OKEECHOBEE — Easter morning was a special event, growing up. We would waken in the middle of the night to our mother’s call. Greeting our sleep-filled eyes would be our own basket of goodies and candy. We would dress quickly – a cup of cocoa and toast for breakfast – and then head to church for the sunrise service. Walking to church in the pre-dawn darkness, we would see the lights of the church shining out, casting a warm glow through the shadows, inviting us in, calling us up to the Light of Christ. The revealed mystery of the gospel drew near and clear: The truth of hope and light, breaking into our world. We knew that Easter meant new life – the divine promise of being “raised with Christ” – out of darkness, into light.
Years later, I stood in the pulpit of that hometown church, proclaiming the gospel of Christ on Easter Sunday. As I looked out over the congregation that morning, I saw the power of the living God: miracles of grace in human time.
In the back sat a new convert who at one time had 27 warrants out for his arrest. Now he sat at attention in church, soaking up a sermon on the Resurrection of Christ. Beside him sat his girlfriend, long distant from the house of faith. She had vowed never to darken the doors of a church. Now her favorite song was “No Longer Strangers!”
In the front left section sat a family attending for the first time. Their dream in years past was to turn the little church on the corner into a pool hall. They now sat in that same church building, worshiping the risen Lord Jesus Christ!
Behind them sat a young man in attendance for the first time since being released from prison on drug charges, his face aglow with the joy of relationship with God. He had somehow come to faith through a wayward home-town friend who used drugs with him. One night before his sentencing, his wayward friend told him that it was possible to be born again in Christ. And he repented and believed. On this day they sat side by side in Church!
On the right side sat a lady who owned a corner store. For years she had promised to be in church, but by this Easter it was a weekly reality. Around her in two pews were the members of her extended family, listening intently to the gospel!
Toward the back on the left side sat a lady who lived across from the church. She used to complain about the loudness of the church bell on Sunday mornings, in salty language. In the past well known for non-belief, she now was in that very building exhibiting a growing faith in the risen Christ Jesus!
The list of grace echoed across the Church that morning. Every one of us were there in the call of God: living proof of the resurrection – new life, new identity in Christ.
What has God called you from, to share in His grace, to be raised with Christ in newness of life? Perhaps God has not called you from arrest warrants, or hatred of church bells, or drug usage, but God IS calling you from the old life to the new, in the power of the living Christ Jesus. Perhaps you are someone familiar with the house of faith, someone outwardly good and respectable, but someone whose heart has never been changed, never been granted Spirit life, never raised from the old order of self-directed life to the new order of grace, forgiveness, and freedom in faith. If you are reading this, and understanding, then the call is for you, too. God is calling you to the greatest miracle of all: a changed heart, gifted Spirit life – a promise and preview of eternal life. Receive it the only way anyone can: Repent and believe. “The time is now,” Jesus said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the gospel!”
Col. 3:1-4 – “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God! When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Amen.