COMMENT FROM KEN AND DALE: May your Easter Day be filled with hope and love with your family and others as we celebrate eternal life -through Jesus Christ our Lord.
SCRIPTURE: John 20: 18 – 20 (edited)
18Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples
that she had seen the Lord, and that He had
spoken these things to her.
19Then, the same day at evening, being the
first day of the week, when the doors were shut where
the disciples were assembled,
Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
20When He had said this, He showed them His hands
and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they
saw the Lord.
It is Thursday afternoon, and it is rather cold here in Hopkinton, New Hampshire. Spring is trying hard to truly arrive, but among some nice sunny warmer days, we have also had days when it is raw and cold. The temperature here is 43 degrees, but with the sun not shining, it does not take long for your fingers to grow stiff in the cold air.
This week has had so many up and downs for not just me, but for all of us. Here it is Maundy Thursday with Easter soon to come, and our world seems to need the message of those two events, Jesus’ last supper and His resurrection. Evil still seems to have a strong hold on society, and society needs to find a strength in the hope and promise of our Christian faith.
This pastor loves to listen to old time radio. It brings me back to the time when I was growing up when the world seemed more ordered and, maybe, even more sane. Perhaps that is a strong word but the sanity of our nation and world certainly seem to be called to question.
One of my favorite programs when I was a child was the Great Gildersleeve. We listened to it as a family gathered together. This week they played an Easter version of the program. It began with the nephew Leroy asking his uncle where to find the twenty- third Psalm in the Bible. Throckmorton did not have a clue so he skirted the issue until he could visit with his pastor. The pastor helped him out, and Mr. Gildersleeve did not have to admit his ignorance of the Bible. It was decided that the pastor would come to his home and hold a small Holy week service. Leroy’s uncle read the passage of the crucifixion and then part of the Easter Message. The family sang a hymn together. It was difficult to imagine that this program could have been sent over the airwaves to the homes of my childhood. And then to even amaze me more, as old-time radio includes the dated sponsors, the sponsor encouraged people to attend church and to celebrate the Christian faith. Do we ever hear such a suggestion on radio or television today? We only hear that message on religious programming, certainly not in our secular world.
Listening to that program made me appreciate the age I had grown up in – an age of home and family and faith. It was the time of the Second World War, and it was a time when we needed our religious faith – a faith that now seems to be attacked and ignored by so many.
Also, this week I (we) witnessed the burning of the church Notre Dame in Paris, France. Was not that a terrible thing to watch? The burning of a church or holy place always causes for those of faith a sinking, hopeless kind of feeling. To watch that magnificent edifice glow bright with flames reaching across its roof and spire was a devastating experience. Then we watched with horror as the central spire fell to earth. It appeared that nothing could stop those flames. We did not see at first any fire personal fighting the fire. The flames uncontrollable until they caused the roof stricture to weaken and fall. How could anyone even those not of the Christian faith not be heart sick at the happening of seeing a church roof crumble to ashes? The cruel flames destroyed much of a structure that had stood for eight hundred years and survived revolution and wars?
So many questions about the beginning of the fire. What started it? Had there been preparations for fire prevention as the renovation of that church was taking place? Years ago, there was a fire in the church of Notre Dame in Fall River Massachusetts. That church burned to the ground. They were repairing copper gutters, huge gutters two feet deep and two feet wide and a spark started the fire that could not be contained among the roof rafters. That might not have been the case in Paris, yet it was in Fall River. I wondered if fire extinguishers were available among those rafters where the repairs might have been taking place.
Some years before, I served South Church in Concord, New Hampshire. There had been a fire in the steeple hit by lightning. No apparatus in Concord was able to reach the flames. The hoses streaming water shot as high as they could so the rest of the church was spared; the top of the spire burned itself out and feel to the ground.
When I was pastor in that church, my associate Jack Bixby happened to be down in the cellar of South Church and found a light bulb that had burned its way into a carrying timber. The wood had been charred out in the shape of that bulb. Had Jack not noticed it South church could have been destroyed. Many of our churches were built a hundred years ago, and their timbers are ever so dry – think of those timbers at eight hundred years old.
There is a novel, I believe it was The Spire by William Golding, where the sexton or caretaker of the church finds burning embers in the roof rafters. Always carrying an ax for just such a case, he cut out the burning embers and carried them out of the church in his arms. That story might well have been based on a happening years ago.
Yet, out of the tragedy of Notre Dame comes a bright ray of hope. Maybe even the ray of hope that nations are tied together by their sacred symbols. It seemed to me the sadness I felt at that awful conflagration was that MY church had been destroyed after so many years of its presence. The question – how many of the precious works of art and the symbols of our Christian faith had been rescued? Would the church be able to be rebuilt? And then came the voices of hope – yes, a human chain had saved many of the works of art and religious symbols. Almost greater still was the outreaching across the world to rebuild this Christian symbol. It did not matter if you were French or not – this was your church- regardless of your Catholic, Protestant, or, perhaps, even secular faith. A billion dollars they say has been pledged to rebuild Notre Dame.
The church I remember hearing about in French class in high school, the church attached to so much history will arise from ashes. Is this not the action of the Christian faith? The Christian is never without hope. In the darkest of hours, the Christian looks to his or her faith and finds hope and promise for the next day.
Tonight, is the night we remember the last days of Jesus our Lord. Tomorrow He will be crucified. Tomorrow He will die. But do not forget there is our Sunday to come. There is the resurrection of our Lord. Even at the time of death, we have the hope and promise of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Dear God, as our nation struggles in a time of political upheaval, as we witness an event as the fire in Notre Dame and the warring nature of so many societies, we will not give up hope. As our Savior dies, we know that He will live again. Hope, everlasting life, the triumph of good over evil all thanks to You our loving God: in Jesus’ name. Amen.
“And now may the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other,”