Friday, March 29, 2013
My Favorite Easter Egg
Every year we see another Nativity challenged or removed, Christmas trees become holiday trees, and 2 years ago a school in Bellevue renamed the Christmas ornaments on their "holiday tree," requiring them all to be shaped like mittens and asked that students refer to them as "holiday mittens" rather than Christmas ornaments.
And there are those who continue to say there is no war on Christmas.
Now this non-war effort has, in the name of inclusion and welcoming, included Easter.
The latest local example is Edmonds. For those of you who live somewhere other than Seattle, Edmonds is a suburb to the North of the city.
KOMO News is reporting that the city of Edmonds has taken "the controversial step of removing the word 'Easter' from its egg hunt---a tradition in the city."
In a written statement, officials from the city say in the spirit of being inclusive to all citizens, including non Christians, the annual celebration has been re-named the "Edmonds Egg Hunt."
They say, "The removal of specific religious references is common throughout many cities...we want to recognize and welcome all citizens to our events regardless of faith."
So they are acting in the spirit of inclusiveness and welcoming.
Actually, that reflects one very important aspect of Easter. The message of Easter is both welcoming and inclusive.
Let me tell you about my favorite Easter egg.
It was a hot, humid August day in Salem, Oregon. There was no breeze in the Willamette Valley.
I had resigned as pastor of the church in Ballard and had accepted the position of Associate Pastor of what is now known as People's Church.
The new church has air conditioning. The old one did not. The pastor had decided when they did the building renovation they didn't need air, after all he said, we only have a few very hot days in Salem. And he wanted to save a few dollars. He also drove a Volkswagen.
And I might add, that pastor and I became lifelong friends. Denny Davis and I stay in touch. He is doing well.
This was one of those days. It was stifling. It was beyond any hot day I had ever experienced in Seattle. The receptionist and myself were the only people left in the building. My boss, our pastor, had left, probably gone to an air conditioned coffee shop, or even to the beach.
I was about to leave when I heard someone walk into the reception area. A young man was brought to my office. He was wasted. Literally wasted, physically, mentally and spiritually.
In speech so slurred I could hardly understand his words, he looked at me and said, "Can you fix me, they said you could."
During those years kids were beginning to discover that Dr. Timothy Leary, the Harvard professor who strongly advocated the use of LSD, had lied. It didn't fix people. It destroyed them.
This kid was proof of how wrong Leary had been. He couldn't even talk. I asked if he could repeat himself.
"Can you fix me?" he said.
I said, "No, I can't, but...", at which point he dropped his head and turned toward the door. I continued, "but I know someone who can." He turned and asked where this person was and if he could meet him.
As I began to tell him about Jesus Christ, he stopped me and respectfully told me he had already tried the "church thing." It didn't work. I told him to forget about the church thing and told him he could know Jesus Christ personally. And that Jesus could "fix" him through His death and resurrection.
We talked further, I led in a prayer, asking him to repeat after me and we said goodbye, agreeing to meet again in about a week or so.
Let's call him Mitch.
The church was experiencing dynamic growth. Those who were there will remember. The youth ministry had grown exponentially. There are people all across the Northwest and Washington, from Walla Walla to the Tri-Cities to Sunnyside to Seattle, Kitsap Peninsula and the Olympic Peninsula and elsewhere, who were college students in that church at that time. Some of them are pastors, some business people---all extra ordinary people. I still hear from many of them.
A week had passed. I had not forgotten Mitch, nor had he forgotten me. However, my mind was on my notes for Bible study with a couple of hundred that evening. I heard some one approaching.
I looked up and Mitch was standing in my door. He said he had thought a lot about our conversation and had thought about trying to get off drugs. If fact, he said he only used LSD twice in the past week.
We talked and prayed. I offered him a Bible. While he was grateful, he handed it back to me saying, "I can't read anymore, I think its the drugs." I told him to keep it, that one of these days he would be able to read again. He said I must be an "optometrist," one of those people who are positive thinkers.
Since he couldn't read, I gave him a couple of lines to try to remember and repeat.
"Jesus is the Son of God."
"Jesus died for my sins"
"Jesus rose from the dead."
"Jesus loves me and will forgive my sins if I ask."
During the following days and weeks, Mitch was able to get off drugs. He began to read again. He began to read and study the Bible. We chose the book of John. Each week I would assign other and additional verses for him to study.
One day he came to my office and asked if the Song of Solomon was holy. I said sure, it's in the Bible. He said you didn't assign it but I have been reading some of it. It's kind of sexual isn't it?
I knew he was improving. And indeed he was. He became involved in the church and the youth group. He was doing many of the same things he had done previously in another church, but this time he was focused on his personal relationship with Jesus. It was different this time because it was about "becoming," not merely "doing."
About a year had passed. Someone was walking through my door. It was Mitch, dressed in a suit and tie. I said, "You must have something important going on." He said, "I do. I want to tell you something."
As he spoke, he walked toward me with his hand extended. He handed me an egg---a perfectly cut, highly polished blue green granite egg. He said this egg represented him. He said it was an Easter egg.
"When I first met you," he said, "I was a rough stone beside the road of life, in the ditch. You led me to Jesus and I became this polished stone."
He asked me to keep the stone near my desk. He said, "You will probably forget about me, but let this stone remind you that nothing is impossible with God."
As I took the stone, I wept. Many years have passed and the egg is still on my desk. I'm looking at it as I write this blog today. I have never forgotten.
Mitch said the message of Easter changed his life. I would say it can change yours as well.
We will continue to resist the growing assault on the Bible, Christianity and Christians themselves in our culture, but we know that the resurrection power of God can not be stripped away by secular progressive or anyone else.
And as I look at this Easter egg, I will remember that nothing is impossible with God.
He is risen! Have a wonderful Easter weekend.