Monday, April 01, 2013

Controversy on and after Resurrection Day

Washington, DC

This Easter Sunday, if the reports are true, a great preaching opportunity was overlooked in the nation's capital city. As it often happens, that fact has drawn many of us to think of what was not said inside the church known as "the church of presidents" and "the presidents' church."
     The presidents' church is a narrow, pale yellow building that dates way back. It sits on the corner of 16th Street, NW, a little north of the White House visible across the way.
     It is where people in the capital city go to pray at times of national emergency. People left offices to go into that church to pray for President Reagan after he was shot one sunny afternoon. People went there to pray on days after 9/11/01. 

This day, Easter Monday. The Washington Post and other news sources were full of reports again about the historic church. On the most joyful day of the Christian calendar, Resurrection Sunday, the good news was not preached. Harangue does not help the soul or exalt God, if that is what happened, as reports said. What a humbling privilege it would have been to have heard Christ exalted. President Obama and his family were there to hear. As professing Christians, they most likely expected to rejoice.
     Yet, mind and hearts were lowered as familiar critiques of society's failures were recited, a missed opportunity.
     I have been thinking today of another church, an English church, on a snowy evening. It was the scene of another kind of history. On that snowy night, only two people entered there: an old preacher and a young man. The young man stopped in mainly to get out of a hard snowfall.
     He had been raised in a Christian home. Personally, however, he felt very unsure, almost antagonistic, about what he believed for himself.
     The preacher kept to his calling and preached the gospel. The young man listened as he sat in that cold church. The words brought unexpected warmth to the young man's soul. His heart and mind responded as the preacher ended, proclaiming, "Look up! Look up!" As in the phrase that leads into "...for thy salvation draweth nigh."
     When the preaching ended, the young man went out of that church a changed man. He soon realized God's call to preach. He sought to "stay true to the gospel," not knowing that he was to become known around the world, prolific in preaching, writing, prayer, teaching, and establishing help for London's poorest. He preached to the poor and the great. He was heard by royalty, everyday people, and powerful government leaders. He was London's great 19th century proclaimer of Christ.
     He was once criticized by another pastor for laughing from the pulpit. He replied that maybe it was that joy that drew so many. He did not know. He admired Christ who, he said, preached when He spoke and preached when He was silent. Preached preached by the sea, in the synagogue... and from a cross of crucifixion. 
     The name of the preacher who cried out "Look up!" was never greatly known and today has faded; the effect of his faithful preaching remains through his listener that night and his books--Charles H. Spurgeon* and his life devoted to Christ. That unknown preacher, the vessel of the good news, did his work that snowy night. He not only showed up; his preaching played a role in the salvation of a young listener being called by God.
     There was a third person in that English church in the unseen, living Christ. He was in the Washington church across from the White House, too. And many thought of Him, the One deserving of utmost praise.    
     "The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed." One Cross stands over the world. It points to the crucified and risen Lord. Kings and kingdoms, nations and leaders, news and uproar come and go. Christ remains. He is here and now, present and eternal. Some who do not know Christ Jesus today will soon know Him through the joy of His salvation. Their minds, hearts, and lives will open to God, with love and joy following. The gospel summary of Resurrection Day and every day is that Jesus is alive. 

Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.

This is the day the Lord has made. Let's rejoice and be glad in it! 

*The Mourner's Comforter, Morning by Morning, and many other books by C.H. Spurgeon.
Copyright (c) 2013 Opinari Writers and Jean Purcell

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