Let Us Be Found Faithful
Memorial Day Address—2016
Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required in stewards that one be found faithful!
In Christ Jesus, our Lord in life and the Lord over death, dear fellow redeemed:
Under each of the tombstones in this cemetery lies the mortal remains of a fellow human being. Each of those human beings had a life-story to tell. Some of them were very short, while others were very long. Some of them ended heroically and tragically on the field of battle—we have come here especially to honor them—while others of those life-stories ended quietly in bed. Each one of us here today also has a life-story. The reason most of us are here today is because in some way our life-stories intersected with one or more of the life-stories of the people resting here. All of our life-stories are different, for the Lord has given us different paths to walk in this life. Yet, all of our life-stories share some things in common. Our Lord’s sincere desire is that all of our life-stories would be characterized in the end by one common virtue—faithfulness. Let us consider for a few minutes those things our life-stories have in common and examine how we might in the end all be found faithful.
Every one of the tombstones in this cemetery has imprinted upon it a date of birth. Each one of us standing here today no doubt has a birth certificate citing the date upon which we were born. We have that in common, but the Bible informs us that we have more in common. Genesis 5 tells us that while Adam was made “in the likeness of God” (cf. Gen 5:1), that is in perfection, his son Seth was begotten in Adam’s “likeness, after his image” (cf. Gen.5:3), that is in imperfection. David speaks to the nature of that imperfection in Psalm 51, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Ps. 51:5 - NIV). By nature, we all are born in sin, separated from and in rebellion against our Creator God.
The result of that sin leads to a second commonality in our life-stories—the reason we are here today—death. The Bible explains in Romans, “Just as through one man (Adam) sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (cf. Rom. 5:12). Sin leads to death, and death has led us here—the deaths of those who have loved and served us in our country’s military forces and the deaths of those whom we love for their service in other ways.
There is a third common issue that affects all of our life-stories—the life-stories of those lying under these tombstones and ours who stand above them. That is the love of our heavenly Father for each of us in Christ. Again in Romans 5 the Bible tells us: “Through one Man’s (Jesus’) righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life (Rom. 5:18b). God has a profound love for us, His created beings. He sent His Son into this world to become one with us by means of His incarnation through the virgin Mary. He was sent, the Bible tells us in Colossians 1, to secure our “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:14). He did so that we might be “delivered…from the power of darkness and conveyed…into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13).
Consequently, while we are standing in the midst of a cemetery in honor of those who gave their lives for our freedoms—a cemetery which bears witness to the consequences of sin and suggests the power of death, we need not fear death, for Christ has overcome death for us. The Bible assures us in Hebrews: “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14-15). Jesus has removed the sting of death, for He has made death but a door to eternal life for all who believe in Him as their Savior sin and as their Lord in life.
This is where the words of our text this morning reveal God’s sincere desire for all of our lives. The Bible elsewhere identifies all who have been brought to faith in Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit as God’s “saints” (cf. 1 Thes. 3:13), His “children” (cf. 1 Jn. 3:2), His “heirs” (cf. Gal. 3:29), and His “ambassadors” (cf. 2 Cor. 5:20). We have been called into a very close and special relationship with our Creator God. In our text the Bible further identifies us as “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”
In what sense are we “servants of Christ”? We are servants, for we have been called into the service of Christ’s kingdom to proclaim the good news of God’s love for sinners in Christ Jesus. We have been given a gospel to proclaim to “every creature” (cf. Mk. 16:15). We are to “make disciples of every nation” (cf. Mt. 28:19). We are to serve as Christ’s witnesses to everyone everywhere (cf. Acts 1:8). As such we have also been appointed as “stewards of the mysteries of God.” The mysteries of God are found in the truths and the power of God revealed in His Word and through His sacraments. These we are faithfully to preserve and faithfully to share, so that hearts and souls might be blessed even as God’s name is hallowed.
In His Parable of the Talents Jesus spoke of three servants, entrusted by their master, with a number of talents. Two of them proved faithful, while the third demonstrated great unfaithfulness. To those two faithful stewards their master said: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Mt. 25:21, 23). That is what our heavenly Father wants every one of us to hear one day when we stand before Him to give an account of our lives in this world.
My dear friends, one day these graves will be opened and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will call these men, women, and children lying here back to life. At that time, the Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 4, that “the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:16b-17).
Today we stand in this cemetery united through memories with those whom we honor and those whom we love. The day is coming, however, when all who believe in Jesus will be reunited in person to spend eternity together with the Lord. My dear friends, LET US BE FOUND FAITHFUL! Amen.
Paul D. Nolting