The promise of Easter


Since the start of the new year, my congregation has lost 29 people to death – either members of the church or close family members.

I can’t remember ever having gone through a stretch quite like this.

During this week following Easter, a week when I ordinarily catch my breath after a busy Lenten season, we will have four funerals or memorials services, every day Tuesday through Friday.  Two of them may involve overflow crowds.  One of the larger ones is for a physician who is said to have delivered more than 9,000 babies during his career in this community.  (One of his nurses in the ICU tearfully told me that he had delivered her.)

Yes, death is a part of life.  Yes, we are not people who grieve as those who have no hope (to paraphrase the Apostle Paul).  And yes, as I’ve written before, I actually feel more like a pastor at a funeral than I do with many other pastoral responsibilities.

But still.

On Easter morning I said in my sermon that Easter worship is not a time for reasons or explanations.  I’ve never preached an Easter sermon titled “Thirteen Incontrovertible Proofs for the Resurrection” – and don’t plan to any time soon.  I don’t think anyone really wants to hear on Easter morning why it’s reasonable to believe that Jesus rose from the dead.

What I said was, “This is a day to believe if there ever was one, to open ourselves to the possibility that it’s true, that death is not the last word that will be spoken about us.”

I’m glad I believe that.  I’m glad I came to that conviction early in my ministry.  During my first year following ordination, I officiated at something like 60 funeral services.  A great deal of my job description at that first church right out of seminary was focused on pastoral care.  I called on homebound people and naturally was the first person to be asked to officiate at the funeral.

At the time, the pace of funerals seemed like a lot, especially for someone so new to ministry.  My mentor said, “You’d better figure out what you believe – and do it quickly.”  I did.  I believe in the promise of Easter.

And haven’t wavered in that belief.

About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.


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5 Responses to The promise of Easter

  1. Sandy Steffen April 3, 2013 at 11:19 am #

    Amen & Amen Doug!!

  2. Laurie Fuller April 3, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    Yes Dr. Gilbert delivered by 2nd child Michele. He will be missed. I am so sorry I missed his celebration of life. I have to work, just way too much. I never slow down, hope one day I can retire.

    • Doug April 3, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

      Wish you could have heard the tributes! He was a larger-than-life character, but nothing brought him more joy, according to all who knew him, than to bring a new life into the world.

  3. Earl April 3, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

    I can only say one thing about today, Amen, and Doug, thanks for being our pastor.

  4. mike April 3, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

    Being surrounded by kindred spirits is a gift in itself. And it helps at times of great loss. I like having company – lots of it – when it comes to matters of faith. There’s a great deal of that at FirstPres and I am thankful for it. Bet everybody who reads this blog feels that way, too. I liked this post…now that I’m thinking about it, I like ’em all.