THE FINAL EASTER PARADE

 

When I was in the fifth grade, I actually marched in a parade, fat little kid that I was, and played the snare drum.  It was a rodeo parade.  I can’t imagine it!  If you know me, you know that I am the furthest possible from being a cowgirl.  That’s why, I guess, I have tried to blot it out of my memory.  I have no recollection of the snare drum before or since that parade, but I guess I was a member of our drum and bugle corp.  It’s weird what kids will do!

Parades can be fun and exciting and spectacular.  I usually watch a few minutes of the Rose Bowl Parade each year, but it is beyond me to sit on the sofa or stand on a street corner for hours and watch nine million beautiful floats passing by.  Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is amazing, but a dozen oversized cartoon balloons are enough to last me for a good while.

It’s the unusual, maybe “once in a lifetime” parade that I best remember.

At Christmas time, in Lodi, where I used to live, fire engines festooned with colored lights, holiday music blaring, drove down our residential streets tossing goodies to adults and children alike who gathered on the sidewalks to shout “Merry Christmas.” What a dazzling parade.

As a child, I remember seeing thousands of American Soldiers marching in triumph down New York’s Fifth Avenue, following the end of World War II.  The confetti and ticker tape filled the air, as people welcomed them home.  Now, that was a parade!

Of course, Easter processions or parades, often including special dress, have been part of Christian culture since earliest beginnings.

The Bible records two such processions during the first Holy Week.  On what is now called Palm Sunday, Jesus, seated on a donkey, rode into Jerusalem as an adoring throng waved palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna…blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

On Friday, a few days later, this same Jesus, carrying his cross, led another parade up Calvary’s Mountain.

Authorities attribute the introduction of new Easter clothes and personal finery to the Roman Emperor, Constantine, who ordered his subjects to dress in their finest and parade in honor of Christ’s resurrection.

From 1870 through the 1950s, New York’s Easter Parade was the main cultural expression of Easter in our country.  By the 1880s the Easter Parade had become a vast spectacle of fashion and religious observance.  It was actually an after-church cultural event for the well-to-do.  Decked out in new and fashionable clothing, they would stroll down Fifth Avenue from their own church to others to see the impressive decorations and to be seen by their fellow strollers.  People from the poorer and middle classes would observe the parade to learn the latest trends in fashion.  It was not unusual for a million or more people to turn out for this parade.

By the mid 20th century, the parade’s religious aspects had faded and it was mostly seen as a demonstration of American riches.  What had begun in 1870 as a parade of refinement and religious display had become an ostentatious frolic.

Sadly, for most people today, Easter has little to do with Jesus Christ and His resurrection.  The Easter Bunny and chocolate eggs have stolen the show.

I will never walk down Fifth Avenue on Easter Sunday dressed in my finest, but I will, once again one day, participate in a parade.  It will be the parade to end all parades.

Revelation 19:11 – 16 speaks of this parade.  John, the writer, tells us, “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse.  And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True.  And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.  And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:  KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

One day, we don’t know when Jesus is coming back to this sad sinful world.  He will be the Grand Marshall of the grandest parade.  He will ascend from heaven on a white horse followed by the redeemed of all ages.  Those, who have loved and served Him, will be dressed in fine white garments also riding upon white horses.

I would like to think this will take place on some future Easter Sunday, but regardless of the day, our KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS, the one who was born for us, died for us, and was resurrected for us, will once again take control of this world wiping out all evil setting up His Kingdom where He will rule and reign forever.

That’s what Easter is all about—our Resurrected Christ, faithful and True, coming again.

MAY YOUR EASTER BE BLESSED!

 REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RESURRECTION MORNING

We were always awake and out of bed before the sun came up on Easter morning.  With great anticipation, we donned our new frilly spring dresses and white slippers.  Sometimes there was even a pretty little Easter bonnet.  It was chilly on that late March or April morning, but no one wanted to cover a new dress with sweater or coat.

At the church, we joined a long line of cars making their way out Apache Trail to the butte ten miles east of town.  Arriving in the early dawn, we trudged to the top.  Someone carried a guitar or lugged an accordion.  Looking east toward the Superstition Mountains we viewed with awe the bright crest of the sun as it inched its way up over the hills.

Then the music began.  “Up from the grave, He arose…He arose!  He arose!  Hallelujah! Christ arose.”  Even as a child, I felt my heart swell with joy as we lifted our voices in song after song.

“He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today.

He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.

He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!

You ask me how I know He lives?

He lives within my heart.”

Why in the world would anyone want to trudge to the top of a hill in the dark of a chilly morning?  Couldn’t we sing and pray at church?  No need to get up so early.  No need to expend such energy—

TRUE!  However, I think we just wanted to get as near to heaven as we could on that special day, and we wanted to be there very early as the sun arose for that was when the women came to Jesus’ tomb and found it empty.  On top of that butte, we felt the kiss of heaven as we rejoiced at the truth that Jesus is alive, indeed.  We called them “SUNRISE SERVICES,” those early morning EASTER events.

Our Pastor read the resurrection story from Mark 16:1 – 8, pausing briefly as he read verse 6.  “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  HE IS RISEN!  He is not here.  See the place where they laid Him.”

After prayer, we skipped excitedly down the hill.  We were on our way to Easter breakfast.  A room was reserved for us at the “Feed Bag,” a favorite restaurant in town.  We ate pancakes and eggs.  We exclaimed over the glory of the sunrise and talked about the sweetness of the service.  We laughed and complimented each other on the beauty of our Easter finery.  Then we went to church.

What, more church?  Oh, yes! Easter had just begun.  There would be more singing, more praying, more preaching and more rejoicing.  This was a day of celebration—celebration of the resurrection—celebration of new life—new life in Christ Jesus. Not only was Jesus alive never to die again, but we also were alive, for because Jesus died and rose again, I too, had received the gift of eternal life.

Oh, and don’t forget.  There was a Sunday evening service as well.

From this long expanse of years, I am not trying to spiritualize everything that happened on Easter Sunday, but I must tell you truthfully I do not remember the excitement of Easter baskets and egg hunts, though I love the thought.  I know we colored eggs on Saturday afternoon, and I am sure there was a chocolate bunny or two, yet those things do not occupy a large space in my catalogue of memories.  It’s those early morning events to which my mind always returns at this time of the year.

Now understand.  I am not adverse to the myriad of Easter symbols we have adopted over the years.  I love the fluffy yellow chicks, the beautiful flowers, the cuddly bunnies and the colorful eggs.  However, for the most part these symbols find their roots in paganism, but I have chosen to accept them as symbols of new life and that is what Easter is all about.

Did you know, centuries ago, we celebrated New Year’s Day on March 25, Annunciation Day—the day Angel Gabriel announced to a teenage Galilean girl that she would bear the Christ Child?  That’s the day Jesus became an embryo in Mary’s womb.  That’s the day the promise of new life kindled hope in a darkened world.  No wonder we called it a New Year.

So enjoy your eggs and chocolate bunnies, but remember, the greatest and truest symbol of Easter is an empty tomb, for Jesus is not there.  He has ascended to the Father, and from that throne on high, He still extends the gift of eternal life to those who will receive Him.

THAT’S WHAT EASTER IS ALL ABOUT!!!

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                    

LOVE DOESN’T WANT WHAT IT DOESN’T HAVE

The Apostle Paul, writing to the Hebrews about that peculiar kind of love that Christians have for each other said, “Let brotherly love continue.”

In keeping with Paul’s admonition concerning Christian love, I want to latch onto the coattails of last week’s blog and examine another characteristic of this unique love.

“…love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have…” I Corinthians 13:4.  (The Message)

The New King James says, “…love does not envy…”

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I was amazed to find that the word “envy” encompasses a broad spectrum of negative emotions that crop up in our relationships.

ENVY is that resentful desire for the same thing that someone else enjoys.  Envy also speaks of MALICE—the desire to see another suffer. (It serves him right!)  Then, there is the holding of a GRUDGE—a deep seated resentment toward another, and Jealousy is an intolerance of a rival—suspicious and distrustful.  PIQUE is also implied simply meaning to purposely arouse anger and resentment.

That’s a pretty ugly picture, isn’t it?  We declare that we love one another, and yet we fall easily into these traps of resentment, of jealousy, of suspicion.

When I was a little girl, Mama took me and my sister shopping just before Easter.  We went to the local Woolworth, five and dime store.  There displayed in row after row were the most gorgeous Easter Baskets all dressed up in colored cellophane and big puffy bows.  Mama was there to buy buttons or some such thing not realizing the temptation that awaited us.

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My little sister stopped dead in her tracks in the aisle and said, “I want that one.” Even now it hurts to remember that Mama couldn’t buy it.  When every penny counts, even a little bit is too much.  There was no way to explain that to a child, and the tears flowed freely.

As adults, we sometimes behave in the same way wanting things we cannot have.

When I finished my missionary assignment in Europe and returned to the good old USA, I was determined to buy a house.  I wanted to live like real people.  I guess you could call that “envy.”  I drove up and down the streets near our church—streets lined with beautiful, old custom built homes.  I didn’t hate the people who could afford to live in those houses.  I just wanted what they had.  I wept knowing there was no way I could buy one with my income. The longing was like a physical pain.  Only when I surrendered that desire to the Lord was I able to rent a lovely apartment, and live happily in it for eighteen years.

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“Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.”  I find that really hard in a world where we are constantly bombarded by a plethora of available things.  The shopping networks offer easy pay.  It only costs $11.00 a month for the next @#$%^& months.  I must admit that I am tempted by the advertisements for walk-in bath tubs.  At my age, that would be a sheer pleasure.  Then I read the fine print.  You pay only $50.00 a month for the next nine hundred years.

In my first job as a school teacher back in 1960, I received a salary of $280.00 a month. My rent was $80.00 and I had a $50.00 car payment.  Oh, for the good old days.

One day I answered the door to a pots and pans salesman, who was determined to sell me his wares.  Foolishly, I allowed him in.  He made a beeline for my little kitchen and began to examine my cookware.  My Mom had given me what she could—a cast iron skillet, a couple of mismatched sauce pans, a muffin tin and a cookie sheet.  For some reason this intruder found that hilarious.  Yes, he talked me into buying an expensive set of cookware that came with a free set of “fine” china.  Did I want it?  Yes!  Was it a wise thing to do?  No, and I knew it before I finished signing the contract.

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“I’ve changed my mind,” I said.  “I can’t afford this” The salesman reached across the table and picked up the contract.  “Please tear it up,” I pleaded.  He laughed and said, “Your merchandise will arrive within the week.”

When it arrived, I loaded it in the car and took it to the freight office, and sent the pots and “fine” china back to the company C.O.D.—cash on demand.  I knew I couldn’t afford it.

How does wanting things we do not have relate to our Christian love for each other?  I believe our unfulfilled desires rob us of contentment causing resentment, which in turn affects our attitude toward life in general and fellow believers in particular.

In Philippians 4:11, the Apostle Paul says, “…I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”

 

Remember—the sun will come out tomorrow