Plymouth Congregational Church

God for All

Resurrection Sunday

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Please note that this blog post is coming a week after Easter, Resurrection Sunday. We, here at Plymouth, and I personally, hope that you will gain as much meaning as on the actual day. God bless.

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The sun was rising into the early morning, dewy sky. Cotton ball clouds ambled past carelessly casting a breeze ruffling hair. The smell of spring scented the cement path that leads into the historic church, sitting silently at the corner waiting for the local delivery to arrive. Parishioners rose early this great morning to attend the 8am sunrise service while others stealthily entered closer to 9am to share a potluck breakfast.

Upon entering I was immediately taken by Pastor Bill’s congregation. Though our usual masses are sparse, this first service of the day was particular minimal. Yet, Bill, he could preach to empty pews with the same zealousness as a packed house. Nothing falters, and nothing is left to guess. It’s all or nothing. And the final song, Christ Arose, made the rafters shake. Though not our wonderful church’s rendition, with the brass and brethren, still a great listen:

Christ Arose

Lyrics ~ Robert Lowry, 1826 – 1899

Music ~ Robert Lowry, 1826 – 1899

Low in the grave He lay,
Jesus my Savior,
Waiting the coming day,
Jesus my Lord!

Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes,
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Vainly they watch His bed,
Jesus my Savior;
Vainly they seal the dead,
Jesus my Lord! 

Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes,
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose! 

Death cannot keep its prey,
Jesus my Savior;
He tore the bars away,
Jesus my Lord!

 Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes,
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!

As the feast of the Resurrection began, joyful conversation rose up to the ears of God while bellies bulged from the amazing creations shared by all. Children laughed and played. Adults greeted others in warm embrace. And I felt love warming every inch of my being. I would have chosen no other place to be than that shabby little white farm church on the side of a road.

As part of the conversation the discussion of communion arose. Bill welcomes everyone, who accepts Christ into their lives, to partake in communion. To do that, with the heavily fluctuating attendance can be a bit of a challenge. I suppose that Bob is learning to gauge attendance rather well as he felt confident, upon taking his seat at 10:30, that his mark of 45 was fairly accurate. However, there are always those who just cannot seem to get anywhere early, which threw Bob for a bit of a loop. The house not only exceeded 45 but in truth I do believe that Christmas service did not have as many parishioners as today. It was a wonderfully full house, and what a blessed day to have this experience at Plymouth, the one that Bill brings, through the glory of God and the power of conviction.

Another element is involving as many of the congregants into each weeks service as possible, and on this Sunday there were many. From a variety of readings to each musician offering their own spiritual journey, sharing it with all who were able to venture out this glorious Easter Sunday.

One particular reading is worthy of retelling. Beth and Melissa stood, respectfully, in front of all and shared these word:

Okay. It’s Easter, and here’s what you can expect today. At some point, in the next hour or so, somebody will stand up here and say “Jesus is not dead. He was dead. But, he’s not dead anymore.”

 I’m just warning you. It goes with the territory. You can expect it. Just like you can expect to hear the National Anthem before the first pitch, or “Happy Birthday” before you make a wish and blow out the candles.

 “NOT DEAD”.

Somebody is going to say it. I mean, come on. It’s Easter. That’s what we’re supposed to say on Easter. “Jesus is not dead.”

 But, here’s a question. Is it true, this “Jesus-Is-Not-Dead” stuff, or is it just something we say?

 I mean, really…that’s a pretty important question, don’t you think?

 See, the way I figure it, nobody is just sitting here today. Everybody in this auditorium is rolling the dice.

If the “Not-Dead-Jesus” stuff is a nice saying, but it’s really not true, well, this is one colossal waste of time. We’d do just as well to sing a rousing rendition of the National Anthem and call it a day. Or better yet, we should have just skipped all this, and slept in, or gone to play golf, or beat the line to the brunch at our favorite restaurant. Because if it’s not true…I mean REALLY TRUE…this “Not-Dead-Jesus” stuff, then all of this…this sitting around and singing songs and listening to a preacher talk…all of this has about as much significance as blowing out the candles and making a wish.

On the other hand, if it is true, the “Not-Dead-Jesus” stuff, well just imagine the possibilities.

Jesus.

Not Dead.

I mean, REALLY. No kidding, “In-the-ground-dead-and- buried-for-three-days-the-funeral’s-over-and-the-casseroles-are-all-eaten-but-now-all- of-a-sudden-he’s-up-and-walking-around-better-than-ever-NOT-DEAD”.

Whew. I mean, what do you do with a guy like that?

Here’s an idea. A guy like that…

 You listen to Him.

 And when He says, “I’m God,” you say, “I’d bet my life on it.”

 And when He says, “I love you,” you say, “Wow“.

 And when He says, “You’d do well to worship me,” you say, “I’ll sing in whatever key You want.”

 If it’s true, the “Jesus-Is-Not- Dead” stuff…well…here’s an idea. Kick up your heels. Sing to the rafters. Celebrate like you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

 Just a thought.”

Each week, just before Sunday school, Pastor Bill speaks to the children. He’s very good at being creative with his lessons, and comical. The children not only adore Pastor but it is apparent they are all extremely comfortable in his presence. His wanting to reach them, well, he can rest assured he’s done just that, and probably even more. The children never shy away from speaking up around Pastor. Even if the answer is not accurate Bill has a grace about him that allows for correction and educating that so many of us miss.

So today he spoke of, obviously, the resurrection. And the kids hung on each of his words. Trying to understand how Jesus could walk from his grave after 3 days and how Mary did not recognize Jesus until he spoke her name. What everyone could understand was that no matter where they were, as long as they believe, Jesus will live in their hearts. And they blissfully skipped off to Sunday school with a special “eggy” twist (thanks to Michelle for thinking ahead to plan such fun, children related, activities).

How is it that children can be so easily convinced, as well as reminded, that Jesus exists while the rest of us so quickly send doubt riddled with questions and challenges?

But, here’s a question. Is it true, this “Jesus-Is-Not-Dead” stuff, or is it just something we say?

Children are not dumb. In many respects I think they are smarter than us adults. They have this innocence about them that allows for flexibility in opinions that is heavily reduced, as we grow older, more cynical. I really believe that God is so much closer to children and that they can teach us adults how to believe and behave. Maybe not always as the teacher’s but often times they really seem to hit a mark of importance that we, as adults, seem to lose.

Anyway, after Pastor finished his talk, and us, as adults got to laugh out loud at some of the antics on stage, they skittered off leaving Pastor with all of us. Waiting. Silence floating above our heads, we wait eagerly for what Bill has this morning.

I, particularly, sit hopeful that he’ll pick up his bible and the little gleam of white edged paper will catch my eye so I can dully serve him with my blog recap. I knew I was in big trouble when I looked in the bulletin for the day to see Corinthians and he started preaching from John. My Cheshire grin was probably unnoticed by many, but the eye contact with Bill, that brief moment of, “Really? Again?” I’m sure was delivered. I have said it before, and I’ll say it again, you cannot keep a good preacher to a script; and Bill is not only good, he is excellent. I never walk from the church feeling like I’m going to burn in Hell, but rather like I can do something good with my life, even if I only started today. And that is more powerful in learning to love God’s reign than scaring the dickens out of a person, in my humble opinion.

On this day, and the day when the resurrection comes again with our loved ones, all our church names (and denominations) will mean so little. Catholic and Baptist, Muslim and Jewish will rise together to walk forth (and stand before the judgment seat of Christ). Taken a bit out of Bill’s context, but to use his words, we could be called the church of What’s Happening Now. (I will admit I had a flashback to the old 70s TV show What’s Happening. Even more interesting, is that one of the character’s was named Rerun.)

John 5:28-29 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.

Imagine if this happened today. If God sent his messengers to Earth and rose the dead from their graves, as Jesus was risen from his, to walk among those who have not passed, to rise to eternal life or be condemned for their actions.

 

How would you respond?

Would you be so doubtful as Mary Magdalene

when she found Jesus’ tomb empty of his body?

 

I think I’d have a little Zombies Take Manhattan moment of absolute panic. I’d need some reassuring hand to rest on my shoulder letting me know that they are not going to suck my blood, or whatever zombies are suppose to do to a person, but that they are rising to meet our Father. And that this is the day of, what, what do we call this day? Reckoning? Apocalypse?  Today is the day that has nothing to do with karma but everything to do with the real intentions of our actions as people.

Will you rise and live?

Or be condemned?

 

What will the choices you’ve made in your life,

Your intentions, bring on that final day?

Pastor Bill, “So imagine if you were there, with Mary Magdalene, and walked into that place where Jesus was buried to see an empty tomb.

Mary, she would walk, to see Jesus, and if she were like any other mother I know, would be screaming and wailing for her child. Could you imagine any of the mother’s you know, to stand silently, without a tear, nobly by watching what happened to Jesus happen to their child? I don’t know a single one.

Bill’s main purpose this Sunday morning was to not necessarily talk to us, but to educate us as only Bill can. He gave scenario’s, acted out the story from Mary’s perspective. With shouting, and tears, but always filled with passion and humility. His respect for the story and the meaning behind God’s grace will never be questioned. He serves God well.

Here I offer our conclusion. The story of the Resurrection, as taken from the bible using a bit of today’s technology so I don’t miss something of importance. Enjoy and may God forever walk in your favor.

John 20

The Empty Tomb

 1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

Pastor Bill, Picture Mary now, somberly entering the tomb to find it empty. Panicked, she turns to the guards, or to Peter, and begs them to tell her where they’ve moved Jesus. Before the disciples should even arrive can you imagine Mary running down the streets. Skirts flying behind here. Out of breath as she enters the house yelling, “He’s not there!” Can you picture her?”

 3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

 11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

 13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

   “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

 15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

   Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

   She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

 17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

 18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

 19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Jesus Appears to Thomas

 24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

   But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

 26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

 29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The Purpose of John’s Gospel

 30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

And that is the story of the resurrection. To have the full effect that only a story teller, a rabboni, such as Bill tell it, you must join us, or become a member of our Facebook family (https://www.facebook.com/groups/57140465856/ – Plymouth Congregational Church, Plainfield) to have some of the experience, but truly never the same as live and in person.

At the end of the day, Pastor Bill, had us sing one of my favorite hymnals – Christ Arose. Listening to his voice rise above the brass quintet was truly a spiritual journey to behold.

 

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Author: bkbites

Stay at home Mom of 3 boys, 1 goofy dog, 2 wickedly crazy cats, and a traveling husband. Ah, what can be better? It's a full life without a doubt.

One thought on “Resurrection Sunday

  1. Thank you, Beth, for keeping the memory of an amazing Easter service alive!

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