FIRST THINGS FIRST
I used to know an elder who was active in the Presbytery who asked the same question of every new minister coming into our bounds. In our interviews with new ministers, he always wanted to know what they thought about the resurrection! The question was usually phrased, “Do you believe the resurrection should be a part of every sermon you preach?”
When presented with that question, some ministers would give a quick answer one way or another. Some would get caught up trying to imagine working the resurrection into a sermon on some particular portion of Scripture that seemed completely unconnected. Others would recognize the real point of the question which was this: “How important is the Christian belief in resurrection to your understanding of the faith? And is it absolutely essential that the church proclaim this message at every opportunity?”
We might not all be sure about the feasibility of incorporating the resurrection of Jesus into every sermon preached, but we can certainly declare the essential nature of the Easter message to the church’s proclamation and teaching! Our belief that Jesus died on the cross and was raised up on the third day by the very power of God is what gives us reason to hope throughout our lives. It is what gives us reason to get up in the morning with the assurance that our lives are forever safe in the hands of God. The resurrection of Jesus is what gives us the comfort of knowing that God’s promises are sure and that eternal life awaits each of God’s children who trust and believe in Him.
The Easter Season – the period of time between Easter Sunday and Pentecost - is a special time of the church year . It provides us an opportunity to focus on what we believe about Jesus’ victory over the grave and how we might lend our lives and voices to the cause of proclaiming the good news of resurrection in both word and deed. After all, the resurrection is absolutely essential to our Christian faith and hope. It is the message of God’s powerful and redemptive activity in human life. It is the assurance that our lives are eternally safe because of God’s decision to give us a share in His Son’s righteousness and life.
In closing, I’d like to share a story. It’s an excerpt from Sharon Jaynes’ book, “Celebrating a Christ-Centered Christmas”. “An African boy listened carefully as his teacher explained why Christians give presents to each other on Christmas day. ‘The gift is an expression of our joy over the birth of Jesus and our friendship for each other,’ she said. When Christmas day came, the boy brought the teacher a seashell of lustrous beauty. ‘Where did you ever find such a beautiful shell?’ the teacher asked. The youth told her that there was only one spot where such extraordinary shells could be found. When he named the place, a certain bay several miles away, the teacher was left speechless. ‘Why… why, it’s gorgeous… wonderful, but you shouldn’t have gone all that way to get the gift for me.’ His eyes brightening, the boy answered, ‘Long walk part of gift!’”
During this Easter Season, we remember that the “long walk” of Jesus through His suffering, shame and death on the cross was part of His gift to us. Yet the “long walk” that delivered our Lord through the grave and out again into resurrected life is truly the most extraordinary, beautiful, and incredible gift that we could ever be given. For in Jesus’ resurrection, we have hope for our own! In His life, we have the assurance of life everlasting in the presence of our loving and gracious God! May you and I seize every opportunity we have to proclaim that joyful message of our faith! Christ is risen! His is risen indeed! Alleluia! ~ Pastor Pete
Rev. Pete Ullmann began his ministry at Jesup Presbyterian Church in December 2013. He is a native of Tampa, Florida where he earned his undergraduate degree at the University of South Florida. Following college, Pastor Pete moved to Richmond, Virginia where he earned graduate degrees in Divinity and Christian Education from Union Theological Seminary in Virginia and the Presbyterian School of Christian Education. Since his ordination in August, 1997, Pastor Pete has served churches in Middle Tennessee and North Georgia prior to moving to Jesup. He and his wife Dawn are enjoying living in Wayne County, along with their thirteen year old son Nate.