Wednesday, April 27, 2011
No matter where we are, Easter is still Easter. In my last few preaching appointments, Easter was a day of overflowing crowds as 700 to 800 folks showed up to worship. This past Sunday at Rocky Ford United Methodist Church a larger than average crowd showed up, but it was still much smaller than recent memories of Easter crowds. But, it still felt like Easter. It was an exciting moment of worship that was full of joy and celebration.
What I had experienced in other places on Resurrection Sunday was experienced again last Sunday. Once again it was good to hear the Easter greeting, "Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!" The singing of those Easter hymns seemed a little stronger, more heart felt. The Biblical readings for the day hung in the air filling the place with power. Once more this preacher sensed the passion that accompanies preaching on such a glorious day. I know it can be done, but it is hard to mess up Easter. There is a power and presence peculiar to this day of worship which remains unparalled.
An added bonus was the blessing of "getting it." Back in January I posted a blog entitled "Stuck." It was a word sharing my struggle at figuring out why I was stuck with the first three verses of the book of Ezekiel. I wrote, "Over and over I find myself reading these few words with a feeling that I have not gotten it yet." I am now free to move on. When I left Easter worship this past Sunday morning, I almost immediately thought about these Words from Ezekiel and heard myself saying, "I got it!"
Saturday, April 23, 2011
For the past thirty-nine years I have had a place to preach on Easter Sunday. When I retired, I figured that "preaching streak' would end. No preacher I know invites someone to preach for them on Easter Sunday. To do so might be cause for the Bishop to question the preacher's call to preach. However, life has strange twists and turns and once again I find myself with the opportunity to preach on Easter Sunday. When asked back in February to fill in for a couple of months, one of the first thoughts I had was that it would give me one more Easter Sunday to preach. Tomorrow at Rocky Ford United Methodist I will be preaching Easter sermon No. 40.
Over the years I have done a number of things with the preaching on Easter. There were times when I really failed to preach the message. One thing learned over the years is that trying to be cute with some catchy thought on Easter is pointless. People do not come to Easter morning worship because they need to be entertained. Entertainment is everywhere we turn in our world. What brings them to Easter morning worship is the message of the resurrection and to focus on any other theme is to waste the preaching opportunity and their time as well.
So, tomorrow I have one more time to preach that marvellous life changing message that Jesus has been raised from the dead and that He desires for us to share that same victory when this life of ours on this earth comes to an end. This is the message people come to hear. It is the only message worth preaching on a day which C.S. Lewis said, "causes the foundations of hell to tremble." May it be so where we all are on this Easter Sunday, 2011.
Monday, April 18, 2011
The world is full of messages for those who are watching and listening. Some are blaring into our ears in such a way it is impossible to ignore them. Others are so subtle we hardly realize we have allowed the message to slip past the barriers declaring right and wrong. Some are on bumpers of vehicles and some are on the portable message signs which stand in front of so many businesses. On a recent trip into Savannah, there was this message which said, "A clear conscience is a sign of a bad memory." It was an invitation to make light of a conscience which might actually steer someone away from entering the lounge and game room under the sign.
Of course, the scripture does not equate a clear conscience with a bad memory. Instead, it equates it with living in a right relationship with God. When the Apostle Paul stood before the council condemning him, he declared, "Brothers, up to this day I have lived my life with a clear conscience before God." (Acts 23:1) And later, Peter would write to the church and say, "Keep your conscience clear..." (I Peter 3:16). For Paul and Peter a clear conscience was about living in a right way before God. It was important for them to be able to look back with no memory of bad choices, only right living.
Surely, that thing we call "conscience" seeks to steer us toward the same kind of life choices made by the Apostles. A clear conscience is not a thing which is actually impossible to possess as the message board would suggest. The Word of God declares a different thing. It is possible to live with a clear conscience, knowing that we are living in a right relationship with God and our brothers and sisters. The Hebrews called it righteous living and so we are we all called and empowered to live.