Fifty years ago the pastor in our church came to me. I was 14. He said, “next month it is going to be youth week. I would like you to preach a sermon to initiate the events of that week. Will you do it?” I then proceeded to give him a running list of reasons why that could not happen.
The night came for the sermon to be preached. The pastor and I had worked on it. All I remember is this spot in my brain. It felt like someone had put a glass bulb there and it was totally empty. Any thoughts I had could not penetrate that sphere.
The sermon came and it went. Few people remember it. In fact I am probably the only person who still recollects that it happened. But it was the beginning of what has become a long event. The sermon that once began in the life of a very scared young teenager has now continued for 50 years.
While in college I had received many invitations to preach. Then one Sunday came and there was no invitation. I felt like I had failed God. I prayed, “Lord, what is wrong that you would not want me to preach?” I knelt in silence for the longest time. Then it was as if the Lord said, “look at your calendar.” I did. He said, “count the weeks you have been preaching in the last twelve months.” I did. Thirty eight weeks. The Lord said, “relax. It is Easter. Someone else can preach today.”
While in college. The Assistant Dean came to me and said he had just received a call from a church in North Dakota. They are looking for a summer pastor. Would I be willing to go. I was so excited. “Yes!” was all I could say. I called them and asked if they would mind if I came early and started preaching on Easter Sunday morning. They said I could. The rest is history.
Today begins a new direction for my ministry. The work known as Coached by Grace will now take on a distinctively Christian flavor.
Over the years I have had the privilege of preaching in over 300 different church buildings to as many different congregations. I have also had the privilege of working on mission boards and task forces in 20 different denominations and being the interim pastor in congregations from 7 different denominations. During all that time my work has been predominately building community programs. Now that I am reaching retirement age, I have asked the Lord for guidance and direction to spend more time doing pastoral study and care.
Please meditate on the words of the following song.
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The Scripture chosen for today is specifically John 12:24
One cannot understand how to look back on the Easter event without appreciating how it has caused so many people to enjoy its reality!
Please take a few minutes to enjoy the inspiration of looking back at the resurrection!
This music has caused those who follow Jesus to consider the grandeur of what the Easter message is all about. It raises our emotions to a crescendo of hope. Those who are outside the Easter message are none-the-less moved by how inspiring the music is.
Jesus said unless a seed fall into the ground and die….
This is the crux of the Easter message. Today we/you look back on the Easter event. This text looks forward.
A seed drops on the ground, is buried in the dust, is watered by the rain, is nurtured by the warmth of the sun. That which was dead is now alive.
Jesus was born, lived his life, and ministered to all who followed Him and His disciples. Then He died. We look back on that death.
We recognize that we too have been born. We have struggled through a number of the phases of life. The time of infancy, childhood, the ever puzzling teen years, the insecurities of the decision making years, the child bearing moments, the times of settling issues, and the days of reconsidering all that has gone on, those were the days.
We come to a moment of sadness as we contemplate what could have been. Just as the disciples and the followers of Jesus looked back our music often looks back for us.
The text for today looks forward. Today we look back. We have seen that just as Jesus died He rose from that death. As we look back we see our life has died over and over again. Unless each stage of our life dies we cannot move on. Unless each phase of our life dies we can never be ready to experience the new life before us.
Jesus rose unto a new life. He now invites us to to be reborn to the next phase of His life. Dare we understand that it was the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead? Dare we understand that it is the Spirit that will move us and raise us as well? Just as Jesus now looks back, just as we now look back, let us stop, turn, and look forward. Let our lives be planted with Jesus. Let the seeds of our lives be nurtured and raised by the Spirit.
Amen and amen.