04-12-09 MY LORD, WHAT A MORNING!

MY LORD, WHAT A MORNING!

Mark 16: 1-8

 

In a stage whisper, I can imagine Christians thinking about the day when God created the waters of the deep, and the sky above, and exclaiming “My Lord, what a mornin’!” I can imagine Christians on the day of Christ’s return, a time perhaps when stars will fall from the sky, or when the earth will shake, or when a radiant beam comes from heaven, proclaiming “My Lord, what a mornin’!” And today on Easter, when we remember that Mary Magdalene and Peter and the others found that brand new tomb, where Jesus’ body was placed and a stone rolled over the entrance, empty,  Christians around the world hopefully are saying in a breathless fashion, “My Lord, what a morning!” The old Spiritual song from whence that title comes captures the sense of awe, and wonder and amazement that gets buried under layers of our prior knowledge that the tomb was empty. We know the tomb was empty! The Bible tells us so. We believe that Jesus’ body was not stolen from a guarded and sealed tomb. We believe that the ground shook and the stone rolled away and that Jesus rose from the dead!  Risen from the dead: we sometimes sing about it as if it happens every day; well, it does now, but only because Christ the Lord broke the bonds of death and came to life again. It’s not every day that such things happen! My Lord, what a morning!

 

As I was telling the children, I began thinking about times in my life that took my breath away: going to my first World Series game was never to be forgotten by a boy seeing his favorite team! Getting old precious coins from my late uncle’s collection; seeing my wife on our wedding day and my children on their day of birth; seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time; seeing a double rainbow; seeing York Minister in England and St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  In 1985 watching the cameras of Dr. Robert Ballard find the Titanic after 73 years. The ship was sailing for New York in great luxury 93 years ago this very night! The whole event astounds me. Someone else’s list included seeing pictures of earth from deep space; hearing about the first heart transplant, the wonder of the Internet, and the time when the Berlin wall was dismantled. But perhaps the event that made the whole nation look on in awe happened on July 20, 1969. If you were alive then, you were likely watching a television set, not to witness an assassination, or war, or a terrorist attack, but to see what had never happened before: a man stepped on the moon for the first time. Do you realize how many decades we’ve been flying the Space Shuttle just up into the air or to the Space Station? The first Space Shuttle Columbia went into the air this day, April 12th, in 1981- 28 years ago! After President Kennedy’s challenge to get there, Neil Armstrong put his foot on the lunar surface just 7 years later. Seven years! My Lord, what an event. It brought wonder, awe, and unity back to a bitter and jaded nation. What are the events that have taken your breath away? Picture or think about them now.

 

The disciples of Jesus also had some breathtaking experiences occur as they were following the Savior. What were some of their amazing events?  At a wedding, Jesus’ mother watched him change water into wine; certainly one of his more popular miracles! Just last month 35 of us stood at the Sea of Galilee where Jesus took five loaves of bread and two fish and fed 5000 people with them! My Lord, what a miracle! Can you imagine seeing that? How about seeing a man sitting by the pool of Bethesda for 38 years, and then one day Jesus said, “Just get up and walk,” and he did! “Mind over matter” you might say. “The power of suggestion” you might think.  Not so fast! How about the day that blind Bartimaeus, a persistent beggar, had Jesus ask him, “What do you want?” “I want to see” he replied without hesitating. And Jesus made him see. What a miracle!  We in our day are not without our miracles either.  Respected psychiatrist and physician Dr. Harold Koenig, in his book THE HEALING POWER OF PRAYER, gives dozens of real examples of healings considered to be miraculous, going even back to 1858 to a case in Lourdes, France, when a peasant girl of fourteen, being prepared for her first communion, saw a vision of the Virgin Mary nineteen times, and she was directed to uncover a spring that reportedly helped heal thousands who visited it over the years. In our modern era, even this last week there was the case of everyone in a house barricaded in a closet while a tornado came and tore every single part of their house down except the closet! They were in the closet praying. It takes my breath away to hear a story like that.

 

Perhaps you have not been spared in a storm, or perhaps you have. Perhaps you haven’t had a doctor turn to you as your husband miraculously recovered from a stroke and say, “There was more than medicine at work here! Prayer brought about this outcome!” Or perhaps you have heard words like that. And it is likely that none of us can know what is was like to approach the tomb of a man who was said to be the Son of God, and, when going in to prepare the body, find it gone!  But God did that for us, according to many faithful witnesses. The tomb was empty; it didn’t just matter to them; it matters to us; and as used to the news as I’ve become, when I sing about it, pray about it, and try to picture it, it still has the power to take my breath away. I hope the events of Easter never lose their edge of awe. My Lord, what a morning!

 

One man put to paper what it must have been like on the day of Jesus’ death.

On the day of Jesus’ death and the next day, Nicodemus might have wished Jesus knew what he had done for him, for his gift was great, but the man Jesus had died. Disciples may have given up on their dream of a Messiah. Some gathered to talk about Jesus as friends do with casseroles or finger foods in our day. But he was gone. Second day disciples are called that if they never hear of the empty tomb. They have memories, but hope is missing. The memory of Christ’s strength could keep them strong; the memory of his courage could breed courage; the memory of his tenderness could encourage grace. But they are just memories. Second-day disciples are to be praised and pitied, third day disciples are to be praised and envied! They have more than a memory to recall, they have a person to call upon! Even if the third day had never dawned, even without Easter, Christ’s teachings were true. His principles were valid and practicable. But third-day disciples have more than principles: they have a presence; they have the presence of a living Lord with them.” [LaRue A. Loughhead, EYEWITNESSES AT THE CROSS, 1974, Judson Press. P. 68, 69.]  We are not stuck in the night of his arrest; we are not mired in the afternoon at Golgotha when the sky turned black. A new day dawned, and birds sang, and the earth shook, and the stone was rolled away, and a risen Lord offered the miraculous way to eternal life. Let us give him th
e crown of Glory, as he offers us the Crown of Life.

Jeffrey Sumner                                                                       April 12, 2009