Comment from Ken: I would like you to meet a Christian who was there for a young pastor when he needed encouragement and understanding. I could not believe the number of worshippers on my First Easter when I walked through those church doors. I was both overjoyed and overwhelmed. Then came the next
Sunday, the Sunday after Easter.
Scripture: 42Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44Pilate marveled that He was already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him if He had been dead for some time. 45So when he found out from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. 46Then he bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen. And he laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. 47And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses observed where He was laid.
Molly, our puppy, now one year old, is sound asleep under my roll top desk. I have to be very careful if I move my feet not to step on her ear or give her a shoe toe to the nose. She is snoring for she is worn out. She attends day care on Friday and comes home exhausted after a day with three other dogs, Libby, Mac and Penny. All day long, they chase each other and play. By the time I pick Molly up in Hillsborough, she is ready to rest her head on the console of my truck and fall asleep.
When we arrived home this last Friday, Sue and Tim, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, were here to visit. Molly loves Tim. Running back and forth, back and forth to greet them both and watching all that was happening on our weekend, she has exhausted herself. It was really amusing when Tim and Sue were sitting beside each other on our sofa, and Molly kept barking at them. She was telling Sue she wanted to sit beside Tim, and when Sue got up, Molly jumped beside Tim and looked at him with worshiping eyes.
This weekend she also greeted people at Lowes and Home Depot as a part of her people acceptance training. Children, adults ,and any other person who saw her and was a lover of dogs stroked her. She acted perfectly. Hopefully in another couple of weeks, she will pass the Canine Good Citizen Test.
Dale and I are here in my study on a quiet Sunday afternoon with guests gone and Molly asleep. It is a fine time for me to visit with you on this Sunday after Easter.
There was a man I my very first church, Second Congregational Church of West Boxford, named Chester Leighton. Chester almost never attended church services but was seen in the church almost daily. He and his wife were the caretakers of the church. His wife knew that she helped him in his job as she saw the dust a man, according to her, and many other women would never see. Chester and his wife maintained our church beautifully and both of them had to put up with a young minister in his first church.
On Saturday evening, I would go over to the church and preach the sermon for that Sunday to an empty church; at least I thought it was empty. I learned later that Chester and his wife( I think her name was Evelyn but my memory might fail me) heard my sermon before anyone else. Both of them were so kind and wonderful to their new inexperienced pastor.
There was one evening in winter when it was snowing so hard and the wind was blowing so cold that our dark church looked not comforting or welcoming to a stranger or a traveller. The church was located on Route 133, not a busy route back then and certainly not well travelled on the night of a blizzard. Chester stopped by to make sure that the boiler was on and all was ok in the church; I was outside at the time he arrived. The floodlights on the church were only lighted on the weekends, and this was a weeknight. Feeling that any traveler passing by would be somewhat frightened by the storm and the snowy night, I asked Chester to reset the timer on the lights that they might shine on the darkened church on such a night. If the church was brightly lighted, in my mind anyway, the heart of a traveller would be warmed.
The sexton did not laugh at the thoughts of his new young pastor and his words; he just went inside the church and set the timers to remain on through the night. I thanked Chester, and as he left, I looked at my first church as its pastor and my whole being was warmed by the sight of that lighted church in the dark of that snow filled night.
Now why would I be thinking of Chester this weekend just after Easter? I am thinking of him for the only Sunday that Chester ever attended church was the Sunday after Easter. As he left church that first Easter I was in West Boxford, he told me when I inquired of his presence that the Sunday after Easter was the one Sunday he was most needed, and the one Sunday a pastor needed someone to attend services.
I cannot help but think of Joseph of Arimathea who took the body of our Lord and placed Him in his own tomb. Others had walked away from Jesus after his crucifixion but not Joseph, one of his believers. When others had deserted Him and the Savior was dead, Joseph was there when he was most needed. He was not one of the chosen disciples, but he was the one who loved the Lord. He had a beautiful burial place for Jesus when others had fled out of fear. Joseph tenderly lifted him from the cruel cross and placed him in a sacred garden.
The Sunday after Easter is always a difficult Sunday for a pastor and perhaps the whole congregation. Easter is such a high point in the church year that the next Sunday can feel empty and perhaps even a little despairing. It is so heartening to see a wonderful congregation, to hear beautiful “special music” and see the sanctuary so dressed up for the celebration of the Risen Christ. Good Friday is so sad. Maundy Thursday is witness to the tragic last supper of our Lord. Holy Saturday is an empty day of desolation for the Master is gone. Most all of us, except for perhaps the very youngest, have known the devastation of the day after someone has passed away. After those last days of Jesus, we need Easter Sunday – we need to see how the crowds have gone after the ways of the Lord – we need to be lifted to the comforting thoughts of eternity and seeing our God. Happy day is Easter and then the let down in so many ways of the Sunday after Easter. But think: after Easter there was Chester – reaching out to a pastor to say there are those who may not always express their faith, but when they are really needed, they as a thoughtful Christian are there. Chester was a Christian when a young, inexperienced pastor needed him most, the Sunday after an astounding first Easter service in service of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This retired pastor did not say anything to anyone about his wanting to be like Chester this morning, to be there when another pastor needed his presence. Last year, I was ill on Easter Sunday, and I could not make the service. All year long, it bothered me, and this year, I was able to attend services. I had important family obligations this weekend. For many years, my family was neglected because of my responsibilities in the church, but today, I wanted to be with my family, and so I chose not to attend church. But next year, I will be there for this year Chester came alive for me again. I wish he had attended every Sunday, but he was there when I needed him the very most. God love the Chesters, the Josephs that are there when another Christian needs them. His daily kindness and his attendance at service the Sunday after Easter will always be appreciated. I will think of Chester next year again when I attend church services the Sunday after Easter in 2019, God willing! Will you be there with me? I hope so!
Prayer: Dear God, we need to be a witness to our faithfulness each Sunday by attending worship regularly; yet, we also need to always be encouraging to our fellow Christians. Help us to know when we are truly needed and may we be supportive of our Christian brothers and sisters when they need encouragement and strength. Bless all those who love the Lord and seek to serve Him every day of the week. Amen.
“And now may the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other. Amen.”