The end of May is always a special time of year. For starters, it is the time of year when students who have finished parts of their education are rewarded with graduations. Whether it is from elementary school to middle school – or middle school to junior high – or junior high to high school – or even high school to college or university, marking these milestone events is a rite of passage for our children and grandchildren.
Unfortunately, this past year, many students have been disappointed as graduation exercises have been cancelled as a result of the pandemic. Thankfully, pseudo-proms and other private celebrations have marked the milestones that our friends and family have accomplished. Creativity has been at an all time high as many families embraced the idea of drive-by parades and other acts of recognition marking the passage of time and the closing of chapters in the lives of those who are moving on.
Aside from graduations, this Memorial Day, as we have in years past, we mark the years that have passed and thank those members of the military who have served selflessly to protect and maintain the wonderful freedoms that we, as citizens of the United States, enjoy. Families head to cemeteries and visit the graves of loved ones – remembering years gone by and how long it has been since we have visited face to face with those who have passed away and gone before us.
There’s something about this time of year that creates an introspective view of these sorts of things – in fact, I ordered the headstone for my brother, Ken, yesterday. As you may recall, he died Feb. 29, 2020 as the country was heading into lockdown and the rapid spread of COVID. There is no denying that this time of year is a time of remembrance.
There are other milestones that can be marked at this time of year as well. In fact, today was the 105th running of the Indy 500 – the premier sporting event in the world. Even with a limit of 40% capacity here in Indiana, more than 135,000 witnessed the race in person and it was the largest gathering of people in one place anywhere since the beginning of the spread of the coronavirus early last year.
There have been several milestones connected with the Speedway this past year or two. For starters, the Hulman/George family sold the IMS (Indianapolis Motor Speedway) to Roger Penske -marking the first ownership transition in many decades. And today, to the surprise of many, today Helio Castroneves became the fourth 4-time winner in history. He joined some pretty elite company – A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears – all legends in the world of motorsports.
Speaking of milestones, Castroneves achieved a great one today. And the fact that he is still racing means that he will still have the chance to create a new club – one in which he is the only member. Assuming he can win one more time, he would be the only five time winner in Speedway history.
We also can mark our other personal milestones. The day of our birth, baptisms, graduations, confirmation, marriage, birth of children and promotions at work are all milestones in our lives. Within our spiritual lives, we can mark milestones as well. The day that we accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior; and then achievements in our personal journeys that have allowed us to become more Christlike in our behaviors mark our spiritual milestones. One of the great things about these milestones is the knowledge that God has been with us each step of the way and God celebrates our spiritual victories as we become progressively sanctified – more like Jesus.
Our verse tonight, a long one, is from the book of Deuteronomy, written by Moses. He is recounting the milestones of the people of God and tells them what God desires for them to do in order to mark their progress.
We are told, in Deuteronomy 27:1-7, “Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people: “Keep all these commands that I give you today. When you have crossed the Jordan into the land the LORD your God is giving you, set up some large stones and coat them with plaster. Write on them all the words of this law when you have crossed over to enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you. And when you have crossed the Jordan, set up these stones on Mount Ebal, as I command you today, and coat them with plaster. Build there an altar to the LORD your God, an altar of stones. Do not use any iron tool upon them. Build the altar of the LORD your God with fieldstones and offer burnt offerings on it to the LORD your God. Sacrifice fellowship offerings there, eating them and rejoicing in the presence of the LORD your God.”
My encouragement this evening is that it is obvious that God is present in our milestones. These occasions are to be marked and remembered. My prayer is that we will all be drawn closer to Jesus and the Father, knowing that God is always present in our victories and as we turn to him in remembering those milestones that might not be so joyous. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…