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.
It seems almost impossible to believe, but on an August day 53 years ago, I caught my first glimpse of #25 of the Boston Red Sox. My father had brought my brother and me to our very first major league baseball game. The Red Sox were mired in last place, and there was hardly anyone at Fenway Park that day; indeed they seemed rather disinterested about the whole affair until a young man named Tony Conigliaro stepped to the plate to pinch hit. Suddenly the ballpark was alive with excitement! Right then and there, “Tony C.” as he was called then, became my idol. If ever there was anyone destined for stardom it was #25. And his career moved along splendidly until another August day when he was hit just below his left eye with a baseball.
Tony C. made a courageous comeback, played baseball for two more years, but his career ended at the age of 30. Fifteen years later, he suffered a massive heart attack and was physically and mentally impaired until he died in 1990 at the young age of 45. What a horrific twist of fate that one so talented, who possessed so much promise, should have his life end so sadly. Never does the month of August
come, when I don’t think of that untimely end.
All of which has led me to think today of life, and the brevity of it. The years do pass so quickly; time slips away. And often life comes to a screeching halt far sooner than we would expect or desire. Our church family has a number of such losses in recent weeks. Events like these are tragic and shocking, but they do, at the very least, make us more conscious of our mortality; they have a way of making us
more aware of the friends and loved ones that are so important to us, and they can serve to remind us of the importance of making each day count. As James reminds us, “Life is like a vapor that appears for a little while, and then vanishes.”
Years ago, I read of a photographer who won an award for a picture he had taken. A young woman had been found dead, alone in her car, after an overdose of some drug. Using a wide angle lens, the photographer was able to take a picture showing this woman sprawled across the seat of her car, and through the front window, the adjoining parking meter read, “Time Expired;” a rather dramatic and graphic way of reminding us again of the brevity of life.
Yet, we need not allow this thought to make us fearful or unhappy. For as God’s people, we know some good news; news of Jesus Christ who, by his own violent death at a young age on a Roman cross, took the sting out of sin and death, and brought immortality to light through the Gospel. Thanks be to God, who throws this “rainbow of hope” and victory around our futures.
In Him, Pastor Joel
Pastor Joel Hawthorne