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As most Americans are aware, this is Holy Week. The days ahead include Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and the Festival of the Resurrection of Our Lord, aka Easter.

Amid all the aspects of the secular observance of Easter, Christians focus on the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. It’s an awesome story, recorded in the New Testament in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20. I highly recommend you read all four accounts this week.

Lots of people will be in church this Sunday. Some are those lovingly referred to as CEO Christians: Christmas and Easter Only. Be that as it may, I hope and trust that pastors will focus not on the sporadic attendance of some but on the reality of death and our belief in “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” (Apostles’ Creed: circa 390 AD)

This statement of belief in the resurrection provides hope and comfort, especially at the time of death of loved ones and friends. Earlier this week I wrote a letter to a friend whose wife passed away suddenly last week. Here are some of the words I wrote:

The author of Ecclesiastes writes: “There is an appointed time for everything  … A time to give birth and a time to die … A time to weep and a time to laugh … A time to mourn and a time to dance …” (Eccl. 3:1-2, 4) The times of dying, weeping, and mourning are not happy times.

That’s true whether a loved one dies after a lengthy illness or with no advance warning. At a time like this we echo the words of Simon Peter to Jesus: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) That’s where we go at a time like this. We go to Jesus.

Many years ago his loved ones went to his grave, grieving deeply. They had lost the one who had been expected to change the history of the whole world. But he had died, as all men do, and his was a bitter and painful death.

Yet as those mourners came, by a miracle of the grace and power of God, their grief was turned to joy, their despair to faith and confidence! Jesus had risen from the dead!

Ever since that first Easter morn, believing people have come to the grave of their loved ones in confidence and trust … weeping, mourning, but not despairing, not lost, awaiting the promised resurrection of their loved one and the new heaven and new earth that lie ahead. (Rev. 21:1)

Terry and I pray that your times of weeping and mourning will be mitigated by the joy and hope that come from the peace of God that passes all understanding. We love you and thank God for you! A Blessed Festival of the Resurrection! That’s what I mean when I say: “Happy Easter!”



CrossesThis is the week before Easter, aka the Festival of the Resurrection of Our Lord. It’s a busy time for most pastors, who are heavily involved in preparation for special Holy Week observations of the Paschal Triduum. That’s one name for the three day period beginning Maundy Thursday evening, including Good Friday and Holy Saturday, and ending Easter Sunday evening.

In Western Christianity Easter is always the Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or after the spring equinox on March 21. Easter can come as early as March 22 or as late as April 25.

One of my so far unfulfilled goals in life is to persuade the Roman Catholic Pope to adopt my recommendation that the date for the Festival of the Resurrection be permanently established on the first Sunday in April. In my previous role as national church body president, I thought I had a platform for making that happen. Not so much anymore as a has-been official church leader.

Regardless of its date, I’ve always been amazed by the Festival of the Resurrection, which observes Jesus’ coming back to life. What a miracle! No one can prove it actually occurred. Nor can anyone disprove it. I don’t understand it. It’s a matter of faith. The Bible says it. I believe it.

We Christians confess in the third article of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in … the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting…” We believe not only that Jesus came back to life but also that we will do the same. Every time I speak those words I’m saying I believe that someday a miracle will occur, transforming my dead body back to life again.

Last week Terry and I went to Houston for the memorial service of my youngest sister’s mother-in-law. On the way back to Georgetown via New Braunfels to see my mother, we visited my father’s gravesite. His physical body has been in that grave for more than one third of a century. The thought that what’s left in that casket will come back to life is incomprehensible yet inspirational, bringing hope and assurance.

The older I get, the more I ponder the resurrection and the more I wonder about the nature of life in the new heaven and the new earth (Rev. 21). Many questions remain:

  • Will the body of a premature baby or an amputee or an elderly person or a person confined to a wheelchair on earth be transformed in heaven into the body of a strong, agile, wrinkle free young adult in prime physical condition?
  • Will we be driving some kind of extraterrestrial vehicles or will we simply blink an eye and be transported effortlessly and quickly to a new destination?
  • Will animals be living among us?
  • Will my favorite foods (medium rare rib eye steak, marinated pork tenderloin, grilled chicken drumsticks/thighs and lightly grilled salmon) be available? (See Luke 24:42-43.)
  • Will my least favorite foods (Brussel sprouts, yellow squash, okra, cilantro, peppers and onions) be nowhere to be found? (See Gen. 3:17-18.)

The resurrection of the body and life everlasting are made possible by the price Jesus paid during the days in his life we now observe as Holy Week. In that new life believers in Christ will be in his presence eternally. “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev. 7:16-17)

That’s a promise worthy of joyful anticipation! Have a blessed Festival of the Resurrection!

Spring Break and Holy Week

CrossesSpring break and Holy Week each attract millions of people annually. That’s where the similarity ends. Consider the following differences and disparities between the two.

Several newspaper and TV reports this week have focused in a graphic way on recent spring break activities. Video clips have shown raucous and even lewd behavior of young people by themselves or in small groups in the midst of huge crowds of barely clothed humanity.

In almost every case mass consumption of alcohol is involved. One method of such volumetric booze delivery is a beer-filled plastic funnel attached to a tube that goes straight into the mouth of the consumer. Another shows scantily clad young women and men chug-a-lugging gin or vodka straight from the bottle. Other methods might be both more creative and destructive.

Tragically, those reports include news of seven young people being shot last weekend in Panama City Beach, Fla. During February and March up to six million young people visit that small town of 12,000, which has been dubbed “the Spring Break Capital of the World.”

Other reports are of young spring breakers who have died from excessive alcohol consumption or drug abuse. Contributing factors include a large number of under-age drinkers and widespread availability of heroin, together with an increasingly popular club drug called Molly.

Contrast that dangerous and deadly scenario with the meditative, reflective, penitential mood of Holy Week. Celebrated by billions of Christians worldwide, this week’s events include Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, the Festival of the Resurrection.

Scripture and worship throughout this week will focus on the passion of Christ, including:

  • The Passover in the upper room, with Jesus initiating the Lord’s Supper
  • The suffering and arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane
  • His trial and sentence of death before Roman authorities
  • His crucifixion on a hill named Calvary, also called “the place of the skull”
  • His embalming by faithful women and burial in a borrowed tomb
  • His miraculous resurrection from that grave three days later!

Spring break focuses on the unchecked and uninhibited natural inclination of mankind toward self-gratification. Holy Week’s emphasis is the sacrificial act of Christ for the forgiveness of humanity’s self-centered failure to live life according to the purpose for which God created us.

Terry and I join each of you, especially this Holy Week, in thanking God for his Son Jesus! Soon we’ll all be saying: “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!”

Spring has Sprung!

FlowersThat’s a saying that may or may not be grammatically correct. As a matter of fact, Spell Check on my computer took a second look at it, with a squiggly frown on its electronic face.

Many in our land have been inundated with an unusually brutal winter. Records have fallen in numerous categories, particularly total snowfall in the Northeast. But not in Texas.

Here in central Texas winter was more messy than record breaking, with many misty and chilly but not frigid days of drizzle and dreariness. At least for the moment those things have given way to sunshine and warmth, the stuff we’re accustomed to experiencing here at this time of year.

Another sign of spring in Texas is the eruption of colors in the landscape. Earlier this week I was traveling along a road that provides a multi-mile view of rolling hills and valleys. I saw beautiful shades of green, provided by newly-leafed trees awaking from their winter hibernation.

In addition, I saw some of my favorite wildflowers—bluebonnets—which seem to have appeared overnight. Some of the uninformed mistakenly call them bluebells. That’s the ice cream company. The flower is a bluebonnet. But I digress.

Along with spring comes the Festival of the Resurrection of our Lord. In many ways the things I’ve just described about spring are subtle seasonal reminders of the awakening, the eruption, the appearance of our Lord Jesus from his time in the tomb. Thankfully, his season of embalmed hibernation was brief and temporary. Unlike spring, his reappearance and reemergence are not seasonal but eternal.

Remember that reality as you walk next week with billions of Christians around the world the path of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. It’s the week we Christians call Holy.

Many blessings to each of you! Spring has sprung!

Holy Week

Cross 10For Christians around the world, this week is holy, special, sacred, set apart. It marks events of crucial significance in the history of the Christian faith:

  • Maundy Thursday – the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion.
  • Good Friday – the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
  • Holy Saturday – the day Jesus’ body lay in the tomb between Friday and Sunday.
  • Easter Sunday – the Festival of the Resurrection of our Lord from the grave.

The early church and liturgical churches today call the three days from Good Friday to Easter Sunday the triduum, the intent of which is to signify the walk with Jesus through the darkest hours of his life. The conclusion of the triidium is the celebration of the glory and miracle of the resurrection on Easter Sunday morning!

Terry and I pray for each of you a blessed Holy Week. We, like many of you, will attend services of worship this week that will renew in our hearts an ever growing appreciation for the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus.

At the end of the day, at the end of our life here on earth, what really matters, eternally, is made possible and provided for believers in Christ through the events of this Holy Week!