Comment from Ken:
Please know I welcome your comments after our walk. If you have a something you would like me to consider for our walk, please let me know by replying at the end of our walk. It is my hope that all of you who walk with me may know the joy and peace but also the comfort and strength of our Savior.
“1Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
5Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
5There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.”
Last Saturday morning, the day before Easter when I opened my eyes, I found that our bedroom was spinning around and around. Oh, No! I thought to myself, here I go with another bout of vertigo. It took me quite a while to bring my eyes to focus on a distant point and to stop the hectic swaying of the furniture in the room. Now if this pastor was a man who had partied the night before, then he might have deserved that unsteady Saturday morning world, but that was not the case. My vertigo never seems to have a particular cause; it just suddenly comes upon me, and I have to deal with it and its effects.
When I told Dale how I was feeling, and, truthfully, I was feeling rather sorry for myself, Dale answered me by stating wasn’t it a relief I did not have Easter Service responsibilities. Her statement brought back many memories. From my very first Easter Sunday as a pastor in the year 1960, I have been concerned what I would do if I suddenly became ill on the Saturday before Easter. In fifty-seven years, I have never missed preaching on an Easter Sunday. For all those years, there has been the pressure of writing and preaching a sermon on the most important Sunday in the Christian Calendar. God walked with me all of those Sundays giving me strength even if I felt ill. This year for the first time in all those years, it was ok if I did not feel well for I was not leading an Easter Sunday worship service.
As the day progressed, I felt better than when I had awakened in the morning but I still fought some resulting nausea. That afternoon sitting in a very comfortable chair in our living room (a spot that brings peace and quiet and even unsuspecting sleep), I turned on our television and guess what show was on “the tube?” On PBS, it was the Lawrence Welk Show.
Never in all my life do I remember ever, ever watching a Lawrence Welk Show all the way to the end. No, Dale’s mother and father loved that show; my mother and father watched that show – I never had any desire to watch that show and either removed my self from the room if not alone, or changed the station if I was.
I have not even greeted you today, and I ask you to forgive me. It is much cooler than Easter Day, isn’t it? It has become cloudier and cloudier as the day has gone on, but I am sure we will not have it rain on us on our walk. Amazing isn’t it, that the forsythia suddenly came into blossom overnight? What a surprise here in New Hampshire to have spring come upon us so quickly after so much snow this winter? It seems as if the daffodils and crocus just jumped up out of the frozen earth overnight. Thinking spring would not come for a long time, it has been a revelation to have it arrive so quickly.
My Uncle Warren who lived in Barrington, New Hampshire would say that snow always disappeared in that community during the second week of April. Indeed, I remember going to my father’s farm in that community during the first week of April and walking into the farm in knee-deep snow. The very next week when I travelled to the farm, I drove down into the valley in my automobile; there was no snow left. You say you wish me to get back to the Lawrence Welk Show? Well, if you insist.
The show was wonderful. I cannot believe I just made that statement. I was feeling very low because of my vertigo. As Dale later suggested I also might have felt not so well for it was the first time in all these years that I had not led a Maundy Thursday, Good Friday or Easter Service. Whatever the reason, the Lawrence Welk Show changed my mood from “rather sad” to “rather more than joyful.” That show brought back memories of Easter over the years. They sang Tiptoe Through The Tulips, two accordionists played a polka, a choir sang a beautiful religious hymn, a song of Mary was sung, and there was tap dancing and ballroom dancing. The men and women were dressed in their Easter best, and with that old-fashioned show, came memories of happiness and a revitalization of what Easter has meant over the years.
I turned the volume way up; Dale was cooking and baking in the kitchen all kinds of wonderful things for Easter dinner. Dale began to smile and to enjoy that show just as I did. Easter used to mean new clothes and once upon a time –women’s Easter hats, little girls with bonnets and Easter baskets, little boys dressed in new suits – perhaps even having a homburg hat like their dad’s. There would be Easter dinner with lamb or ham and all kinds of cookies and chocolate Easter eggs. On Easter Sunday, churches would be crowded with people you might not see all year long who would attend church on Easter.
One time, I had a man say to me, “Do not give those who are not regular attendants at church a message of condemnation on Easter, but give them the beauty and hope of the Christian faith.”
I listened to that man and made sure in the future that the message of Easter was always welcoming to all.
Being part of a large family with seven children, Easter afternoon was a great family time. It was made even greater because of the many uncles and aunts who came to visit. My father was one of nine, and my mother was one of six. Our home would be filled with relatives celebrating the day together. It was a time when so many miles did not separate families as they do today. Most of my aunts and uncles and cousins lived in communities in easy reach of each other. Ordinary Sundays could be a time of gathering in the afternoon and having a Sunday evening supper together. How I wish it could be more that way today – families together on Sunday evenings and especially together on Easter Sunday afternoon.
One of our organists at Candleberry Chapel is Scott Pires. If you know Scott, you know how much his family does and has meant to him. From the time he was a small boy, he learned how to play the piano. On Sunday afternoons, his family would gather together, and he would play hymns for the members of his family. His family members would join him in singing. If you have attended a service at Candleberry Chapel, you would recognize Scott’s voice for he sings hymns with force and strength. If Scott is at Chapel, you know a hymn will be sung with gusto and with faith and love.
Scott sent me a picture of his family who would gather together on a Sunday afternoon. That picture of so many people reminds me so much of my own family. No, we did not have a Scott to lead us in hymns, but what wonderful times we had when several of our families gathered together for a Sunday supper.
Do you think we can ever bring that kind of love and fellowship back to a family in our modern age? Perhaps technology, which can be a curse but also a blessing, will bring us back together again. Our son Kenneth speaks of conferences that take place in New York where with a television screen and video, you find yourself sitting around a large table with many others. Even though miles separate the people at the conference, they are seated right before you. Perhaps the joy of family gatherings on a Sunday night might return to us; how wonderful that would be because today the family might be scattered, but tomorrow, we may be gathered together again. So may that be.
But wait just a minute – we will definitely be gathered together again. That is the whole meaning of Easter. It may not be in this life that we have that family gathering, but Jesus promises a banquet when we pass away. Jesus promises that at the end of life He brings us to an everlasting kingdom – a place where we walk with our Lord and with our family members who have been separated from us by the passing of life on this earth to a new life.
I love life here; this pastor has much to live for. But when God calls and in the hope of forgiveness, I will see my Lord, my mother and father, my son, my brother and sister, my aunts and uncles. Oh how wonderful when we gather round as angels of God and sing together with new heavenly voices “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today, Hallelujah!”
Loving God, help us this day to renew our fellowship within our families. Help us to overlook those things that have divided us and help us to gather in peace and love. As those who gathered around the piano when Scott played hymns for his family, may we gather around our loving Savior with hymn of gratitude, thanksgiving and joy for Christian forgiveness, love, and inner peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
See you soon for another walk – “May the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other. Amen.