he preacher's kid came into the kitchen from building mud bridges in the backyard and his mother said, "Bobby, wash your hands and remember its your turn to say Grace over lunch!" The little rascal responded, "Germs and Jesus that's all I ever hear around this parsonage, and I ain't seen either one of them yet!"
Later in school the little fellow must have seen a germ through a microscope. He also must have seen Jesus' continuing presence through the lives of his parents and their parishioners. Hopefully, he would have soon come to allow Jesus into his own heart and have known the eternal presence of Jesus' Holy Spirit throughout his life and beyond.
Easter, the Good News of Jesus' continuing presence in human hearts, is a message that is a constant surprise to even the most devout. The Apostles were dumbfounded and bedazzled. Just when we begin to assume that it is so, and even take it for granted, it sneaks up on our souls and amazes us again, and again. Easter is an eternal wonderment.
Just yesterday it caught me off guard. I had the Saturday morning funeral of our dear friend Hal Wilson and had left my Ritual book at my church office. I rummaged through some of the hundreds of old books in my home Study and came across an old Ritual that had belonged to my Uncle George. His beloved widow, my Aunt Frances, had given it to me a few years ago. I looked in the Index and found "The Ritual of the Methodist Episcopal Church for the Burial of the Dead." Uncle George, who was a Licensed Pastor and planned to complete seminary after his service as a WW II Naval Aviator, had evidently used the little black book to conduct funerals for he had underlined scriptures, made notations, and brought some of the old King James language up to date. As I read his notes, in the stillness of my quiet Study, I was surprised again by the joy of Jesus very real presence in my soul. It was as if my Uncle George, whose funeral I had attended in my father's arms as an infant, was right there with me in my Study. It was, of course, not a spooky experience at all; but a precious realization that as a result of Easter we are never too far from Jesus and His Saints in Glory.
After today's sermon we will sing a favorite Resurrection Hymn of believers everywhere:"I serve a risen Savior, he's in the world today; I know that he is living, whatever foes may say.I see his hand of mercy, I hear his voice of cheer, and just the time I need him, he's always near.He lives, he lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks with me along life's narrow way. He lives, he lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart."(He Lives, The U.M. Hymnal, 310)
Presbyterian pastor Alfred Ackley wrote this hymn in 1933 in response to a young man who asked, "Why should I worship a dead man?" "But Jesus lives!" Was Ackley's response. It is still our response today for we have experienced Jesus alive in our hearts.
I had a dear friend who was just a little bit confused in his Trinitarian imagery. He had heard a television preacher (I suppose I am one of them now) say that whenever we speak of God or Jesus in the present tense we should always use the name Holy Spirit. Sure enough, if he were ever called on to pray in public, it was to the Holy Spirit, by the Holy Spirit and in the name of the Holy Spirit. Actually, the seminary way to pray is to God, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and in the name of Jesus. But if we are in a hurry, or forget the formula, or just feel like doing it differently, it is fine to direct our prayer in either or all three names. The prayer will go through for they are all the same. It's not like a web site address that has to be absolutely perfect in order to work. The effectualness of prayer emanates from the doing.
To have a continuing presence of Jesus in our hearts is the same as having God, and or the Holy Spirit in our hearts. The two disciples on the Road to Emmaus, on that first Easter Sunday night, did experience the physical presence of the Resurrected Jesus. Later that night, back in Jerusalem with the others behind closed doors, they all saw him again. John's Gospel records that Jesus "..breathed on them.." and said, "..receive the Holy Spirit." (20:22). Thus, the continuing presence Jesus is meant to be made manifest in all of our hearts. Actually, not until this special indwelling of the Holy Spirit did the first followers of Jesus really understand the nature of his resurrection and continuing presence.
The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead itself had been an unexpected surprise to these first believers; but on that first Easter Sunday evening we hear Jesus saying that he was going away but would also remain with them--- They must have asked the obvious question: "How can he go away, and stay with us at the same time?" However, they soon came to experience the same ongoing presence of Jesus as we still know today. "He lives within our hearts."
Looking back on the events in the life of the early church we can see that if it were not for the continuing ministry of Jesus as the Holy Spirit that the little band would have disbanded. We know, from living with the historical fact, that the imputed power of the Divine Spirit into the hearts of the early church caused the greatest movement of history; and in time created Western Civilization and life as we now know it. Our great universities, the great ideas, explorations and discoveries were mostly motivated by the Church and its influence. Believers have been at the core of most strides forward and have influenced the course of human development. Sure, there have been steps backward, and at times we have lost our way, but as the flow of history has run its course to this Year of our Lord 2001, Christianity remains the Hope of the World. We experience and exemplify Easter every day of our lives.
As we remain faithful to the Spirit of Jesus, seeking His will for our personal and community lives, he comes and takes up residence in our hearts. Or, as Ackley expressed it, "The hope of all who seek him, the help of all who find, none other is so loving, so good and kind;" and thus, "He walks with me and talks with me along life's narrow way." Let's all stand and sing with great gusto this hymn of Easter faith, number 310, "He Lives."
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor