause and recognize the great price that has been paid and to show our gratefulness for those who have paid so very much.
Let’s Never Forget
Do you know why this day is important? Do you know why our nation set aside that day? It is important because we are forgetful people. It is so easy to forget. Scriptures warns us against this forgetful life style. Probably the most important event in the history of God’s people in the Old Testament is the exodus and liberation from the bondage of Egypt. The Passover meal with its details was a reminder of this great event. In Exodus 12:14 we read, “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance.”
In Joshua chapter, the people of God are crossing the Jordan River over to the Promised Land. Their landscape is about to change literally one hundred percent, from the wilderness wanderings to the security of the Promised Land. God commanded the children of Israel to make a memorial of rocks. Joshua 4:20-24, “And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”
Same thing we see when it comes to the central event in the New Testament, the cross and the resurrection of Jesus. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, the apostle Paul instructs us in 1 Corinthians 11:24, to “Do this in remembrance of me.” This morning, I would like to share with the Church two short observations this Memorial Day weekend; one is directed to us as a congregation, and the other is directed to Sara Jacklyn Hinson as she is getting baptized today.
First: Let’s Always Remember Who We Are
As God’s chosen people, let’s always remember we are a very special people set a part by God for a special purpose. The reading I chose for our Preparation for Worship today is Deuteronomy 7:7-9. It says, “The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.”
We are to live as covenant people. In other words, our call is to live a God centered life. In a time when God is pushed to the margins of so many people’s lives, those who confess Christ as their Lord and Savior are to live differently. When we do that, out legacy will challenge not only the world today, but many generations to come. If God has generously welcomed us, we are to welcome each other. I do not want to name people least to forget anyone, but since I’ve been here, there are certain people who have gone to be with the Lord, but they left a great legacy. People whose lives made a difference in this congregation’s life and in this community. That’s what the author of the Letter to Hebrews says when he lists all the names in Hebrews chapter 11. These are heroes of faith, men and women of God who walked and lived faithfully with the Lord.
Second: Sara ~ Remember Your Baptism
Today, Sara Jacklyn Hinson is getting baptized. She will be marked as Christ’s own forever. She will carry the name of Christ. It is our responsibility and privilege along with Lisa, Rob, and the family to raise Sara in the instructions of the Lord, help her to grasp the love of Jesus, and instill the faith in her heart.
A few years ago, I visited Leningrad, Russia. In Leningrad, I heard the story of the 900,000 people who perished in the long siege of Leningrad during World War II. At one point they were trying to save the children from both the Nazis and starvation – so they placed them on trucks to cross a frozen lake to safer locations. Many of the moms, sure that they would never see their children again, yelled to them as they got on the trucks, “Son, remember your name. Daughter, remember your baptism.” It is our duty to help each other and our young ones to remember who they are, to remember their baptism. May we do so. May God help us to live sacrificially and generously. May the power of the legacy of God’s people who have gone before us challenge us today. Amen!
First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday May 26, 2019)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor