Tag Archives: Easter

Something special about today

Yesteryear’s calendar …

Easter Sunday, April 11, 1982 — Preach sunrise service, Pilot Knob Baptist Church.

John 20:15-15Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

John 10:27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

That Easter sunrise service I preached 30 years ago didn’t use the text I just shared. (That morning the text was Philippians 3:7-11, focus on verse 10). But if I had an Easter message for 2012, the title, based on the above reading from the King James Version, would be something of a take-off on the reality music show, “The Voice.”

Growing up as a preacher’s kid, Easter was a big deal. Sure, it was the fancy-dress Sunday of the year, and the day when you saw people in church who you might be surprised to see in church. (No doubt they were surprised to see me, too.)

There were Easter eggs and a big meal, but nothing like the commercial exercise that accompanies Easter these days. I’m not sure I got an Easter basket as a kid, but I don’t feel slighted. Honestly, I didn’t understand the dyed eggs and what that had to do with Easter, because I knew that Easter Sunday was different – and it wasn’t about bunnies and eggs. I was taught from the earliest days that I can remember that Easter was a celebration of the resurrection of Christ. It was the one day and the one image – and empty tomb – that separated my faith from all others.

We might have attended or been part of some sunrise services, but I don’t recall starting that as a personal tradition until I was in high school, after my parents divorced and as I began finding my own way spiritually.

A friend and I sang regularly at the First Christian Church in Belle and I recall going there for one or two Easter sunrise services if only because the service was followed by Easter breakfast. By the time Kelly and I were married and had Kishia and Natasha, I was pastoring somewhere up until 2001. From 1992 to 2001, Easter sunrise service at Beulah Baptist Church just outside Belle was a dual breakfast feast and early service, just maybe not as early as sunrise. Easter Sunday.

The music, the attire, the sermon – everything just seemed a little extra special even if it was super formal; or early. Strange, I know, but some of the things I now miss most about my early childhood church experiences were the traditions, formality and structure of the church environment. I doubt I appreciated those elements at the time.

I don’t know what Easter traditions you hold dear. Perhaps none. I’ve got a number of atheist friends who scoff at Christians more on Easter than any other day. But I’m not swayed, sorry. Easter is real to me.

The empty tomb. The cross.

The Voice.

Some of the most vivid parts – in my mind – of the story of the passion of Christ:

– The rising tension in the upper room where Jesus and his disciples had the last supper. The knowing glance between Jesus and Judas Iscariot. The uneasy mix of sacred worship and nervous laughter as the disciples could sense something eternally profound was going to happen.

– Impulsive, knee-jerking Simon Peter, the one character with whom I most identify. “I will never leave you. I will never deny you!” Then the rooster crowing and the crushing conviction of betrayal, denial and abandonment – within just a few hours of the humble meal in the upper room.

– The risen Christ’s grace and forgiveness, extended to impulsive, knee-jerking Jodie J… I mean, Simon Peter.

– The unwritten account of the angels of Heaven prepared for battle, poised on the edge of Heaven, anxiously awaiting the Son’s call or for the Father to say, “Go get my son.” Instead … I imagine chaos among the heavenly host – “Hey, isn’t Someone going to stop this?” or “This can’t be happening!” – as they see Jesus betrayed, falsely accused, beaten, stripped, mocked – and nailed to a cross; all the while the Father weeps oceans of tears …

Then turns his back.

– The command from the Father to the angels on the third day: “Go get my son!”

– Mary Magdelene’s broken heart yet continued devotion. “Oh, where is his body? What have you done with it?” Pain so deep that it’s all she knew. Hopeless, exhausted, confused. Pain so deep that she literally couldn’t recognize the man.

Until … “Mary.”

The Voice.

The Good Shepherd knows my name. Does He know yours?

Set aside seven minutes for Ray Boltz’s video and song, “Watch the Lamb.” Please watch it. Let me know what you think. You only need a little over two minutes, but it’s not Easter without “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” My treat, brought to you by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

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Filed under Family, Inspiration, MIP: Memoir-in-progress

Unexpected moments of Light

It’s time for “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” when Jackson’s Journal undertakes a memoir-in-progress of my life’s spiritual journey.

Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting

I’ve been asked to speak and sing “The Lord’s Prayer” at a memorial service for one of Kelly’s cousins, Delena Sholler, on April 21 in the fellowship hall at First Baptist Church in Belle. The location alone sends an unexpected wave of emotion through me, something I’ll explain at a later time, under different circumstances. Delena was living in Texas; I barely knew her. But my “adopted” in-law family called on me, as they often have, to memorialize and celebrate her life.

Delena’s parents are John and Nina Tynes of Union. Kelly, Kishia and our new granddaughter Kianna were planning to visit Uncle Johnny and Aunt Nina today. They are Kianna’s Great-Great-Great Uncle and Aunt. And they are two of my favorite people. Uncle Johnny “gave Kelly away” at our wedding; I recently found a gospel song that Nina wrote and I arranged several years ago.

Remembering that shared history has given me a smile and also brought to mind Nina telling the most spine-tingling ghost stories I’ve ever heard. When I mentioned that to Kelly the other day, she held out her hand to stop me. “Nope, nope,” Kelly said, waving me off and shaking her head. I imagined that just the thought of Nina’s gift of vivid narration sent goosebumps pulsing up Kelly’s arms.

Nina and her sister, Neva, have seen their other three siblings enter eternity: Leroy Guinn, perhaps the most influential man during my early teen years; Nora Wallace, whom I was with when she breathed her last; and dear, sweet Grandma – Nola McDaniel – whom a dozen of us surrounded and serenaded into Heaven with quiet, sacred hymns just three and a half months ago.

Unexpected moments of Light. That’s what I’ve experience time and again with Kelly’s side of the family probably more than my own. The last words I’d use to describe that clan – especially the distant, great-great kinfolk – are pretentious and artificial. These folks are as real as they come. A loose cannon like me fits snugly into the fold.

I’m going to follow this theme of unexpected moments of Light for a few weeks. Last week there was no “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” at Jackson’s Journal, the first time we’ve missed in three months. I’ve shed the legalistic view that “going to church,” even in the virtual world of The Journal, is mandatory for keeping a place at the grown-up table in Heaven. What isn’t acceptable, though, is just going through the motions when it comes to worship and examining my heart, but I’m a pretty good motion-goer-througher. I think I’ve mentioned before I learned from the best.

But you know one of the incredibly cool things about God? It’s as if He decides, “I’m gonna rock your going through the motions routine – when you least expect it.”

That’s called Grace.

So here I was, searching for guitar chords for “The Lord’s Prayer,” and thinking that I’d find something on YouTube, say “here’s what I’ve got for us for Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting,” and then we’d have a quick prayer and walk one block down the street (in Belle, Mo.) to Cecil’s for a frozen dairy treat.

What I found was The Martins singing their own version of The Lord’s Prayer. I clicked. I simply wanted to listen, grab the link, slap it on this page, say “Amen” and get on with setting my lineups for the too-many fantasy baseball teams that I’ve drafted. But wow, what a version. I love, love, love The Martins.

Instead, I went next to In the Presence of Jehovah, another Martins song.

An unexpected moment of Light. If this doesn’t launch you into full-fledged worship mode, then you haven’t got a pulse. This past Sunday Natasha texted me to say, “Visiting a church and a lady is singing ‘In the Presence of Jehovah’ for special music. Thinking of you.”

God was rocking the complacency that I’d allowed to creep in to my heart.

Finally, in observance of Lent and in preparation for Palm Sunday (Kianna is being dedicated) and then Resurrection Day (we also call it Easter) I offer what might be an overwhelming experience. An a cappella rendition of O Sacred Head (one of the more challenging bass lines there is), set to video from The Passion of the Christ.

Granted, this is a long blog entry. (Broke my own rule). And it will take 12 minutes or longer to hear all the songs – and the scenes in the video are unbearably graphic. The thoughts and emotions from this post’s music weren’t what you expected when you started reading.

But I’ll bet you, too, experienced unexpected moments of Light. You’ll let me know, right? 

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Filed under Family, Inspiration, Kianna Allene Brown, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, Old Time Religion