Praying til Pentecost Day 13
"Now late on the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave." Matthew 28:1
In a few short days, I will turn 60. April 3o, 1950 was a Sunday. My parent's often remind me that I was born on the "Lord's Day." Dad still loves to tell the story about my birth. He had preached his morning message at First Baptist Church of Wilmer, Texas and he and Mom were having Sunday lunch with a family from their church. After lunch they were enjoying a dessert of strawberry shortcake, when it was interrupted by a hospital run to Baylor Hospital in Dallas. Actually, the little hospital was Florence Nightingale on Gaston Avenue. By the mid fifties it had been absorbed into Baylor's expansion. Some things never change.
Over the years my parents have given me a healthy respect for the Lord's Day. They have pointed out that my birth forever changed how they looked at Sunday. They had a son born on the first day of the week, the same day that Jesus rose from the grave. To them, Sunday would always be associated with birth, and all the details that surrounded it. At 88 Dad still loves to recall that he never got to finish his dessert. He says that he drove at a high rate of speed from Wilmer to Dallas, and never saw a sign of a police officer. Fathers did not go to the delivery room in those days, so he waited with the other "expectant" dads in the lobby. After my safe delivery, he left Mom at the hospital and returned to Wilmer to preach the evening message. Did I mention that Dad was a Southern Baptist preacher and this was the fifties? His minister of music surprised him by wearing a special bow tie. Just before the service began, he called for the houselights to be turned off and he turned on his tie. It flashed the message, "IT'S A BOY!"
Dad loves this story!
With the message of the Risen Christ, Sunday is forever marked as a day of new beginnings for all of us. It should not surprise us that God turns the grave into a nursery. He allows the women to return to the tomb, and turns it into a triumph. In spite of their love for Jesus, they could not grasp the concept of the resurrection until they heard Him call their name.
I am so glad that God consistently defies my expectations. One of the first books that helped me begin to see the hand of God working outside of the little box I had placed Him in was, "Your God is Too Small." J.B. Phillips had a way of using the English language that painted a picture of the greatness of God, and the inadequacy of man's effort. One of my favorite Phillips quotes comes from his personal translation of the Scripture. "Don't let the world squeeze you into its own mold." (Romans 12:2) See what I mean?
The world looks at a grave yard as the finale. God defies the odds and turns it into a prelude. Only God would take an instrument of death and turn it into a symbol of hope. When the salve of the cross is placed on the scorched skin of sin, He brings healing and hope that takes away the sting of death.
The Gospel writers all sing the prelude of the Risen Christ's victory song. With beautiful harmony they each add their part to the great message, "He is not here, for He has risen just as He said." All of them sing their part with a unique voice, but they are all on the same song sheet. The prelude beings in Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1, Luke 24:1, and John 20:1. It continues every Sunday in churches all over the world who look to the Risen Christ to walk and talk with them every day of their lives.
Sunday is more of a birthday than a memorial service. The Son of God said, "I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly." (John 10:10) You have to love the way God takes the sting out of the grave, and invites people to celebrate life.
Sunday is a day of hope, and it has been forever changed by the power and the Presence of the Risen Christ. The Sabbath day culminated the end of a week of work, and was set aside as a day of rest. This was an emphasis on regaining strength by refocusing on the Sovereignty of God. Sunday was the day the work was to all begin again until the day of rest returned. With the resurrection, Sunday's prominence rose in significance. No longer would it be looked upon as the initiation of the work week, but it would become the celebration of the work that Jesus completed on the cross.
Every Sunday is Easter Sunday, and every day is a day of hope through the power of the resurrection. Regardless of the rough seas that we must sail through on any given day of the week, Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father and prays for us. He has given us the Holy Spirit to dwell within us and call us to the kind of prayer that creates intimate communication between the Heavenly Father and His children. Regardless of the day of the week, prayer puts us in contact with the power of God, and the Presence of Jesus.
"Prayer is how we set our sails to catch the wind of heaven." G. Campbell Morgan.