By Rev. Garry Moore
Pastor, Scott Street Baptist Church Bluefield, W.Va.
October 2, 1998
Everything we're doing today will provide meaning for our children tomorrow. Like Joshua, we should realize that children are true to form all over the world. Children will eventually ask questions. Our children are asking questions and having conversations with us that we didn't have with our parents until we were adults. Many of us came from an era where children were seen and not heard. Unless our Monuments and memorials mean anything to us, why should they have any meaning for our children? The poorest contribution that we could ever pass on to our children is a world without meaning. "Tomorrow," Joshua says, "your children will ask questions." When they interrogate us, we can't have evasive answers. "What do these stones mean?"
When your children ask tomorrow Joshua said -- not today, but tomorrow. Not today because today they may have other things on their mind (ball game or homework). Or, they may be caught up in the wonder of it all. But when life begins to take on a sterner aspect, and your children become conscious of expanding powers within; when they feel for the first time that God called them to a higher calling than which they are living; tomorrow, they'll want to know what 'helped up in our testing hours; from what secret did our hopes spring eternal? What secret kept our faith alive? These religious rites and sacred monuments and memorials will suddenly engage the attention of your children, and they will want to know if they can hold for them also some deeper meaning. We can hear them ask tomorrow: Why are these things here? What do you mean by them? Do they have any meaning today? Why do you still preserve them? Why is this hill still here? Why is that trench still down there? They'll ask these questions tomorrow. What are we going to say?
Joshua says, Happy is the child who hears from the lips of his own parents the story of God's grace in a day of stress; how here the dark waters were cloven while the ark of God's faithful covenant passed, and a way was found through the flood that threatened to stagnate all progress. The memorial stones were taken from the middle of the riverbed where the waters should have been the deepest and the darkest. What do you mean by this? To put a meaning to sorrow; to put a meaning to struggle; to put meaning into life, that is, to put God into life -- this is the greatest thing you do for your child.
Joshua felt sure that this memorial was so significant that children would come asking later on what does it mean. Joshua was a practical leader. Joshua felt that if our children are eager enough to ask questions, we should be glad and ready to give answers.
What does this memorial here is Saltville mean tonight? What are we going to say when our children come asking?
Well, at least they pay us a compliant by being here -inferring that our history and faith must mean something to us. They feel it must mean something and they're inviting us to make our meaning plain. Our answer should have so lasting an affect that it will transcend the moment and our children will have to explain the memorial to their children. That's What "making history" is about?
Martin Luther King, Jr. said that "if our country is to transform itself into the nation that God intended, then Blacks are going to have to free Whites from their guilt and Whites are going to have to free Blacks from their fear." One possible meaning and answer of tonight's memorial is that since we're confronting our Past (that is sometimes not so grand and exciting) tonight as we light these luminaries we stop blaming Whites of today for slavery Jim Crow days, and segregation. And, likewise Whites can free Blacks from their fear of remembering and becoming, and begin to tell history from both sides; tell history as raw and ugly as it was and not just from the beneficiaries' point of view.
What do we mean, now that we've stopped to think about what happened here? Do we mean that God wasn't here then or now and treat religion only as a pastime during life, and hope to find in it only a fire escape at the end? Do we mean to forever play with God and serve Him with lip service and not with the action of memorials and monuments. If we find no meaning in our present, our children will find no meaning in their future. If our children find no meaning in the monuments we build, they won't ask questions. If they don't ask questions, they'll eventually destroy our memories -- our memorials -- and build their own.
Tonight we're reminded of a young child who found meaning in His parent's religion -- his parents' memorials. In fact, He told his mama, "Woman, don't you know that I must be about my father's business." This young man said, "I didn't come to destroy the Law but to fulfill the Law." This young man said, "I've come to give you life and that you many have life, more abundantly." this young man said, "God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him, might be saved." But after all that Jesus reportedly said and did, He too, set up a memorial. It wasn't some great moment of healing or teaching. It was his last meal. He took bread and broke it and gave to his disciples. He also took the cup and drank with them.
Saltville, Virginia, isn't Richmond, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Roanoke or Charlottesville? But, something happened so significantly here on this night in 1864, that we're called here to remember these soldiers and their battle for the freedoms we now enjoy.
To my brothers of the 5th and 6th U.S. Colored
Calvary, Camp Nelson, Kentucky, we must say, "Thank you, my brothers."
And, to the wonderful people of Saltville, Va., we must say, "Thank you,
my brothers and sisters." When our children come asking tomorrow, "What
does this mean?" we'll have something to tell them.