"And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain
and your faith is in vain." I Corinthians 15:14
The sanctuary windows were covered thick with “spiritual ice” every Sunday. The pew Bibles hardly ever creaked open to follow the text from the preacher. The organist, right on cue, began to drift off to sleep along with the rest of the choir. The preacher didn’t teach, but simply told stories, hardly ever looking up and making eye contact with the congregation. Over time, the gloomy and dismal atmosphere began to drain me and Roberta as we attempted to worship there every Sunday morning. I recall one dull Sunday morning when we pulled up into the parking lot to worship, there were buzzards circling low in the sky above the steeple. I remember saying, “Well that looks like something out of a scary movie, doesn’t it? Sure you want to go in?” Sunday mornings were always spiritually dead UNTIL…
the first Easter morning service we attended.
As we entered into the Sanctuary, people were smiling and laughing, eager for worship to start. Men and women were arrayed in their vibrant, pastel Easter clothing. The cross had been decorated with all kinds of flowers, bouquets of plant life.
Confused, we looked at each other several times asking, “Where has this church been?” The sermon was uplifting, the choir director stayed awake (longer than usual), the pew Bibles opened for a change, and the spiritual ice temporarily melted away. Some sort of transformation had taken place and it didn’t make sense. Concerned by what we had witnessed,
I approached the pastor and made a few comments: “Wow, worship was great today. Why the change all of a sudden?”
He replied with a somewhat irritated response, “Today is Easter! Today is the day we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus!”
I replied quietly, “Don’t we celebrate that every day though, as Christians?” He walked away in silence.
I wasn’t trying to be sarcastic. I wasn’t trying to be rude, uptight, or disrespectful. I was legitimately vexed at what I had witnessed. I kept thinking, “Why can’t we get people to worship like this all along?” The same people who were asleep in morning service the other 51 Sundays out of the year! The whole “show” that morning was unsettling and still is. It bothers me.
As Christians, we believe not only in the Crucifixion of our Lord, but the Resurrection as well. We are meant to celebrate the empty tomb not only on Easter morning, but every minute of every morning, of every day, of every week, month, and year! Otherwise—as Paul teaches in I Corinthians 15, all of it has no purpose and is in vain.
Friends and members of New Covenant, I challenge you this month to be excited about the Resurrection 24/7. Let’s get fired up to serve God consistently, not only one Sunday out of the year. As Acts 1:22 says, may we all be “witnesses to the resurrection” through our actions and words for Jesus. I look forward to being excited with you this month as we serve Jesus together!
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” Ecclesiastes 3:1
The last piece of clear tape was applied, the metal door slung down for the final time fastening into the mounted latch, the broom and dust pans had been put away. The halls were empty, the bedrooms silent, the living room no longer displayed any signs of life. I walked down that familiar hallway one last time, looking into each room with a feeling of bittersweet eeriness rushing upon me. I’m not much of a “loud crier”, so the tears started to silently drip down onto my cheeks and roll down the crevices of my nose. The time had come: Roberta and I were saying goodbye to our home – a home that we had lived in for over three years in Madison. It was time for a new season of life, one that would lead us to a new and wonderful place: Natchez,
Mississippi, where we would start the next chapter of our lives.
As the U-haul moving truck pulled away from our driveway, more tears started to flow, but this time they were tears of excitement, gratefulness, and joy. Once I made the last turn out of the old, familiar neighborhood, the tears went away and my face was covered with a bouquet of teeth smiling from ear to ear. I was eager and thrilled to become the new pastor and lead the wonderful people at New Covenant Presbyterian Church!
The Bible teaches us that because of Jesus, we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and that in all seasons of life, we are to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Since Roberta and I have moved here to Natchez, the bittersweet tears have ceased to be! We know in our hearts that this is where God has called us and I am honored and privileged to be your pastor. I pray that we will enjoy this new chapter and season of life together at New Covenant. Because of Jesus, we can consider it a joy to be a part of God’s Kingdom here on this earth and serve God until the very end (Matthew 10:22, James 1:1-12). We can rejoice that in this new season of life together, if we live for Jesus, we have full confidence that we can be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
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