Rev. David Holwick S Memorial Sunday
First Baptist Church
Ledgewood, New Jersey
May 30, 2010
I. What is Memorial Day?
A. The opening of summer.
1) Long weekend and lots of cookouts.
2) Comfort, not conflict, is mood of holiday.
B. Its somber heritage.
1) Those who have died in our wars, going back 234 years.
2) Dramatic depiction: the movie "Saving Private Ryan."
"Saving Private Ryan" begins with a graphic portrayal of
the invasion at Omaha Beach on D-Day in World War II.
Cutting back to the United States, a scene in the War
Department shows a secretary receiving notice that a
Midwestern family has just lost three sons to war.
One has been killed in the Pacific and two have just died
on the beaches at Normandy.
Their fourth son is a paratrooper now somewhere in France.
The general makes the decision that no mother should
suffer the tragedy of losing four sons to war.
So they send a team after this last son, Private Ryan.
The team must overcome countless obstacles, not to mention
the enemy, in their search for Private Ryan.
Along the way, members of their team are wounded and
They begin to ask why the life of this one private should
be more important than their lives being sacrificed.
Why is his welfare held in higher regard than theirs?
Tom Hanks is the leader of the outfit in search of Ryan.
He does his best to maintain the focus of his men, telling
them that it's not their place to question, but rather
to accept their mission and carry out their orders.
Their duty is to their country, and their country has
asked this of them.
Finally, they locate Ryan.
They tell him that they have orders to retrieve him and
get him home, but Ryan doesn't want to leave his unit.
Ryan's unit has orders to keep a group of German tanks
from crossing a bridge, until air support arrives.
If they can't hold off the tanks, then they're to blow up
Ryan's honor and sense of duty to his unit would not allow
him to walk away from an encounter that could cost his
comrades their lives.
He didn't feel justified in leaving for freedom and safety
and leaving them to fight.
Ryan convinces Hanks and his outfit to stay and fight,
promising to leave with them after the battle.
Hanks agrees, but only if Ryan will stay out of harm's way,
so he can make it back home.
A bloody battle ensues in which many lives are lost.
Most of Hanks' outfit is killed, but they save Private
There's a gripping scene at the end, in which Hanks is
dying on the bridge.
Ryan comes to help, but Hanks tells him to go on, and then
he says to Private Ryan, "Earn this."
3) It is not just Hollywood.
a) The movie was inspired by a real episode.
Fritz Niland and his three brothers from New York state
all saw action during the war.
Two Niland brothers were killed on D-Day, while another
was missing in action in Burma and was presumed dead.
In the space of one week, the mother received three
telegrams, and the fourth son was reported as missing
Fritz was located in Normandy by an Army chaplain, Rev.
Francis Sampson, and taken out of the combat zone.
As it turned out, the missing brother was not dead but
a prisoner of the Japanese and was liberated by the
II. Conflict is at the heart.
A. In this fallen world, freedom and goodness have a steep price.
1) The Bible says governments must bear the sword for a reason.
a) They are kingdoms of the world, but they have a
God-given mission. Romans 13
b) Their job is to suppress evil doers, and reward those
who do good.
2) Since governments are of this world they never do it perfectly.
a) Sometimes, they go over to the other side and promote
the evil they are supposed to be fighting.
b) The struggle against opponents outside, and inside,
will continue to the end.
B. Many here have served.
1) Some have had relatives die.
2) I watched the movie "The Messenger" this week.
It is about soldiers who inform families of the death of
service members. (and filmed in NJ)
It is a very intense movie, where the high cost of war is
distilled into a single emotional outburst as families
hear that their loved one is killed.
III. Not all conflicts are visible.
A. Paul and the struggle against evil. Eph 6:12
1) The spiritual dimension is behind all conflict.
a) Paul's imagery reminds me of military movies where a
small group of soldiers hunkers down on a hill,
surrounded by enemy hordes.
They must fight until their swords are frozen to their
hands, and every foe is vanquished.
b) Dark forces of evil.
1> He makes them sound organized, almost like a government.
2) Many of our country's enemies seem to have been motivated
by supernatural evil.
c) Radical Islam and jihadism.
3) Evil is not limited to wars.
B. Evidence of evil we face in our culture.
1) Illegal drugs.
a) It seems like we are on the verge of giving up trying
to control them.
b) "New Yorker" magazine article on how Mexican government
has been taken over by drug gangs.
1> In many areas of the country, they control the
police, the politicians and the economy.
2> Control is enforced by brutal beheadings by thugs
with Bibles in their pockets.
3> Some in this church have been involved in drug use,
with terrible effect.
2) Sexual disintegration.
a) Old standards have been abandoned.
1> Dramatic shifts in attitudes and practices in last
2> But the consequences are real.
A> Broken families.
B> Broken bodies.
b) Even those who uphold the standards, don't seem to live
1> Numerous recent failings by evangelical politicians.
3) Consumerism run amuck.
a) Gulf of Mexico oil spill highlights our dependence on
a limited, and dangerous, resource.
1> The greatest danger is that most of it is controlled
by non-democratic nations.
b) Economic meltdown has shown that a few hugely wealthy
people at the top can cause misery for millions.
1> But the millions at the bottom are responsible, too.
2> We value ourselves by our stuff, not our spirit.
C. The greatest struggle may be for spiritual values.
1) We take our religious freedom for granted.
In Iran this week, two women who converted from Islam to
Christianity were expelled from the country.
Rostampour and Amirizadeh were arrested in March 2009 on
charges of anti-state activity and for "taking part in
In other words, they participated in house church activities.
They were detained in the notorious Evin prison, a facility
known for its human rights violations and capital
punishment, and were psychologically abused.
In prison, the two were pressured to renounce their new
Christian faith and to return to Islam.
But they repeatedly refused.
During a court hearing, they told the judge, "We love Jesus,"
"Yes, we are Christians," and "We will not deny our faith."
It was then that they had a new charge leveled against them:
The penalty is death.
So their expulsion this week was actually a merciful action
by the Iranian government.
2) In Nigeria, entire villages of Christians have been
3) The same has happened in Indonesia.
IV. Freedoms, if not defended, are lost.
A. The ultimate cost is borne by only a few.
1) In our church, few have served and fewer have suffered
the loss of a loved one.
2) But each of us can contribute something of value to our
The movie "Saving Private Ryan" concludes by flashing forward
about 50 years.
Private Ryan is standing with his family amongst thousands of
white crosses in a cemetery for those killed in WW II.
He is at the graveside of Hanks' character, remembering those
events in France.
With tears in his eyes he turns to his wife asks,
"Did I earn it?"
B. Each of us matters.
1) Christians face the same challenge.
a) Most of us are not going to be casualties of war, or
martyrs for our faith.
b) We may not even be persecuted to any real extent.
2) All of us have the challenge to live a worthwhile life
for the gospel.
a) We need to stand for purity in the midst of a corrupt
b) We need to live responsibly, supporting ourselves with
the work of our hands, and giving generously to others.
c) We need to be bold in sharing our faith, because others
still have to hear.
C. Our faith rests on spilled blood.
1) The blood of martyrs.
2) The blood of Jesus himself.
a) Has that blood made a difference for you?
SOURCES FOR ILLUSTRATIONS USED IN THIS SERMON:
#36232 "Earn This." Most of this illustration is derived from the sermon
"Earn This" by Rev. David Washburn, Kerux Sermon #16482,
originally at www.SermonCentral.com. The Niland material comes
from <http://www.historyinfilm.com/ryan/real.htm> and
Contrary to what some books say, the mother did not receive three
telegrams in a single day but over the space of a week. Some
authorities say Fritz Niland never made it to the front line and was
not reported missing in action, but his grandson reports this.
#36233 "They Would Not Deny Their Faith," <http://www.christianpost.com/~
index.html>, May 24, 2010.
These and 35,000 others are part of the Kerux database that can be
downloaded, absolutely free, at http://www.holwick.com/database.html
Copyright © 2017 by Rev. David Holwick
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