I pray that your Easter was a joyous one as we celebrated the new life Jesus makes possible for us by rising on Easter morning.
Well, Easter is over. The Easter baskets filled with assorted candies, chocolate bunnies, and jelly beans have been devastated. Hopefully the count of colored Easter eggs scattered about the house, hidden but not too hidden, is accurate and there are no hidden bombs to be discovered weeks or months from now. Oh, and Easter worship services have been attended faithfully by the whole family. We can go back to things as usual.
The basket grass will be vacuumed up, leftover ham turned into soup (mine will be split pea), and if too many colored eggs are left over (we will, since no kids are here & we still color eggs — Yes, I color eggs. They taste better colored.), we can always make egg salad. Once the colored shell is removed, they are, after all, only hard boiled eggs. It’s almost sad when we describe the aftermath of Easter in these terms. That’s really a shame. I kind of like the glorious joy of Easter to hang around for a while and it should.
Easter is more than a day in the church calendar — it’s a season, seven weeks long and every Sunday is a little Easter of its own. The message of Easter resurrection is still very much evident in the lessons we will share each of those Sundays. No, as a pastor preaching I can’t keep the same high level of excitement that is connected to the worship of THE Easter morning celebrations. However, I sure don’t want the worship or sermon following Easter Sunday to support the unfortunate attitude ascribed by many to the Sunday after Easter as “let down Sunday” simply because the number of people showing up is somewhat diminished. I don’t want my enthusiasm for the message I am proclaiming to be any less energized or powerful. It’s still Easter and our Lord is risen indeed!
Okay, the colored eggs are changed into egg salad, but I like egg salad. It tastes good, even better than normal because the eggs were colored. It is satisfying and so are the messages of Easter visits by our Lord to a doubting Thomas or on the road or at a BBQ at the seashore. We need to hear those messages every bit as much as the word about an empty tomb or foot races to the place where Jesus was buried. He lives and because He lives we can live too.
Don’t be a “C & E” Christian. (For those unfamiliar with this term, it means Christmas and Easter, suggesting, only suggesting mind you, that there might possibly be some believers who only come to God’s house during these two special holidays.) I am quite confident you are not numbered among them. I invite you to God’s house this Sunday. I’m sure your pastor or priest is doing his or her best to keep the glorious joy of Easter alive. If you’re not sure, then I invite you to come to St. Paul in Bulverde because I’ll be doing my best to keep the energy level high.
Easter is far from being over. Join me for some egg salad.
Grace to you as we enter into a very special week. It is Holy Week. It starts with the Passion of our Lord as He enters the city of Jerusalem and culminates with an empty tomb on Easter Sunday. Talk about running the gauntlet.
In between the joyous shouts as Jesus rides into the city of “Hosanna! Glory to God in the highest!” and the even more powerful rejoicing that we can engage in today tied to the Easter message of “He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” are tones of a more somber nature. In between lies Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.
On Maundy Thursday, we usually focus on the instituting of the Lord’s Supper, transforming the Passover feast of remembering into the victory feast over the defeat of sin, death and the devil. This is an awesome thing. Unfortunately, it can cause us to miss out on the tremendous example of discipleship as Jesus washes the feet of the disciples that night. That’s a message we seldom hear enough — a message of humility and service we need to live by.
That day, usually quite well attended, is followed by what I have seen in my own experience, and heard about from fellow pastors, the most poorly attended service of the entire church year — Good Friday. Even though it is the completion of our long Lenten journey, as well as the final step before the celebration of Resurrection morning can occur, there is a reluctance for many Christians to stand before the cross of Christ. We do not want to see the full price that our Lord paid so that we could have the forgiveness of our sins. It grieves us, as well it should, because we sent Jesus to the cross. It was our sins He paid for and died for that day. We can talk about it during the year and we most certainly believe it, but we seem not to want see it or relive it.
I never cease to be amazed at how so many of us can skip over the powerful message of Good Friday and think we can full understand and appreciate the glorious declaration of Easter morning and Resurrection of Jesus or the promise of our own. This may be a lousy analogy, but it would be like hiding plain, white hard boiled eggs for children to find on Easter morning instead of the brightly and gaily colored eggs they eagerly seek out and collect in their baskets. Like the white eggs, we have a basic understanding of the Good Friday’s victory of Jesus on the cross, but it cannot be truly complete or achieve its full glory unless we stand at its foot with Mary, the mother of our Lord, John, the disciple whom He loved, and a centurion who declared “Truly, this man is the Son of God!”
I cannot urge and encourage you enough, please make worship on Good Friday a priority for your celebration of Easter Sunday. The bitter tears of sorrow that come forth when we see the suffering of our Lord on the cross will most certainly make way for tears of joy and happiness when we behold an empty tomb. I promise.
Have a blessed Easter. He is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
God’s blessings to all as, at long last, we return to spring.
It’s been busy this past weekend for the media as one group of elites after another has continued their attack and ridicule of our Christian faith. The talking heads of the media and entertainment (and I use that word loosely) industry persist in their open hostility of people of faith who acknowledge the “will of God” in how they make decisions and live their lives.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, I saw a piece of supposed “art” that called into question the faith of the president’s press secretary, as well as her appearance. Even the former Secretary of State blamed her failed presidential bid on white women who do not think for themselves, but vote only on how husbands, bosses, and even sons required them to vote. These are the same women who believe in God, cling to their Bibles in fly over country, and try to live according to that Word. They have become traitors to their womanhood in her eyes.
What is sad is that none of this surprises me. Jesus told those who would follow Him two thousand years ago that people who believe and trust in God, His will and grace, who follow Jesus as disciples living God’s truth, and those who do not conform to the world’s standard of what is right and wrong, would be persecuted. Not might be or could be, but would be persecuted.
As Christians, we are engaged in a war against the forces of evil and the devil, who is very real. Too many Christians don’t like to hear such talk, but it is true. It makes them uncomfortable. And it should. I suspect it was uncomfortable for Jesus to suffer the cross, the crown of thorns, and worse, the ridicule and rejection of His people.
With Holy Week and the cross of Good Friday soon to be upon us, we need to steel ourselves for the attacks of those who will not submit to the will of God and believe in the power of the cross to save. Our faith is meant to challenge us as we confront the attitudes of a sinful world. However, we never face them alone, for God is with us always. We declare the Resurrection message of forgiveness and life in God’s grace through Jesus Christ our Lord. There are countless souls in need to hear God’s Word of truth and salvation. We are the ones called to share that message and, more importantly, live it, so they can see the power of God.
We are blessed and live in the light of Easter’s Resurrection glory. Let’s do our part to help others share in that joy. God bless!
Grace to you in this new week.
I’ve known a great many pastors over the years. For a moment, I wish to reflect on two that I hold in the highest esteem. The first is a close partner in ministry here at St. Paul — Pastor Don Ofsdahl. He does most of the visitation for the congregation which allows me the chance to do all that I have to do as the senior pastor. Don is always right there. He still preaches, does weddings and funerals, and helps out other congregations with interim and supply work, just as he did prior to my coming to St. Paul.
This past week, Don’s grand-daughter’s husband was killed in a tragic automobile accident. Don will be doing the funeral on Thursday. Funerals are always challenging because the really good pastors invest a part of themselves into the families who have suffered the loss of a loved one. A part of them grieves too. But to do the funeral for one of your own family members makes it so much harder. I know. I did the funerals for my grandparents and my father and mother. Yet, I know Don will do a wonderful job because the Holy Spirit will guide him and give him the strength he needs so that, even amidst tears, the words of hope and God’s love will ring clear for all.
My prayers, and I hope yours too, are with him and the whole family at this difficult time. If it were not for Christ our Lord, what hope would any of us have; but, thanks be to God, Jesus is with us and He will be with Don and the family.
The second pastor is a friend and colleague of my days in Minnesota as both president and instructor at Beyond the River Academy. Pastor Warren Baker is a dynamo. He, too, is beyond the normal retirement age of many of our peers, like Pastor Don and even myself but, continues to work because of his love of the Lord. Last week, he ended up in the hospital and underwent surgery. Thankfully all went well and soon he will be up and at it again. It’s tough to keep a good man down. My prayers go out to Warren and his wife, Karen, on his recovery. The Holy Spirit will continue to watch over him and heal him for further service in God’s work, of this I am sure.
In becoming aware of these two special men and the challenges they face, I cannot help but think how blessed those of us called to serve as pastors are. This is probably a good thing, maybe even a God thing, because there is a growing shortage of pastors to serve in the church. Fewer people are going to the seminaries to learn the necessary skills. Being a parish pastor won’t make you rich in today’s world. In addition, congregations are dealing with fewer pastors being available to serve because the baby boomers are retiring and their numbers are not being replaced. Fortunately, people like Don and Warren will continue to serve the church in whatever capacity God has for them as long as they have the strength and ability to do so. They love the Lord and can’t think of anything else they would rather do. I feel the same. Such people are a blessing to us all.
I just wanted you to know how special people like Pastor Don and Pastor Warren are for the church and to me personally. It is a privilege to work with them and count them as dear friends and partners in ministry.
Have a great week and keep them in your prayers.
Greetings to all in this new month of March. Barring a little rain and some cool temperatures, March hasn’t come roaring in like a lion, but something has -- COLOR. I can see!
To be more specific, I’m half way through cataract surgery. The right eye is seeing clearer than I’ve seen in more years than I can remember. It’s actually clearer than the eye wearing the glasses. And color! Wow! When I compare the two -- the right eye is bright and vibrant in what it sees, while the left eye is somewhat cloudy, dull and even a little grey. I can’t wait to get the other one done.
I make mention of this because it is very much like when I read and study a text in Scripture and it suddenly becomes clear with meaning and understanding. There is a new vibrant significance and clarity that wasn’t there before. It’s like having your own personal epiphany as the light comes on. What a feeling!
I’ve read, studied and explored God’s Word for almost 39 years as a pastor preparing sermons, writing Bible studies, teaching and lecturing. Sure, one does okay, but it’s exciting when the light comes on and you can see with understanding something you thought you understood but didn’t. You missed it without realizing it. Now, it’s there.
I can’t urge you enough to engage in your own study of God’s Word. But that is only the beginning. I have some of those special moments with the help of people around me in worship and classes. Just like my ophthalmologist, Allison, helps restore my sight, so others with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, can help, too, with their insights.
It’s worth the effort because seeing with your eyes or your soul is a pure joy. It’s a rush!
Pastor Lee R. Harder