During Lent, we have been on a journey with Jesus and Peter. As we have seen, Peter was impetuous and impulsive. Jesus called him to follow, and he left his net and boat to follow. On the Mount of Transfiguration, he wanted to build three booths, for Jesus, Moses, and for Elijah! Peter tried to walk on the water and would have sunk were it not for Jesus.
Well, we continue with our study of Peter in April and I hope you will join us throughout the month. In particular, I invite you to our Palm Sunday worship on April 14th, as we relive the triumphant entry of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem and consider Peter’s denial of our Lord. And then during Holy Week, we will be gathering in Bethany Hall for Maundy Thursday and sharing the Lord’s Supper together. On Good Friday, we will listen as our Sanctuary Choir presents the cantata, “Upon This Rock,” based on, you guessed it; the life of Peter.
Beyond that, lies the celebration of Resurrection! New life! The empty tomb reminds us that Jesus is alive, and on Easter morning we will sing with great conviction and renewed certainty that Christ is risen! In Mark’s Gospel, an angel appears to the women who had come to anoint Jesus’ body. The angel said, “Go tell the disciples, and Peter.” Why did Mark write it that way? Why not just, “Go tell the disciples.” Peter is one of the disciples; why single him out? I invite you to come and discover the reason on Easter Sunday.
Anyone interested in Baptism on Easter should come and speak with me as soon as possible. For any children or youth interested in being baptized, I am leading a discipleship class for them on March 31, and April 7, during the Sunday School hour in my office. Our Easter offering will be dedicated once again to Overland Gardens in Landover, MD. This apartment complex is where a team from our church has been engaged in ministry for several years. This year, the Easter offering will be used to provide transportation for the children of Overland to participate in various Field Trips led by a team from MHBC.
May this Easter season be a time of spiritual renewal and refreshment for us all. May God bless us as we worship together and proclaim the Good News that Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! And may that message propel us to new heights of ministry and mission during the remainder of 2019!
I pray for all of you a hope-filled and joy-filled Easter season. Said the poet:
Now let the heavens be joyful,
Let earth her song begin,
Let all the world keep triumph,
And all that is therein.
In Grateful exaltation,
Their notes let all things blend,
For Christ the Lord is risen,
Our joy that has no end.
Easter blessings, Pastor Joel
Tony Campolo is well known as a professor and preacher, and one of his better known sermons (with a book by the same name) is, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Comin’.” Perhaps not so well known is that Campolo borrowed the main story in that sermon, as he freely confessed, from Dr. Shadrach Meshach Lockridge, the dynamic African-American pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church in San Diego. Lockridge was active in the Civil Rights movement, but was best known as a preacher.
Among his most famous sermons was, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’.” Some of the words include
these: “It’s Friday. Jesus is praying. Peter is a-sleeping. Judas is betraying. But Sunday’s comin’. It’s Friday; Pilate’s struggling. The council is conspiring. The crowd is vilifying. They don’t even know that Sunday’s comin’. It’s Friday; Jesus is buried. A soldier stands guard. And a rock is rolled into place. But it's Friday. It is only Friday.” Then Lockridge thundered, “But Sunday is a-comin'!” And the congregation erupted in praise!
Dr. Lockridge’s sermon was much longer of course, but we get the idea. Friday was a bad day. But
Sunday, when it came, was glorious. The lesson that we can take away is an important one. There is
a tendency for us to despair like the disciples did on that Friday when Jesus was killed and buried. We
live in a Good Friday world filled with suffering, pain, sorrow, sin, and death. We see it played out around us every single day with school shootings and the recent bombings in Texas. And very often, it gets played out in our own lives.
But we are hope-full, because Easter Sunday is coming and with it the reminder that Good Friday doesn’t
have the last word. God has the last word and the last word is always “hope.” Jesus was raised from
the grave, with the promise of eternal life for all who follow him. He is alive and with us in our lives no matter our situation or circumstance. God is a promise-keeping God.
In one of his classic Easter sermons, William Sloane Coffin acknowledged “that there are plenty of
reasons to think we live in a Good Friday world — a world where might makes right, goodness is
betrayed, integrity gets compromised, and seemingly powerless love gets nailed to a cross by loveless
power.” But Coffin also said “that the resurrection means that this is an Easter world after all. Easter means that Christ is alive, not as a memory that inevitably fades, but as an undying presence in the life of every one of us.” Coffin then asked the question: “What shall we choose: to live half alive and preserve the illusion of a Good Friday world, or to live fully alive in the truth that Christ is raised?” I choose the latter. How about you?
As I write this, it is Wednesday, March 21; it is springtime and it is snowing! But Easter is coming! I wish to each and every member and friend of Montgomery Hills a glorious, hope-full, and meaning-full Easter.
Has anyone heard any good news lately? It can be difficult to find. There is much sadness and pain to be found. A young high school student was brutally attacked in Rockville. There was another terrorist attack, this time in London with many left dead and injured. More recently, there was a shooting in a Cincinnati nightclub with more loss of life. North Korea continues to test missiles in the hopes of increasing their capability to strike even the United States. I could fill this newsletter with more such stories. It is difficult to maintain perspective today. I try to remind myself however, that a spate of bad news stories does not mean there are not many good news stories to tell.
On Wednesday evenings we are studying a book called, “Who is This Man?” “This man” is Jesus. We have been reminded of his staggering influence on our lives and our world. In every corner of the globe, we find people engaged in doing good, building hospitals and schools, combating hunger, contributing clothing, medicine and food, opening their homes to strangers, advocating for the poor and the oppressed, and working for justice and dignity for all people. Jesus was, and is, the greatest influence for good in our world today. He is our good news in a bad news world.
Jesus once told a story about some workers who were distressed to learn some evil man had sown weeds among the wheat. They went to tell the owner; “Shall we burn it all down?” they asked. And the owner replied, “No, for in so doing you will destroy the harvest.” The workers saw weeds, but the owner saw a harvest. What do we see as we look around – wheat or weeds? It is a matter of perspective, isn’t it? I remember the old quote, “Two men looked out from prison bars. One saw mud, the other saw the stars.”
To be sure, there is much that seems broken right now, and the future seems dreary; nothing but a plethora of grave stones out there too heavy for us to move. But I invite you to join us this month to hear again the best news we can ever know. Oh, at first, it doesn’t seem like good news. When Mary and the others bring spices to anoint the dead body of Jesus, they were not expecting to be uplifted, but they were! The stone was rolled away! He was alive!
The Easter story is the greatest story ever told; a story that overshadows all the other stories of death, disaster, terror, illness, corruption and division. We can live with a new perspective – victory born out of defeat! Good news overcoming bad news, hope that can dispel the deepest despair, sins forgiven, and most importantly, life that steps out of death’s empty tomb to live. I encourage you to worship with us on April 16th and join with me in that ancient Easter affirmation shared by Christians for 2000 years. I will say, “Christ is risen” and you will respond, “He is risen indeed!” Happy Easter!
In Christ, Pastor Joel
Pastor Joel Hawthorne