Comment From Ken:
May your Easter Day be one that brings you and your family a deeper faith, a quiet peace, and an increasing love of God, our Father, and His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Remember, Jesus joins us on our walk every single day.
11But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. 12And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
Yes, I know I am late again for our walk. I’m sorry that I did not meet you yesterday, but once more, I seem to be very busy on Tuesdays. Yesterday I had an interesting appointment at Hannaford’s Market. It was an appointment through a Wellness program at Concord Hospital. Once a month, there is a dietitian who will take a small group of people through the store to show them how to make good choices so that one might have less fat and sodium in one’s diet.
Now that I have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, it is important that I watch my sodium intake very carefully. So goodbye to most canned soups and tomato juice and pretzels. This has been necessary for me to accept. Truly, I do not wish to wake up again some morning unable to breathe so I am working hard, but probably not quite hard enough, to live with dietary restrictions. With Easter dinner on the horizon and ham dinners being one of my favorite meals, I am going to have to behave myself. (Well, somewhat any ways.)
This will be the first Easter in fifty-seven years that I have not preached or led an Easter Service. It will be the first time in almost as many years that I have not been a part of a Maundy Thursday Evening Communion Service. And on Good Friday, I have always wandered over to the church I was serving for a few moments of serious reflection on the death of our Savior. But in retirement I will still be celebrating the wonderful resurrection of our Lord and His promise to us that He will open the gates of Paradise for us.
The first Easter service I conducted was held in West Boxford, Massachusetts on April 17, 1960. That first Easter in West Boxford overwhelmed me. I was used to a rather small congregation, and then on that Easter Sunday, there were over ninety people in attendance. When I walked through the church doors and entered the sanctuary, an Easter joy certainly filled my heart. The congregation sang the familiar Easter hymns in a volume I had not heard before in my new church. When the service was concluded, there was a sense of “awe” – a knowledge that the Risen Christ had been in our presence.
My parents were married on Easter Sunday April 17, 1927 in the parsonage of The First Baptist Church in Medford, MA. When I asked Dale to marry me, I asked her if we could be married on the 17th of April in 1988 to which she agreed. I wanted to be married then so our marriage might be as happy and as lasting as my mother’s and father’s.
Some are walking with us this morning that have not been a part of Candleberry Chapel so they would not know Rebecca. She is the pastor who will lead the Chapel services on Easter Day. Knowing Rebecca, it is this pastor’s prayer and hope that she will feel the same joy I did when I preached my first Easter sermon.
My second Easter Sermon was preached in The Union Congregational Church in North Reading, Massachusetts. That became a church of just under a thousand members. Back in the year of 1962 or 3, sixteen hundred people attended Easter Sunday services there in Union Church. There was a congregation in the sanctuary, Putnam Hall, our recreational hall, and in our chapel. We did not have televised services back then so people sat and listened to the service over loud speakers. My, how Easter Services have changed today.
Over the years since North Reading, I have always hoped that those days of great church attendance would return. On one Easter several years ago when the day was warm and beautiful, I thought perhaps the churches would be filled with worshippers once more. To my disappointment, I found that rather than the churches being filled on that Easter Day, the beaches were the places where most people were found. Indeed, in many ways, the most well attended time of year in the church is no longer Easter but the Christmas Season. Christmas should be a time of high attendance at services for Christmas is the birth of our Savior; but Easter is of equal importance for it is the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and His promise to us that we are so loved by God that we too are welcomed into God’s kingdom in Heaven.
There is nothing in this life that shatters us more than the loss of a person we have deeply loved. One does not really know loss until one experiences the death of a person who has been close to you. When one suffers such a loss, the pain continues day after day for a long period of time. One begins to learn that time and belief in God can be the only healers of a wounded heart.
My mom could be very difficult at times. She wished to see me more often than she did. With her and my dad living in Lynnfield, Massachusetts and me living on the other side of Boston, it was difficult to find the time to go out and to visit. After all, I had six children and a large church to serve, and there never seemed to be enough time to do all the things I needed and wanted to do. When I did visit my mother at times, she would be so antagonistic that I would tell her maybe I should go back home. Then she would soften her words, and we would have a nice visit. Did that ever happen to you when you visited your mother? Have you had times when you were scolded by your mother for not spending enough time with her? Then my mom suddenly was taken from her family, from me. One day she was there, and the next she was gone.
That day after being with my father, my brothers, and sisters, I returned home across Boston. I could hardly see the road. My tears would not stop falling from my eyes and clouded my vision. During that ride, I knew just how much I had loved my mother, and how I should have tried to be more attentive.
For a long time, I would drive to the cemetery where she is buried in Wayland, Massachusetts, and I would say, “ Here I am mom, visiting you.” There was a terrible emptiness inside of me. Then there came what I might call the Easter Experience. On a beautiful sunshine day in the springtime, I went to the cemetery and stood by my mom’s resting place. I quietly said once more, “ I’m here to visit, mom.” It was then that I looked up at the blue sky, the trees with new leaves, and felt the warm sun. It was then I heard my mother say, “ I’m ok, Kenny, don’t worry about me. I’m ok.” My heart became filled with the love of Jesus Christ and His promise to us. With all my being, I would rather know my mother was safe in Paradise than have Paradise granted to me. And yet for all my unworthiness, Jesus tells me one day I will greet my mother again – not just my mother, but all those who have left this earth that I have known.
This is my worry about the modern day generation. We need to bring the Easter hope to the world, for without it, life becomes a materialistic battleground – get what you can in the here and now for there is not a tomorrow. Life without the hope of Easter becomes a self-centered selfish existence. With Easter, life becomes a journey of making the world a more loving place for all people because the Christian will sacrifice self interest for the common good of humanity.
We Christians may not always be as faithful as we should be, but underneath, we have a promise that life is not in vain, life is not just a transient dream. No life is where we build a soul worthy of eternity. The love we have for God and for those around us does not perish but continues on after this worldly life is over.
As my mother spoke to me that day and showed me the reality of Easter, I pray that you also may know that joy and comfort that Easter brings to the one who has lost and sorrowed for a loved one. Until we meet again for our walk – may Easter hope, peace, and joy be with you.
Dear God, we give overflowing thanks from our hearts this day for the life, death and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus. Thank You for turning death into new daylight, despair into hope, and hopelessness into joy. Cause each one of us to remember our Christian faith and to bring that wonderful gift which was brought to us to others as well. In quietness and love, may others see in our eyes and faces the calmness and peace that comes through our belief in our Risen Savior, in His name. Amen.
I’ll look for you soon again. May you walk with the love of Jesus Christ and until we walk again –
“May the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other.”