the pastor's story file
a resource file for pastors/teachers/speakers
THEME: Easter/Resurrection April / 1987
READY FOR RESURRECTION MORNING A true story is told about a distinguished man, the only white person buried in a Georgia cemetery reserved exclusively for blacks. He had lost his mother when he was just a baby. His father, who never married again, hired a black woman named Mandy to help raise his son. She was a Christian, and she took her task seriously. Seldom has a motherless boy received such warmhearted attention. One of his earliest memories was of Mandy bending tenderly over him in his upstairs bedroom each day and softly saying: "Wake up, God's mornin' is come."
As the years passed, this devoted woman continued to serve as his substitute mother. The young man went away to college, but when he would come home each holiday and summer she would climb the stairs — more slowly now — and call him in the same loving way. One day after he had become a successful statesman, the sad message came: "Mandy is dead. Can you attend her funeral?" As he stood by her grave in the cemetery, he turned to his friends and said; "If I die before Jesus comes, I want to be buried here beside Mandy. I like to think that on resurrection day she'll speak to me again and say: "Wake up, my boy, God's Mornin' is come!"
The sentiment expressed by this grateful man rings true . . . but it will be the Lord who will say to us: "Awake, my children, Morning is come!" And that's the hope of every Christian!
Submitted by Rich Hardison, Norfolk, VA. +++++
LET LOOSE In his drama The Trial of Jesus, John Masefield has the centurion Longinus report to Pilate after the crucifixion of Jesus. Longinus had been the officer in charge of the execution, and after his official report, Pilate's wife calls the centurion to come and tell her how the prisoner had died. Once the account is given, she asks, "Do you think he is dead?" Longinus answers, "No, Lady, I don't."
"Then where is he?" asks Procula, to which Longinus replies, "Let loose in the world, Lady, where neither Roman nor Jew can stop his truth."
The Christ we serve is alive and living in us! Preaching, July-August, 1986, page 42.
LANDMARK Carroll S. Ringgold tells of a white cross which stood on the outskirts of a city. A little lad was lost in the city. A policeman inquired, "Where do you live? Just tell me where you live." But the boy did not know his address. Finally, upon further questioning, the small fellow said, "Take me to the cross on the hillside, and I can find my way home from there."
The way of the cross still stands above history as a beacon to lead us home.
Adapted from John Drescher, Ed. The Way of the Cross and Resurrection (Herald Press, 1978) page 15. Submitted by Ron Friesen, Good Shepherd Mennonite Church, Phoenix, AZ. +++++
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BEYOND THE CROSS Every year thousands of people climb a mountain in the Italian Alps, passing the "stations of the cross" to stand at an outdoor crucifix. One tourist noticed a little trail that led beyond the cross. He fought through the rough thicket and, to his surprise, came upon another shrine, a shrine that symbolized the empty tomb. It was neglected. The brush had grown up around it. Almost everyone had gone as far as the cross, but there they stopped. Far too many have gotten to the cross and have known the despair and the heart break. Far too few have moved beyond the cross to find the real message of Easter. That is the message of the empty tomb.
Lavonn Brown, "The Other Half of of the Rainbow," submitted by Michael Adams,
First Baptist Church, Union City, TN. +++++
GOLGOTHA: YOU ARE THERE Come with me, if you dare ... experience with all your senses Jesus' travail, his torture of trial, scourge and crucifixion. It wasn't an antiseptic, lily-white spectacle. It wasn't a modern Spring-fashion-parade ... a chocolate-egg-and-bunny kind of day, with anthem and organ falling on once-a-year ears!
Come with me, if you will, and consider: Are we living people with dead memories of mob and mockery? Try to remember ... if you can ... it wasn't pretty, or antiseptic, or lily-white ... Listen ... Listen to the rabble scream and curse, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Cringe with every lash ... count them up to forty ... if you dare ... forty heavy, searing lashes ... raw, bleeding skin ... pulverized misery ... agonized brutality!
Feel the thrust of thorns, piercing splinters, pushed down, gouged in, twisted on his brow. Taste the blood and salty sweat mixed with slimy spit . . . feel them scald his festered flesh, see him turn the other cheek.
Lift the massive cross ... if you can ... try to drag it through the crowd, that mad, jeering, taunting, hate-mongering mob ... Try to bear its crushing weight. Strain with every weakening fall and all the while endure the scorching thirst . . . thirst that never ceased. Go with Christ the second mile. Plod ever upward to the skull ... Golgotha! ... where ridicule, sarcastic jibes besieged the Son of Torture ten-thousand times ten-thousand!
Crucifixion! Spike nails ... jarring plunge of cross set upright deep in earth ... agony ... nausea ... relentless heat of sun ... dry, parched throat, cracked lips that whispered "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do..." (did you hear him?)
Stare at his body hanging there for all the squalid mass ... called humankind . .. us! Gaze on his face, if you dare ... God's only Son who knew no sin ... who took children on his lap. Christ, Son of God and Son of man, who healed and comforted others. Christ, our Lord, hanging there bereft! Dying between two thieves ... and all the while ... we watched ... or hid ... or ran ...
No, it wasn't pretty, or antiseptic, or lily-white ... that first Easter Season, was it" Listen ... feel ... taste ... see... touch
Remember Christ, crucified .... for us!
Joan Wyrick Ellison, Raleigh, NC. +++++
The Pastor's Story File (Copyright 1987) (ISSN 0882-3545) (USPS 738-650) is published monthly for $24.95 per year by Saratoga Press, 14200 Victor Place, Saratoga, California 95070. Second-Class Postage paid at Saratoga, California. Postmaster: Send address changes to THE PASTOR'S STORY FILE, c/o Saratoga Press, 14200 Victor Place, Saratoga, California 95070. To foreign countries — subscription rate is $30.95 in US$ or currency of equivalent value. Phone: (408) 867-4211
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A REMOTE HOPE A few years ago a young man in the metropolitan New York area took a step before his death at 24 which he thought would safeguard his future. Upon his death, Steven arranged to have himself frozen solid until a medical cure was found for the intestinal infection that had made him a chronic invalid.
Steven was a passable poet, photographer, guitarist, a student on the Dean's list at New York University, and an avid reader of science fiction. A friend remarked, "He wanted to be in the forefront where science fiction turns into science fact." When Steven's infection stubbornly refused to respond to medical treatment, he followed up an intriguing ad placed in a science-fiction magazine by the Cryonics Society of New York, a movement with the motto, "Never say die!" This society had been founded on the premise that bodies of the "clinically dead" can be put in a deep freeze and later brought back to life.
Seven months before his death, Steven made out a $5 check to join the Cryonics Society. Then he instructed his mother to make sure that once he was pronounced legally dead, his body would be neither buried nor cremated, but frozen. When he died, five members of the Cryonics Society promptly took charge, helping a Long Island funeral director pack Steven's corpse in ice cubes for a two-hour drive to the funeral home. There it was drained of its body fluids, and infused with an "antifreeze solution to help reserve the body tissues." Then it was packed with dry ice, preparatory to placement in "cryonic suspension" in a "Crypt-Capsule," a giant bottle filled with liquid nitrogen. In that state, Steven will remain indefinitely, maintained at a cost of $200 per year, an expense paid for out of a Cryonics Trust Fund set up by Steven before his death. One magazine titled the story, "Soul On Ice."
His mother said that shortly before his death, Steven made a tape to be placed in the capsule, for he realized he might suffer some brain damage. She commented that his death was easier for her to bear because there wasn't the same finality of putting someone away under the earth. She said, "I had talked about it with Steven, not morbidly, just ordinary conversation, and I came to accept the idea." When asked if she expected Steven to be raised from his Cryonic Capsule, she made this tragically significant comment, "I have only a remote hope for my boy's resurrection."
What a contrast to this remote and unlikely hope is the absolute assurance which the Bible teaches concerning the bodies of those who die trusting in Jesus. Because Jesus Christ conquered death and rose from the grave, He will some day bring back to life all those who have put their faith in Him, giving them perfect bodies, just like His own resurrected, glorified body. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is." (I John 3:2).
Leslie Flynn, The Sustaining Power of Hope, page 27, 28. Submitted by John
Bristol, First Presbyterian Church, Milpitas, CA. +++++
THE STONE The heavy, ponderous stone that sealed Jesus in the confines of that rock-walled tomb was but a pebble compared to the Rock of Ages inside.
A BIBLE WITH A SAD ENDING In the 18th century, the U.S. Congress once issued a special edition of Thomas Jefferson's Bible. It was a simple copy of our Bible with all references to the supernatural eliminated. Jefferson, in selecting, had confined himself solely to the moral teachings of Jesus. The closing words of Jefferson's Bible are: "There laid they Jesus and rolled a great stone at the mouth of the sepulchre and departed."
Thank God our Bible ended with the news that "He Is Risen."
From Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations by Paul Lee Tan, submitted by Charles Krieg, St. Joseph's Seminary, Princeton, NJ.
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BURIED According to a Persian legend, when God created the earth, it was baren and without any sign of life. In due time, God sent out an angel to scatter all sorts of seeds over the face of the earth. When Satan saw the seeds, he resolved to destroy God's work. He sent his helpers to bury the seeds in the hope they would rot. Soon the seeds began to germinate and to push their shoots above the soil. What Satan did not know was that seeds had to be buried to produce living plants. And so, in due time, the entire earth became a beautiful garden of flowers and foodstuffs, and blossoming trees.
Centuries after the creation of the world, Christ's enemies, in league with Satan wanted to destroy God's work. They killed our Lord and had Him buried in a tomb. They set a stone at the mouth of the tomb. They posted guards to prevent anyone from stealing His body. They wanted Christ's body to remain buried and to rot in the earth. But what they did not know was that, like the seed in the ground, Christ had to die and be buried in order to rise again.
Just as the seed in the Persian legend, after having been buried in the earth, brought forth life, so too, Jesus, after having been buried in the earth, brought forth life. He gave us a new life; He gave us a better life now and He will give us a new life after our own death. This is the meaning of Easter.
Charles Krieg, St. Joseph's Seminary, Princeton, NJ
THE MIRACLE OF EASTER MORNING It's a lovely old legend that tells of the priest who found a branch of a thorn tree twisted around so that it resembled a crown of thorns. Thinking it a symbol of the crucifixion, he placed it on the altar in his chapel on Good Friday. Early on Easter morning he remembered what he had done. Feeling it was not appropriate for Easter Sunday, he hurried into the church to clear it away before the congregation came. But when he went into the church, he found the thorn branches blossoming with beautiful roses.
Submitted by James Wilson, First Christian Church, Aurora, MO.
THE CENTRALITY OF THE RESURRECTION The resurrection is the outstanding event in the historic beginnings of Christianity. It is the cornerstone of the Christian faith; the Gibraltar of Christian hope, and the Waterloo of unbelief. For now almost two thousand years the battle between Christianity and infidelity has been waged around the empty tomb. If the Resurrection stands, Christianity stands; if the Resurrection falls, so does the Christian religion. Through twenty centuries infidelity has been at its wits end to explain the empty tomb; and upon that stupendous fact Christianity has staked its all!
From C. C. Crawford, The Passion Of Our Lord, page 225. Submitted by Arthur
Peterson, First Christian Church, Lake Butler, FL.
RESURRECTED BUT SCARRED If God raised Jesus from the dead, why didn't God fix him up? Why scars? Why the print of nails that you could feel with your fingers? Can it be that the Gospel word is saying to us in our waiting: "You will not see Jesus Christ unless you- see the wounds?" That somehow we must understand that the resurrected Christ is forever the wounded Christ? Living, but never fixed up. Not bound by death, yet scarred for eternity.
The deaf have a sign for Jesus. Quickly they make this sign many times during their worship: the middle finger of each hand is placed into the palm of the other. Jesus, the one with wounded hands. And when they touch the place, they remember. They hear the name in their own flesh.
John Vannorsdall, Sermons From The Lutheran series, submitted by Don Maddox,
Covenant Presbyterian Church, Corona, CA.
THE PROMISE Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.
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I am Easter!
I am the anniversary of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I am celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs on the vernal
Equinox of any of the twenty-eight days thereafter.
I am appropriately celebrated in the morning, and with spring flowers, brilliant
music, and an exhilerating challenge to faith.
I have held the world in astonishment for nineteen hundred years.
I am a source of dependable knowledge and confident assurance concerning eternal life.
I take away fear of the grave.
I ease the anguish and bereavement of those who part with loved ones.
I am a necessary part of the gospel of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ.
I am the source of assurance that there is no end to the life that is identified with
the living Christ.
I generate a spirit of hope which, more than argumentation, causes people to believe
I challenge the world to know Jesus and the power of His resurrection!
Norman Richardson, "Central Truths of the Christian youth Movement," submitted by Robert Strand, First Assembly of God, Grand Junction, CO.
THE WHOLE MESSAGE OF EASTER Historians tell us how the news of the battle of Waterloo came to England. There were no telegrams in those days, but everyone knew that Wellington was facing Napoleon in a great battle. A sailing ship semaphored news to the signalman on top of Winchester Cathedral in England. He signaled to another man on a hill and thus news of the battle was relayed all across England, from hill to hill. When the ship came in, the signalman on board semaphored th first word, "Wellington." The next word was "defeated." And then a fog came down and the ship could no longer be seen. "Wellington defeated" was the message that went across England, and there was great gloom all over the country. After two or three hours the fog lifted, and the signal came again: "Wellington defeated (but this time it continued) the enemy." Then all England rejoiced. Their sadness was turned into joy.
On the first Good Friday when they put the body of jesus in the bomb, the followers of Christ must have said,: "It's all over — Jesus defeated." But then, three days later, on Easter Sunday, the fog lifted, so to speak, and after Jesus rose from the dead the rest of the message was spread throughout the land: "Jesus defeated death." Charles Krieg, St. Joseph's Seminary, Princeton, NJ.
HE LIVES TODAY I remember the witness of Bishop Lajos Ordass of the Lutheran Church in Hungary to a small group gathered at the Lutheran World Federation Assembly in Minneapolis in 1957. As Bishop, he protested the communist regime's confiscation of church schools and was imprisoned for twenty months. Later, he was under arrest for six years. He was a tall stately man, and I can still see his ashen face as he quietly told his story.
"They placed me in solitary confinement. It was a tiny cell perhaps six feet by eight feet with no windows and sound-proofed. They hoped to break down my resistance by isolating me from all sensory perceptions. They thought I was alone. They were wrong. The Risen Christ was present in that room, and in communion with him I was able to prevail." This is the victory of faith over the world.
Told by Andrew Wyermann, submitted by Lewis Hodgkins, Pomeroy, WA.
WHICH IS MORE DIFFICULT? What reason have atheists for saying that we cannot rise again? Which is the more difficult, to be born, or to rise again? That what has never been, should be, or that what has been, should be again? Is it more difficult to come into being than to return to it? Blaise Pascal, Pensees, XXIV
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THE PARABLE OF THE UNBORN BABY Before you came into this world, you were an unborn baby. We all were. As we contemplate going from this world into another, we are again unborn babies so far as that other world is concerned.
Now if a baby not yet born, still tucked under his mother's heart, could think, he might say to himself, "This is a wonderful place. It's warm. I'm fed. I'm taken care of, I'm secure. This is a great world where I now am. I like it." And then someone might say to him, "But you're not going to stay here. You have to move on. You're going to die out of this place. You're going to another world." That baby would look upon the process of birth as if it were death, since it would be the end of the process of birth as if it were death, since it would be the end of the pleasant state he was in. And he would protest, "I don't want to die. I understand it here and feel secure. I want to stay." What to us is birth, to him is death, and he resists it. But the day comes when he does die to that life and is born into our world.
What happens to him? He is cradled in loving arms. Soft hands hold him gently. A kind face looks down at him, and he loves that face. Everybody that comes near loves him. He is the king of the world he surveys. Then he begins to grow, and he finds life good. He has some struggles and hardships, of course, but that is to make a man out of him. He has difficulties and sorrows, but he loves this world, with its seasons, its beauty, its human companionship.
Finally, he gets to be an old man and he is told, "You have to die." He protests, "I don't want to die. I love this world. I like to feel the sun on my face, and the cool rain. I like our dear human ways. I love the faces of my wife and children. I've lived here a long time. I don't want to die." But he does die to this world and is born into the next.
He will awaken to find himself young again. Loving faces will greet him; loving hands will touch him. More beautiful sunlight will surround him; sweeter music will sound in his ears. All tears will be wiped from his eyes, and he will say "Why was I so afraid of this thing called death, when, as I now know, it is life?"
This parable helps us understand something of what God means when He tells us, "Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, it hasn't entered into the heart (imagination) of man what God has prepared for those who love Him." (I Cor. 2:9; Is. 64:4; 65:17).
Norman Vincent Peale, Favorite Stories of Positive Faith, pages 173-174 (Foundation For Christian Living Publishers), submitted by Warren Dane, Chaplain, USAF, Rantoul, IL.
NO RESURRECTION KNOW?
Shall man alone, for whom all else revives,
No resurrection know? Shall man alone,
Imperial man! be sown in barren ground.
Less privileged than grain, on which he feeds? Edward Long
IF EASTER MEANS ANYTHING If Easter means anything to modern man it means that eternal truth is eternal. You may nail it to the tree, wrap it up in grave clothes, and seal it in a tomb; but "truth crushed to earth, shall rise again." Truth does not perish; it cannot be destroyed. It may be distorted; it has been silenced temporarily; it has been compelled to carry its cross to Calvary's brow or to drink the cup of poisoned hemlock in a Grecian jail, but with an inevitable certainty after every Black Friday dawns truth's Easter Morn.
Donald Harvey Tippet, Pastor
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THE SUNDAY AFTER EASTER If you had gone to the Upper Room in Jerusalem on Good Friday night you would have found, we read, the door shut and barred 'for fear of the Jews.' Inside were eleven despairing, humilated, trembling men. Life was over for them. Their world had crashed in upon them. They had hoped Jesus would have been the Messiah to redeem Israel. He had promised so much. His words had been so fair, his deeds so gracious. They had believed him. And now he was dead and they were stuck there, deluded, frightened fools, and in real danger from those who had put their Master to death.
But suppose you had gone back to the same house a week later. The windows would have been open, the doors unbarred. Through them you might well have heard laughter and the singing of joyous psalms, and, had you listened closely, you might have heard the plans of those who, within a few weeks of the murder of Christ, were preaching his Gospel and declaring his risen glory. You might have said to a friend, "We must have come to the wrong house!?" But no, something had happened. Almost everything in the world was different. It was after Easter.
Leslie Wetherhead, "The Sunday After Easter," Twenty Centuries of Great Preaching, Vol. XI, page 120. Submitted by Arthur Peterson, First Christian Church, Lake Butler, FL.
TRYING TO RESURRECT HAMLET The Manchester Guardian once ran a literacy contest which involved writing a new ending for Shakespeare's famed tragedy Hamlet. Contestants were to present a synopsis for "a better last act." All of the contestants kept Hamlet alive, and some had the heroine return after her death.
In the revisions, they said that she had only been in a trance, or that she had been feigning death to see if Hamlet really loved her. Each of the entries involved some artful device to insure a perfect happy ending.
And now who can say that the TV show Dallas was being original in having Bobby Ewing come back to live by having the whole previous year of the show, including Bobby's death being a part of Pam Ewing's dream. The resurrection of Christ from the dead was not a rewritten or trick ending. It was the real thing!
Adapted from Paul Tan's, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations, page 1144.
IMPLICATIONS OF THE EASTER MESSAGE A man named George was accustomed to driving his wife, Rosie, to church every Sunday. George and Rosie had been married for forty years and they loved each other deeply. They did everything together. They were inseparable in practically every area of their life — except one. When George drove his wife to church Rosie went in and George remained in the car, reading his newspaper. Rosie died, and for many Sundays thereafter, church members looked wistfully at the parking lot because George's car was no longer seen there. Several months later, on Easter Sunday, George's car again appeared, and George went into church. The preacher delivered a stirring resurrection sermon and then, as was his custom, invited the members of the congregation to respond. Whereupon, George stood up and with deep emotion said firmly, "Rosie lives!" Then he began to sing "My wild Irish Rose / the sweetest flower that grows ..." One person joined in, then another, and another. Finally everyone present was joyfully singing what someone later describes as "The most beautiful Easter hymn ever sung in our church."
James Colaianni, ed., Sunday Sermons, Vol. 1, page 137 (Voicings Publications,
NO MORE FEAR OF THEM The Easter message tells us that our enemies, sin, the curse and death, are beaten. Ultimately they can no longer start mischief. They still behave as though the game were not decided, the battle not fought; we must still reckon with them, but fundamentally we must cease to fear them any more. Karl Barth, Dogmatics In Outline, Harper and Row
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EASTER FOR THE SORROWING
Last Easter when my voice was lifted up
To sing the praises of my Risen Lord, I had not tasted sorrow's bitter cup;
The music held for me no minor chord. This Eastertide my stricken heart sends up
The strains I lift in accents clear and strong, For I have drained the dregs of sorrow's cup
And learned the meaning of the Easter song. I know the sweetness of the minor chord,
The glory of the major full and clear; I know the power of the Risen Lord —
He lives, and they shall live whom I hold dear. And though I cannot help the tears that flow,
And though my heart is sad as heart can be, I sing the Easter song because I know
The blessed Easter message is for me.
Zula Evelyn Coon Sourcebook of Poetry, Al Bryant, ed., page 269.
THAT IS THE DIFFERENCE A Christian missionary was being challenged by a very sincere Mohammedan inquirer. He insisted, "You know, when we Mohammedans go to Mecca, at least we can find the coffin of Mohammed, our great prophet. But when you Christians visit Palestine, all you find is an empty grave."
The missionary, not at all disturbed by this pointed argument, merely suggested: "That is just the difference. Mohammed is dead and still in his casket. All other religious leaders are dead; but Jesus Christ, whose kingdom includes all nations and all races of different colors, is not in a Palestinian grave. He is risen from the dead and lives and rules forever." It was this faith that filled the early disciples.
From Illustrations for Preaching by Benjamin Browne, submitted by Charles Kreig,
St. Joseph's Seminary, Princeton, NJ.