Sometimes the best sermon preparation looks like no preparation. At face value, some might say that I could have made better use of my time yesterday. I beg to differ. It was exactly what I needed and I sensed the same was true for the General.
Perhaps the General needed a change of pace even more so than I. For weeks now she has been laboriously sorting through her mother’s things and filtering though all kinds of paperwork and family photos – what to keep, what to share, what to shred, what just to throw away? I was beginning to think it would never end. I think she did too, but there seemingly is a light at the end of the tunnel.
After lunch yesterday, the General and I went for a ride. We were kind of like Abraham and Sarah, both in age and the fact that went out not knowing. We didn’t discuss where we were headed and I’m not sure we had a particular destination in mind. We only drove 130 miles, but we were gone about 3 ½ hours.
Thankfully, with the exception of about six miles, all of those miles were on very narrow two lane roads. We went up hills and we went down hills. The curves in the road were added just to make driving fun. When the posted speed limit was 40 mph, we drove 40 mph. And of course, in case you’re wondering – the top was down all the way. The General had her window up, so her hair wasn’t blowing in the wind, but we were immersed with the wonderful reality of springtime.
The bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush were mostly in short supply, but green was the color in every direction we looked. Nothing speaks of springtime or of the resurrection for that matter as does the way nature echoes the message of resurrection.
Last night as I crafted a few of my thoughts related to resurrection, I thought about how different our perception of Easter is today from the experience of those who by happenstance or Divine providence stumbled upon the reality that “He is risen”.
For the disciples and others close to Jesus, the morning began as one of intense pain, duress and agonizing fear. We are so far removed from the occurrence of Golgotha and the events that immediately followed that we miss the emotional impact. Perhaps, because we have the advantage of knowing the rest of the story concerning the crucifixion and subsequent resurrection, we lose sight of how that played itself out in the lives of those closest to Jesus. We don’t process the information or storyline the same way those up close and personal to Jesus processed the information. We have the knowledge based on Scripture to know the rest of the story. Those closest to Jesus did not.
They made their way to his burial place with an overwhelming sense of sadness associated to his death. Their focus was on doing what needed to be done to complete the burial process.
Can you imagine for a moment the joy they experienced when they came face-to-face with the reality that He is risen? At some level it defies our ability to even put into words or cognitively grasp the possibility.
I collect stories and I’ve held on to one that graphically spoke to my heart in ways too precious to forget years ago. It was included in an Easter morning message of a pastor long ago. I heard it from a pastor who shared this pastor’s story in his message.
He concluded his Easter morning message this way: “One day as a young child, I asked my mother, ‘What was the happiest day of your life?’ I thought she might say something about the day one of her children was born, or the day my father asked her to marry him, or perhaps her wedding day. For a long moment she sat there and then looked across the room as if she could see for a great distance. And then she spoke.
“‘It was during the war between the North and South. The men were all away. My mother, your grandmother, had to do the work of a man in the fields. She eked out a living for us from the farm. One day a letter came saying that my father, your grandfather, Bennett, had been killed. That letter contained a great many kind words about his bravery and sacrifice. Mother did not cry much that day, but at night we could hear her sob in the dark of our small house.
“‘About four months later, it was summer, we were all sitting on the porch shelling beans. A man came down the road, and mother watched him for a while and then said, ‘Elizabeth, honey, don’t think me strange, but that man coming yonder walks like your father.’
The man kept coming along the road, but we children thought, ‘It couldn’t be him.’ As he came to the break in the fence where the path ran, he turned in. Mother sprang from her chair scattering beans everywhere. She began to run, and she yelled over her shoulders, ‘Children, it’s your father.’
She ran all the way across the field until they met. She kissed him and cried and held him for the longest time. And that was the happiest hour I ever knew.'”
The pastor concluded his message by saying: “And that is but a small joy compared with the resurrection morning when we shall see the face of Jesus, when we shall see loved ones long gone.” He was right.
He is risen! Can you imagine for a moment the joy experienced on that first Easter morning when those closest to Jesus came face-to-face with the reality that He is risen? At some level it defies our ability to even put into words or cognitively grasp the possibility. He is risen indeed!
All My Best!