The Promise of Easter – Again

Candle

I posted the following on April 3, 2013. It’s not “throwback Thursday” or anything, but this week I plan to re-post one or two posts from Holy Week last year. Unlike sermons I’ve preached previously, which I generally don’t like at all, I often like my older posts.

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 – Again

  1. Dennis Ulmer April 16, 2014 at 7:36 am #

    Hi Doug, Thanks for reposting this. My grandfather (my mother’s dad) and my own father, both died on the Saturday before Easter Sunday in the year that they died. Easter is really the most important “religious holiday”. I think you told us when you were at First Presbyterian Church here in Fort Lauderdale, that Easter it is your “favorite holiday”. Without Easter Christianity is baseless. Easter reminds us of the cross and Jesus and why He was here. We all fail, but in believing in Him we receive the promise of life everlasting.

    Death is hard, but it is part of life. The Easter promise is important, and especially important when one is grieving. You always did a good job in helping people get through that awful time of sorrow. I remember well our Grieving Group.

    Easter is indeed the day to remember as you said: “This is a day to believe that 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.”

    Let us keep faith in the promise. Happy Easter.

  2. Joyce Himebaugh April 16, 2014 at 7:36 am #

    Doug,
    So timely for my family, as Dad passed away last Tuesday. You truly are a person who lives on this earth, inspired by our most precious Lord. Easter Blessings to you & Susan!

    • Doug April 16, 2014 at 9:51 am #

      I’m so sorry to hear it, Joyce. I hope the funeral, the gathering of family, and of course your faith will sustain you. Blessings.

  3. Georgia Hamilton April 16, 2014 at 3:52 pm #

    Doug,

    Thank you for reminding us of what we believe! Our smaill group just finished reading John Ortberg’s book, “Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them.”. The last chapter deals with death and how Christians view it. We had a lively discussion, a nice prelude to Easter, when we can declare loludly, “Christ is Risen!

    Georgia

  4. Barbara April 18, 2014 at 11:28 am #

    Doug,

    Your messages always bring the true meaning of “religion to life”!

    Your “Easter Message” will do the same … As Always,

    Barb & Tom Keith

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