A terminally ill children's unit is an odd place to catch a little glimpse of eternity, but it happened once between a tiny five-year-old dying from lung cancer and his loving mother, a large loving black woman. She came every day to visit her son. One day before the mother got there, a nurse heard the little fellow saying, "I hear the bells! I hear the bells! They're ringing!" The tiny voice kept repeating the phrase over and over all morning long.
When the mother arrived she asked the nurses how he was doing and the nurse came back with, "Oh, he's hallucinating today—it's probably the medication, but he's not making any sense. He keeps on saying he hears bells."
Then that wonderful mama shook her finger at the nurse, her face glimmering with joy and said, 'You listen to me. He's not hallucinating and he's not out of his head because of any medicine. I told him weeks ago that when the pain in his chest got bad and it was hard to breathe, it meant he was going to leave us. It meant he was going to go to heaven—and that when the pain got really bad he was to look up into the corner of his room—towards heaven-and listen for the bells of heaven—because they'd be ringing for him!" She marched down the hall, grabbed her little boy in her arms, and rocked him in her arms until he was gone, and the bells stopped ringing.
POSITIVE THINKING-Here is an excellent piece of introductory humor, or depending upon your theology, humor that might be used to make a point. I'm going to use it as it might be used during the Easter season:
That reminds me of three men who were out in a fishing boat. One was a Baptist who believed fervently in "Once in grace always in grace ..." The second was a Methodist who believed in back-sliding. The third was a Positive Thinker, a devotee of Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller. The boat capsized. All three men were drowned. All awoke amid the flames of Satan's domain. All three were incredulous. The Baptist started saying ruefully, "I thought I had it, but I didn't. I thought I had it but I didn't." The Methodist looked around and said sorrowfully, "I had it but I lost it. I had it but I lost it." The Positive Thinker was over in a corner by himself, his eyes closed. He could be heard chanting. "It's not hot and I'm not here! It's not hot and I'm not here!"
We're here this morning to say that the Easter story is God's victory over sin, death and the power of hell. Never will we have to chant, "It's not hot and I'm not here." Christ has triumphed!
Martin Luther was once weighed down with great fear and distress. As he sat at a table, his finger began to trace the words, VIVIT! VWIT! ("He lives! He lives!")
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Pollster Fr. Andrew Greeley and colleagues at the University of Chicago have tracked American spiritual health since 1973. They found that in 1986, 73% of Americans believe in life after death; 68% believe the afterlife is Paradise; 74% believe they will be reunited with loved ones.
The Gallup Organization bolsters Greeley's findings. According to Gallup in 1981, 71% of Americans believed in life after death; in 1980, 71% believe in heaven and 20% of these believe that their chances of going to heaven are excellent; 95% believe in God or a Universal Spirit; 70% believe Jesus is God.— (AMERICAN HEALTH, Jan-Feb 1987, p. 49)
I read of the Baptist evangelist in a burst of passionate eloquence in demonstration of the world's wickedness who said: ""Hell is full of whiskey, gambling and loose women wearing tight skirts and lowcut blouses!"
A voice from the congregation was heard to reply:
"Oh, death, where is thy sting?"-- Don Emmittee
Before he died Dr. F.B. Meyer wrote a letter to his wife. "Dear, I have just learned, to my surprise, that I have only a few days to live. It may be that before this reaches you I will have entered the Palace. Don't trouble to write. We shall meet in the morning."
There's a secondhand store in Hollywood, California, that touts the resale of the wardrobes of the stars. For a price, you can buy, wear, and pretend you have the charisma of your favorite star of stage and screen. At least, that's the sizzle of the store's advertising.
Recently, during Holy Week, I drove by the shop and was amazed by a sign in the window. In bold letters it read, "Have a firsthand Easter with a secondhand Easter bonnet worn by a star!" I could hardly believe my eyes. Someone had spent a lot of time on the wording of that eye-catching sign!
You can imagine the seed of thought that sign planted in the furrows of my mind. It takes more than a secondhand hat worn by a celebrity, or even a new one, to have firsthand Easter. The sign started me thinking about the kind of an Easter that would be "firsthand" all year long. It is one in which we meet the risen Lord personally. --Lloyd Olgivie, TWELVE STEPS TO LIVING WITHOUT FEAR [Waco: Word Books, 1987).
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The first native Indian bishop, Dr. Azariah of Dornakal, when asked one day, "If you were in a village where they had never head of Christ, what would you preach about?" answered without hesitation. "The resurrection."
In 1865, in a small town in Wisconsin, five-year-old Max Hoffman came down with cholera. Three days later, the doctor pulled the sheets over the boy's head and pronounced him dead.
Little Max was laid to rest in the village cemetery. That night, his mother awoke screaming: she had dreamt that her son was turning over in his coffin, trying to escape. Trembling with fear, she begged her husband to go to the cemetery immediately and raise the coffin. Mr. Hoffman did his best to calm his wife, assuring her that while her nightmare was indeed hideous, it was still just a dream. Assuaged, Mrs. Hoffman returned to bed.
But the next night, Max's mother had the identical dream, and this time she would not be denied. Resignedly, Mr. Hoffman asked his eldest boy and a neighbor to help him exhume the corpse. They dug up the coffin, opened the lid, and incredibly, there was Max, LYING ON HIS SIDE! Though he showed no signs of life, Mr. Hoffman brought the boy back to the house so the doctor could have one last look at him.
At the Hoffman home, the physician labored to revive him. After an hour, Max's eyelid fluttered. The doctor immediately placed heated salt bags under the boy's arms, rubbed his lips with brandy, and watched for signs of recovery.
Recover Max did. After a week, he was out playing with his comrades. And the boy who died at five lived well into his 80's in Clinton, Iowa. For his entire life, Max Hoffman's most treasured memento was the metal handles he had taken from his own coffin. —Source Unknown
Perhaps the greatest lesson of the resurrection is the defeat of the grave. Funerals, as the risen Christ proved are doors, not walls.
C.S. Lewis' funeral was conducted Monday, November 26, 1963 at holy Trinity Church in Britain. It was a cold, sunny day, and the mourners could hear the crunch of their footsteps on the cold frost of the grave yard as they walked to the hole where their friend's corpse was to be laid to rest. A single candle flickered on top of the coffin, which sat near an open grave.
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Two of Lewis' closest friends stood near the casket, faces expressing the peculiar combination of hope and sorrow only Christian mourners can comprehend. "We've certainly lost a friend," said one, as the funeral closed and they walked out of the church yard gate.
Then the other friend replied, "Only for a time."- Will Griffin, A DRAMATIC LIFE, P. 86.
Every Easter brings to mind that beautiful story found in Nikolai Arseniew's book, MYSTICISM IN THE EAST. Comrade Lunachatsky was lecturing in Moscow's largest assembly hall shortly after the Bolshevist Revolution. His theme was "religion: opium of the people." All the Christian mysteries are but myths, he said, supplanted by the light of science. Marxist science is the light that more than substitutes for the legends of Christianity. Lunachatsky spoke at great length. When he finished, he was so pleased with himself that he asked if anyone in the audience of some 7,000 had anything to add. A 26- year-old Russian Orthodox priest, just ordained, stepped forward. First he apologized to the Commissar for his ignorance and awkwardness. The Commissar looked at him scornfully: "I'll give you two minutes, no more." "I won't take very long," the priest assured him. He mounted the platform, turned to the audience and in a loud voice declared, "Christ is risen!" As one man, that vast audience roared in response, "He is truly risen!"—Breennan Manning, LION AND LAMB (OldTappan, N.J.: Chosen Books, 1986)
Eternal life. All of us long for it. Few of us attain it. Why? The Bible says it's because we look in the wrong places.
Mike Darwin is president of ALCOR Life Extension Foundation in Fullerton, CA. He has a vault in his workshop that features a tank filled with liquid nitrogen frozen to -196 degrees. On the bottom of the tank are five aluminum soup kettles, each containing one human head wrapped in a pillow case. Why? Because Darwin is trying to invent eternal life, and when he does, he's going to spill some over onto the heads—for a fee of course, and they will come back to life, for eternity.
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"With years of research ahead of me," the doctor says, "I try not to get emotional, yet I never lose the feeling that these people are on the way to reanima-tion."
It's a good thing he hasn't lost the feeling, because those freeze dried heads aren't feeling much of anything.
But anyway, how will all this take place? Glad you asked. A future doctor will inject medical tools the size of a molecule into the head as it thaws out. These little mini-medics will work like tiny robots fixing atoms and restoring the head to the original condition .... but will he stop while he's ahead? Cut that out. No, he will then clone the head's body from a single cell. Voila! Eternal life!!
It's so ridiculous it sounds funny, but what Dr. Darwin is doing represents in parable form what most of humanity tries to do—find a road to eternal life that does not head straight towards the cross of Calvary. It can't be done.—OMNI (October, 1987)
Ernie Campbell, in his book "Locked In A Room With Open Doors" says: "Easter says a lot about history - personal, national and global. . . The Resurrection affirms God's intention to establish his kingdom here on earth. God's aim is not to evacuate the faithful but to work through men and women who share the Galilean vision to bring the kingdoms of this world beneath the rule of God. . . it must surely mean that God's purpose for men and women will ultimately prevail; that service will triumph over exploitation; that generosity will triumph over greed; that freedom will triumph over bondage; that grace will triumph over sin; and that love will be victorious over hate."
Holy toy box! Dolls that believe in a divine being.
Special Blessings dolls, which will be available for Easter (1988), can kneel and—because of Velcro pads— stick their hands together in prayer.
Christina, Abigail, Angela and Matthew, representing love, kindness, hope and joy. . . . will cost about $20.
The 15 inch dolls aren't religious, says David Mauer, president of Kenner Parker Toys in Cincinnati. "What we're emphasizing are the traditional values we see Americans increasingly turning to."
So far, Mauer says, response has been positive—people see the dolls as a "very nice thing to do for parents and children."But Anny Gaynor of Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison, Wisconsin, says, "Those prayers will probably do about as much good as the kind by live people."
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The dolls come with inspirational verse:
My friends and I were thinking,
Lord, Just maybe if you're free
You'd like to come and join us
For a cookie and some tea?"
--(USATODAY, 1-26-88, p. ID)
Dr. Henry Sloane Coffin was a famous Presbyterian minister who lived in the first half of our century. (I think he was the uncle of Dr. William Sloane Coffin.) Dr. Coffin once asked Justice Taft what he thought of the prospects of the League of Nations, which was just beginning to fall apart . . . (primarily because of lack of support from the United States). Taft stopped abruptly, turned round to face Dr. Coffin directly, and said: "You ought to know that in this world the best things get crucified; BUT THEY RISE AGAIN!"
Karl Barth, in one of his writings, said: "The Easter message tells us that our enemies sin, the curse and death, are beaten. Ultimately they can no longer start mischief. They still behave as though the game were not decided, the battle not fought; we must still reckon with them, but fundamentally we cease to fear them any more."-(Quoted in PREACHING, page 409, March-April, 1987).
An interesting book out recently surveys our current culture's survivalist rage. It seems that Americans are fascinated with—surviving? Yes, even Volvo-driving yogurt-eating Americans are playing hardball with the same fear that the aborigine tribe in the outback fights—just surviving. The book illustrates this passion by discussing all the survival kits, coping manuals, survivalist magazines, and other 'You'll never make it through THE BIG ONE unless you have this" paraphenelia.
While a random sampling of survivalists will come up with various varieties of THE BIG ONE—the common denominator is that whatever it is it will be pretty nasty, and you'd better not get caught with. . . you get the point.
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