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SIGNS OF THE TIME
Easter Sunday

22Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established. (Prov 15:)

Easter Sunday. If there is but one day in the year that a person goes to church, it is Easter Sunday. The men folk put on their cleanest manure-stained overalls; the children scrub behind their ears and hope they don't spill their breakfast on their Sunday fineries; and the ladies dress in attire especially intended to cause all the other ladies to drool with envy.

Easter Sunday is the day we all, even non believers, celebrate Jesus. And surely this is only just; after all, the resurrection is the only day we are given with any certainty that effects the life of Jesus here on earth. There are other days we celebrate, but we can not be certain that the day we celebrate is actually the day the event took place. For instance, the birth of Jesus is not indicated in the Bible, nor is there even much of a hint of it in the Old Testament as there is the Resurrection. Even Jesus' crucifixion is speculation, assuming He was crucified on a Friday before the Sabbath Saturday. But this is only speculation, and there are theologians who have strong evidence that it was either a Wednesday or a Thursday that Jesus died. And as for Christmas, we don't know when Jesus was born, the only thing we can be sure of is He wasn't born on the day we celebrate His birth.


Easter Sunday. If there is one day we can call the Lord's Day, it's Easter Sunday.

I went to church this Easter. It's rare that I go to church on any day, but I went to church this Easter Sunday. It was not my church I attended, but another popular church in the neighborhood.

Such a large church is the church I attended. Not such a large church for a large city, but for a small town, it is a large church. And it is an elaborate church. Not so much more elaborate than many of the other churches, but it is evident that they are trying to be. And as for the denomination of this church? That is not important; let it suffice to say it was a well-known and accepted Fundamental church, long established and respected by just about all the other denominations.


I was running late this day, having decided at the last moment to go to church. I hurriedly made breakfast, which I gobbled down, and searched my wardrobe for suitable clothes for Easter Sunday in a highly respected and fancy church. I was sure I couldn't wear my usual sweats that I normally wear to the tiny, informal church I attend. I decided to wear a rather westerny outfit I hadn't even attempted to wear for over 30 years. To my delight, they fit perfectly, indicating to me that my diet and exercise program is working. It also showed me that thirty years ago they made clothes intended to last at least thirty years. I looked for an Easter bonnet, but all I could find was an expensive 10x beaver pelt cowboy hat I have had for years but never wore and has been serving no other purpose than to feed moth larva.

I decided to forego the hat and attend church without suitable headgear.

It was raining this Easter morning; that is to say it was just like every other morning in this coastal town, so I decided to drive across the street to church. I felt rather silly driving two blocks to church instead of riding my bike; but I didn't want to get my Easter duds wet; and I couldn't be sure that a little rain might cause the seams to fall apart on those old clothes.


I was running late that Easter Sunday. I left the house at the time the meeting should have begun. When I arrived I parked to the far end of the parking lot in order to allow all the regulars to park up close to the building. That was when I was afforded my first impression of the church - the parking lot was nearly empty.

However the church building was not. I entered the church and asked where the Sunday School class was meeting. I was directed to a room with about ten men, all my age or older, sitting around the edge of a room - dressed in their everyday duds, much to my surprise. I found myself to be overdressed for the occasion. I was glad I had decided not to wear a tie.

About ten minutes or so later, after a round of talk about cars and RV's and the problems they can engender, the class began.

I rather enjoyed the Sunday School class, and I liked the fellows I met there.


Then to the Service. I like a good sermon. Contrary to most people, at least so it seems to me, I go to church to hear the preaching, not to socialize. If I had my way there would be no singing, no skits, no nothing but preaching. And don't you know, if I had my way, church would be such that no one would bother to go but me..

The services had not begun, so I perused the appointments of the lobby. I saw the standard assortment of bulletins, books, and flyers. I also observed the Easter table were there was an assortment of cookies, sugared Easter bunnies, and children running about. I appropriated more than my share of Oreos, suppressed the inevitable guilt for having done so, and wandered into the chapel.

In order to get a good view of the service, I sat in the back pew with the other folks who wanted to be as close to the door as possible. While I waited for services to begin, I scrutinized the parishioners who had come to this mementoes event. There was nothing out of the ordinary that I could see; couples, singles; and groups clustered here and there.

I also noticed that, like in the Sunday School class, and the other churches I have attended, almost nobody had Bibles. I suppose Bibles have a way of getting in the way of shaking hands and nibbling on cookies. But whatever the reason, Bibles are rare in the churches anymore. Don't get me wrong; Scripture is read, but it is read from Bibles that are secreted away behind or under the seats or pews. And even more often the Scripture is read from a bulletin or a magazine that uses some translation I am unfamiliar with. In fact when the Scripture is read I find myself frantically flipping through my Bible in order to find anything remotely similar to the verses the reader says we are to read.

I suppose this new style of Bible reading is ok, I don't know. It certainly seems acceptable to everyone else in attendance, so who am I to judge otherwise? I'm supposin' it, along with the rest of the modern church services is just another sign of the times that I am only now becoming acquainted with.

I am in the back pew. I am not alone in the back pews as it turns out. Those kids who were scurrying about and rattling on in the lobby, were scurrying about and rattling on in the back pews. This surprised me. When I was a kid in church, little kids were either in some other room during the services, or in the front row, dressed in their finest finery, pretending to pay close attention to the goings on up on the platform, and keeping their little mouths and their little hands tightly closed and in their lap. (Their mouth closed and their hands in their lap, not the other way around.) Not any more, I'm guessing, because now little kids do in church service what they would not be allowed to do in a kindergarden class, and paying no more attention to the Pastor than they do their parents who are doing nothing to quiet them down.

Oh well. I said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm glad I'm single and childless. Just a grumpy old man criticizing the now and dreaming of the past.


Service began. Well, sort of it did. I sat the Bible down that I was studying and prepared myself for a good, old-fashioned Easter sermon.

Well, don't you know, first there had to be the customary singing by the choir. So the choir sang; and they sang; and they sang; etc, etc.

Then the Pastor came to the podium. Again I sat my Bible aside and prepared myself.

Then the choir sang; and they sang; and they sang.

Again the Pastor came to the podium; only to turn his back on us and face the choir. Then the Pastor and the choir performed a skit that someone had written where they sort of enacted the crucifixion in sounds and sound effects.

This skit lasted at least as long as the singing. I looked about me to see if the congregation was as frustrated as I, but by all appearances they were content with the service being presented. The adults sat attentively, so it seemed, with their eyes turned toward the stage. Meanwhile the kids scurried and chattered away like children do at kindergarden recess, so I guess they, too, were just as pleased with the skit as they would have been a good fire and brimstone message.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not judging the quality of the skit. I wouldn't like the skit if it was an Academy Award winner. I just have never liked skits. Besides, as I said earlier, I came for a good Easter message, not a skit.

Finally the Pastor once again turned to the congregation. Once again I lay my Bible aside and prepared myself for the message.

And then the Pastor dismissed the congregation.


I was left wondering what had happened! Where was the Easter service I had prepared myself for? All these years not going to church; only to go to church - and the church was not there!


I bridled my frustration and retreated to the lobby. I grabbed a handful of Oreos to pacify my disappointment, and watched as the people streamed through the door and into the rain. I waited behind with the intent of asking the Pastor a question about the Scriptures, but after a while I ran out of cookies, and followed the stream of people into the rain.


Easter Sunday.

A sign of the times.




Quotes


"We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope." Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter can be said to remedy anything." Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

"Burning desire to be or do something gives us staying power - a reason to get up every morning or to pick ourselves up and start in again after a disappointment" Marsha Sinetar

"What is public history but a register of the successes and disappointments, the vices, the follies and the quarrels of those who engage in contention for power" William Paley

"Disappointment is the nurse of wisdom" Bayle Roche

"Mean spirits under disappointment, like small beer in a thunderstorm, always turn sour" John Randolph

"How disappointment tracks the steps of hope" Letitia Landon

"If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment." Henry David Thoreau

"Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone." Jim Fiebig

"We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment." Jim Rohn

"Old age is not a disease - it is strength and survivorship, triumph over all kinds of vicissitudes and disappointments, trials and illnesses." Maggie Kuhn

"Suspense is worse than disappointment." Robert Burns

"I shall take all the troubles of the past, all the disappointments, all the headaches, and I shall pack them in a bag and throw them in the East River." Trygve Lie

"The sudden disappointment of a hope leaves a scar which the ultimate fulfillment of that hope never entirely removes." Thomas Hardy

"The greatness comes not when things go always good for you. But the greatness comes when you're really tested, when you take some knocks, some disappointments, when sadness comes." Richard M. Nixon

"Our real blessings often appear to us in the shape of pains, losses and disappointments; but let us have patience and we soon shall see them in their proper figures." Joseph Addison

"Trials, temptations, disappointments - all these are helps instead of hindrances, if one uses them rightly. They not only test the fiber of character but strengthen it. Every conquering temptation represents a new fund of moral energy." James Buckham

"The misery of the middle-aged woman is a gray and hopeless thing, born of having nothing to live for, of disappointment and resentment at having been gypped by consumer society, and surviving merely to be the butt of its unthinking scorn." Germaine Greer

"Hope is tomorrow's veneer over today's disappointment." Evan Esar

"How disappointment tracks the steps of hope." Letitia Landon

"Ambition has its disappointments to sour us, but never the good fortune to satisfy us. Its appetite grows keener by indulgence and all we can gratify it with at present serves but the more to inflame its insatiable desires." Benjamin Franklin

"If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment." Henry David Thoreau

"Oft expectation fails and most oft there Where most it promises, and oft it hits Where hope is coldest and despair most fits." William Shakespeare

"Anytime you suffer a setback or disappointment, put your head down and plow ahead." Les Brown

"Anytime I am looking to somebody else as my source, I'm coming from scarcity. I am no longer trusting God, or the Universe, for my harvest. It's reasonable for me to have expectations based on what somebody I trust has committed to. And it's natural for me to feel disappointed when that somebody doesn't come through. But when I feel more than disappointment, when I also feel anger, it's because I deviated from my truth. It's because I compromised my truth to get what somebody else promised. Because when I'm really following my truth, I will be at peace with the consequences -- whatever they are. I can accept somebody else's truth, but I must live my own truth. And sometimes that means walking away from a relationship." Jan Denise

"Awake, thou wintry earth-- Fling off thy sadness! Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth Your ancient gladness! Christ is risen." Thomas Blackburn

"Tomb, thou shalt not hold Him longer; Death is strong, but Life is stronger; Stronger than the dark, the light; Stronger than the wrong, the right; Faith and Hope triumphant say Christ will rise on Easter Day." Phillips Brooks, D.D.

"Hail, Day of days! in peals of praise Throughout all ages owned, When Christ, our God, hell's empire trod, And high o'er heaven was throned." Fortunatus

"Come, ye saints, look here and wonder, See the place where Jesus lay; He has burst His bands asunder; He has borne our sins away; Joyful tidings, Yes, the Lord has risen to-day." Thomas Kelly

"'Twas Easter-Sunday. The full-blossomed trees Filled all the air with fragrance and with joy." Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"O chime of sweet Saint Charity, Peal soon that Easter morn When Christ for all shall risen be, And in all hearts new-born! That Pentecost when utterance clear To all men shall be given, When all shall say My Brother here, And hear My Son in heaven!" James Russell Lowell

"In the bonds of Death He lay Who for our offence was slain; But the Lord is risen to-day, Christ hath brought us life again, Wherefore let us all rejoice, Singing loud, with cheerful voice," Hallelujah! Martin Luther

"Hallelujah! Hallelujah! On the third morning He arose, Bright with victory o'er his foes. Sing we lauding, And applauding, Hallelujah!" John Mason Neale

"I think of the garden after the rain; And hope to my heart comes singing, "At morn the cherry-blooms will be white, And the Easter bells be ringing!" Edna Dean Procter

"The fasts are done; the Aves said; The moon has filled her horn And in the solemn night I watch Before the Easter morn. So pure, so still the starry heaven, So hushed the brooding air, I could hear the sweep of an angel's wings If one should earthward fare." Edna Dean Procter

"Spring bursts to-day, For Christ is risen and all the earth's at play." Christina G. Rossetti

"God expects from men something more than at such times, and that it were much to be wished for the credit of their religion as well as the satisfaction of their conscience that their Easter devotions would in some measure come up to their Easter dress." Bishop Robert South

"Christ is our Passover! And we will keep the feast With the new leaven, The bread of heaven: All welcome, even the least!" Dr. A.R. Thompson

"Christ the Lord is risen to-day," Sons of men and angels say. Raise your joys and triumphs high; Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply." Charles Wesley


Matthew 28

1In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. 2And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. 3His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: 4And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. 5And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. 6He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. 8And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. 9And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. 10Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.


Mark 16

1And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. 2And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. 3And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? 4And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. 5And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 6And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. 7But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. 8And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.

9Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. 10And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. 12After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. 13And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.


Luke 24

1Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. 2And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. 3And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. 4And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: 5And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? 6He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, 7Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. 8And they remembered his words, 9And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. 10It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles. 11And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. 12Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.


John 20

1The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. 2Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. 3Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. 4So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. 5And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. 6Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, 7And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. 8Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. 9For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. 10Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.

11But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, 12And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. 14And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. 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. 16Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. 17Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. 18Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.


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