|UNITY OF VANCOUVER
3814 FRANKLIN ST. VANCOUVER, WASHINGTON 98660 360-696-0996
Do You Believe in Easter?
Reverend Bernadette Voorhees
April 17, 2022
All Rights Reserved
Today, we are celebrating the spirit of overcoming within us as our ability to rise in consciousness to meet new situations & to learn the things we need to learn to unleash the power of Easter within us by following the example set for us by Jesus Christ.
PRAYER / MEDITATION
I invite you to close your eyes. Now allow your breathing to become slower and deeper and take a moment to be fully present, right here in the presence of God this glorious Easter morning. The Bible tells us: “Be confident that God, who has begun a good work in you, will complete it.”
Today I invite you to accept your spiritual right to be who you truly are – a unique and special being in God’s eyes and in God’s plan with unique God-given qualities within you. These qualities are the good work that God has begun in you. This Easter, accept your right to be free to be who you are spiritually. Today accept what Jesus said about you and believe that you are a beloved child of God. As a beloved child of God, you have the right to be loved, cared for & accepted. Begin now by accepting yourself as a beloved child of God in the silence of prayer…
On this Easter morning follow Jesus by resurrecting your consciousness to new heights of awareness. Through God's help you are guided to serve in great & small ways. You have the God given right to be happy. You have the right to grow, change & become all that God intends you to be. God has a Divine plan for you & that plan is unfolding in your life right now. It is impossible for any crucifixion experience to have power over you today or any day. It is impossible for you to stay locked in a tomb of limitation. Trust God and know that what is happening in your life right now is part of your spiritual growth. Trust God and let go of all personal concerns. God is in charge. Trust completely and surrender into God’s goodness and love. Affirm: “God is in charge of my life. I trust in God’s goodness and love for me.”
God has begun a great work in you, and it will be completed. You are a special and unique child of God. Be confident that God, who has begun a good work in you this Easter morning, will complete it. Affirm it so in the name & resurrecting power of Jesus Christ’s. Amen.
DO YOU BELIEVE IN EASTER?
“Get up! It’s time!” Called a voice from outside the darkened bedroom. But the man who lay inside did not stir so the voice outside persisted. “It’s Easter. It’s time to get up” she said. Inside the room the only sound was the sound muffled snoring. “Did you hear me?” she said again. For the first time there are sounds of stirring. A slight moan. The sound of a man grabbing hold of the covers and rolling over in his bed. “Don’t make me come in there. You can get up by yourself” the voice called. The man pulled the covers over his head and moaned again. Sensing something might be wrong, the woman, the man’s wife – entered the room and, in a somewhat more soothing tone, responded sympathetically. “If you don’t get up now, you’re going to be late for church.” “I don’t want to go,” the man said. “Don’t want to go? What are you talking about?” He said, “I don’t feel well and I ‘m not sure they really like me at that church. Or that anyone would notice if I didn’t show up.” “Of course they would,” she laughed. “Besides, there’ll be plenty of new people this morning. There are always new people on Easter.” “That’s another thing,” the man continued. “I don’t think I really understand Easer.” “That’s okay, dear. Not many people really understand Easter. All you must do is show up.” “But Jesus didn’t show up on Easter,” the man said. “Jesus had an excuse,” the wife returned. “Enough of this!” the woman said finally at the end of her patience. “It’s Easter. Church starts in an hour. Everyone’s going to be there. You’re the minister. Now get moving.”
Most of you have heard other Easter Lessons in the past. And although I’m starting with an old joke, I don’t exaggerate when I say that not everyone who goes to church really understands Easter. So, I want to tell you another story.
Edith Burns lived in San Antonio, Texas and was the favorite patient of Dr. Will Phillips. Dr. Phillips said that on Edith’s appointment days, he’d always see her sitting in the waiting room with her black Bible in her lap earnestly talking to whoever happened to be sitting next to her. Edith had a habit of introducing herself in this way: "My name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?" Then she would offer to explain the meaning of Easter and many times people would willingly listen and be blessed.
One day after being called into the doctor's office to receive some test results, Edith looked at him and said, "Dr. Will, why are you so sad? Are you reading your Bible? Are you praying?" Dr. Phillips said gently, "Now Edith, I'm the doctor & you're the patient. I have some bad news to tell you. Your recent lab report came back, and it says you have cancer. You're not going to live much longer." Edith said, "Why Will Phillips, shame on you for being sad. Do you think God makes mistakes? You’ve just told me I'm going to see my precious Lord Jesus, my husband, and my friends. You’ve just told me that I am going to celebrate Easter forever and here you are having difficulty giving me my ticket!" Dr. Phillips thought to himself, "What a magnificent woman Edith Burns is!" When Dr. Phillips explained to her that she would have to move into the hospital Edith said, "Will you please make sure that if they put someone in the room with me, it is someone who needs to know about Easter?" He did that and the people who shared that room with Edith had spiritual experiences after talking with her. Everyone on the floor, staff, and patients, loved Edith and called her Edith Easter.
Everyone but Phyllis Cross the Head Nurse. Phyllis had been a nurse in an Army Hospital. She had seen & heard it all. She had been married three times. She was hard, cold and did everything by the book. On Edith’s first day in the hospital, Phyllis made it clear that she wanted nothing to do with Edith Burns because she was a "religious nut." Then one morning the two nurses who usually took care of Edith were out sick with flu. Edith also had the flu and that meant that Phyllis had to take care of her. When she walked in, Edith had a big smile on her face and said, "Phyllis, God loves you and I love you and I have been praying for you." Phyllis Cross said, "Well, you can quit praying for me. It won't work; I'm not interested." Edith said, "Well, I’ll pray for you anyway and I’ve asked God to not let me go home until you come into the family." Phyllis Cross said, "Then you will never die because that will never happen."
Every time Phyllis went into her room Edith said, "God loves you Phyllis and I love you and I'm praying for you." Then one day Phyllis said she was literally drawn into Edith's room like a magnet. Edith said, "I'm so glad you have come Phyllis, because God told me that today is your special day." Phyllis said, "Edith, I want to know why you’ve asked everybody here but me the question, “Do you believe in Easter?” Edith said, "Phyllis, I wanted to, but God told me to wait until you asked me to ask you. Now that you’ve asked." Then Edith took her old black Bible and shared with Phyllis Cross the Easter Story from the Gospel of John 20:1-18.
“Early on the 1st day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So, Mary ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb & I do not know where they have laid him.’ Peter then came out with the other disciple and they both ran toward the tomb, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there & the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in and he saw and believed; for as yet, they didn’t know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb and as she wept, she stooped to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ And she said to them, ‘Because they have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid him.’ Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. And Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ And she turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni!’ which means Teacher. Jesus then said to her, ‘Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord;’ & she told them that he had said these things to her.”
When she finished reading Edith said, "Well, Phyllis, do you believe in Easter? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is alive and that He wants to live in your heart?" Phyllis said, "I want to believe that with all my heart and I do want Jesus in my life." Then Edith prayed with Phyllis as she invited Jesus Christ into her heart. Phyllis said, “For the first time I didn’t walk out of a hospital room, I felt that I was carried out on the wings of angels.” Two days later, Phyllis came into Edith’s room and Edith said, "Do you know what day it is?" And Phyllis said, "Why Edith, it's Good Friday." And Edith said, "Oh, no, for you every day is Easter now. Happy Easter, Phyllis!" On Easter Sunday, Phyllis came to work. She did some of her duties and then went to the flower shop to buy an Easter Lilly for Edith. When Phyllis walked into Edith's room, she saw that Edith was in bed with her Bible on her lap & her hands in that Bible. There was a sweet smile on her face & when Phyllis went to pick up Edith's hand, she realized Edith was dead. Her left hand was on John 14: "In my Father's house of life are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also." Her right hand was resting on Revelation 21:4, "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, there shall be no more death nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." Phyllis took one last look at that dead body and then lifted her face toward heaven and with tears streaming down her cheeks, she said, "Happy Easter, Edith, Happy Easter!" Phyllis walked out of Edith's room and over to a table where two student nurses were sitting and said, "Hello, my name is Phyllis Cross. Do you believe in Easter?"
My question to you is: “DO YOU BELIEVE IN EASTER?. To answer that question, I’ll tell you another story and together we’ll examine the steps of the spiritual journey that Jesus took and said that we are to follow.
Helen was working at a job she loved and did well. She was a manager who supervised people and who got things done. Helen admits that at age 61 she was pretty set in her ways. She knew what she believed and saw no reason to change. She said, “It was only hindsight that made me realize, how unhappy I was in that job.” Then something happened. Helen got a new boss, and they just didn’t get along. She knew something had to change and it soon did. She got fired. She said, “I felt devastated and betrayed. I didn’t understand why this was happening to me. My self-confidence dropped and I found myself bewildered, angry, depressed, and stuck.” We’re going to see what happened to Helen in a moment but first I want to focus on the steps of the spiritual journey as demonstrated by Jesus.
1. The 1st step of our spiritual journey is an ENTRY POINT. Something happens or shifts in our life. A change comes which we often don’t want or enjoy. Life is nudging us to make a shift and it often comes when least expected. Helen’s entry point was getting fired. The entry point for Jesus was the Last Supper. Jesus knew He was going to be betrayed. He said: “One of you will betray me tonight and others will even deny that you know me.” The disciples said, “Oh no, we’d never do that!” But as it turned out, they did. The Entry Point into the spiritual journey is often betrayal -- by a friend, by getting fired, or by your body. Betrayal is one of the things that pushes us into seeking higher meaning in our lives. It’s very important to look at how you think of yourself when you take that Entry Step into your spiritual journey. Do you condemn yourself and think, “There is something wrong with me! What did I do to cause this?” Or do you look upon it as a journey to learning something more about yourself, something, which will bring you up higher spiritually? Spiritually, know that if there is a crucifixion, with God, there will also be a resurrection. Rather than thinking that something is wrong, look upon it as something that with God's help is being made right. When you look upon a challenge that way, you begin to live on a spiritually higher plane.
2. The 2nd step is called “THE ROAD OF TRIALS.” We’ve all been there. Some of us are there right now and some of us will be there in the future. The spiritual journey is how we rise above where we are now and come into a greater consciousness of God. The Road of Trials is often filled with agony. After the Last Supper, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Jesus was betrayed by his friends, wrongly accused, mocked, beaten, judged, and killed. The Road of Trials part of the spiritual journey isn’t easy. Jesus did some specific things to get through it.
a. The 1st thing He did was pray. He prayed a very special kind of prayer – a prayer of surrender. He said, “Not my will but Thine be done.” He said: “If this cup can pass from me, let it pass. But nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done.” A prayer of surrender is one of the most powerful prayers we can pray. It’s also one of the most difficult because it requires that we trust God fully and know that there is a greater good waiting to be expressed. Something profound and mysterious is happening in our lives, even though we may not like it. A prayer of surrender requires that we trust and know that there is a power within and around us that is leading us through the crisis. It requires that we know God’s Will for us is good and that God never leaves our side. We’re never alone. When we get on the Road of Trials, we often forget to pray the prayer of surrender. We think, “Oh no! I must do something, I must think of something, I don’t like this!”
b. Jesus cried out in agony. He demonstrated that it is OK to express your human feelings and to let people know you are hurting. Jesus didn’t deny what he was feeling so there is no need for you to bottle up your pain. Get the pain out and heal yourself with prayer.
3. The 3rd step is making an inner shift. The Road of Trials will not lead to resurrection (to us becoming a new person in God) without an inner shift occurring. Jesus talked about this spiritual inner shift on the Cross saying, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” The inner shift we need to make when we’re going through a Road of Trials is to forgive the event, the circumstance, the condition, or the person who seems to have been the Entry Point for our journey. People who study the mystical path tell us that without the ability to forgive, we will not resurrect and become the new being we are meant to become. Forgiveness is spiritually essential to any overcoming.
Step 4. True vision. When Jesus was going through His most difficult time on the Cross, He quoted 22nd Psalm saying, “My God, my God, why has Thou forsaken me?” There are times when we feel separated from God and say, “God, where are you in my life? I don’t feel Your presence. I don’t feel the connection and I miss it.” The 22nd Psalm talks about the terrible situation that things seem to be in. It starts off saying that they have mocked Him, pierced His hands and feet, and divided His clothes among them. “I thirst and my tongue sticks to my mouth.” Jesus was reminding Himself and his disciples, “Yes, this is the appearance of what is happening, but…” He didn’t say the whole 22nd Psalm. He just reminded people of it. The 2nd half of the 22nd Psalm expresses a great vision. It says [paraphrased]: “The people in generations to come will feel the presence of the Lord around the earth and they will know that He has overcome.” The 22nd Psalm contains a sense of vision that knows that even though we are experiencing great discomfort, there is something mysterious happening through God's Divine good that will bless us. The Old Testament Proverb says, “Without vision, the people perish.” When we are going through our Easter journeys, it’s very important to hold to the vision that something marvelous is happening, even though we don’t know what it is. What do we learn from the inner shift? We learn that we need to forgive. We need to hold to a spiritual vision. We also learn that we need to honor what Jesus did in the tomb. The tomb experience is about drawing apart or entering the silence.
If we rush from old endings into new beginnings without taking time to draw apart and to pause and reflect, we will repeat the same mistakes and repeat the experiences that we’ve had before. This is what Jesus’ experience in the tomb represents – a time alone and not rushing into new beginnings. A new beginning happens when we go within in prayer and plant new seeds of truth through right vision and affirmative prayer.
Step 5: Then there’s a breakthrough on Easter Sunday, which comes through the joyous words, “He is risen!” The celebration of Easter is the joyous spirit of the inherent ability to overcome because Spirit creates matter. Matter doesn’t create Spirit. Matter has come to pass. When you can see a manifestation. You are looking at spent or used energy. As Jesus said, “Be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.” we will overcome and learn the things we need to learn and become the kind of person we need to become through the spiritual journey; the person God created us to be as individual expressions of God, created in God’s image and own likeness. We follow Jesus by taking these 5 steps of the spiritual journey. It doesn’t happen just once. It happens over and over until we realize that we are Easter people meant to be known by our resurrections rather than by our crucifixions. In her road of trials, Helen said: “My self-esteem fell right through the floor. I felt depressed, stuck, worthless, confused, and disoriented and I didn’t know where to turn. I felt a deep sense of betrayal by the company I had done so much for when they abruptly fired me. I felt judged. I went on endless interviews, but it was very difficult to be hired for another management position after being fired from one. My bitterness and anger repelled potential employers. I realized only later that the main reason I didn’t find a job was because I no longer believed in my ability or in myself. I started reflecting, trying to regain a sense of who I was and that I was likable. But things only got worse. On the advice of friends, I started to attend a spiritual study and support group. I liked the teacher and became friends with her. As I started to take an interest in spiritual teachings, I knew something was being stirred up in me. My teacher was going on a spiritual retreat and invited me to come with her. Since I was unemployed and had nothing better to do, I went. Two weeks in that setting changed my life forever. I had been looking in all the wrong places and I learned that what I really had to do was to look within, in prayer, for strength from God. Immediately after leaving the retreat, I found a management position that is full of joy for me. It’s a better paying position than I had before. My life is exciting now. I am involved in a church and feel a sense of peace and joy that I had not experienced before. I feel like I’ve had a personal resurrection.”
Can you see the parallels between her trials, your trials and those of Jesus? – her sense of betrayal, her feeling of being judged and unable to find her way. She didn’t specifically use prayer, but she did find a spiritual guide; someone to show her the way and who invited her to the retreat. In the retreat, she heard some very uplifting things that changed her vision about herself. She said: “I had to let go of the old ways of looking at myself – and begin to think of myself as a child of God, a worthwhile, loved and needed person.” There is always a hidden curriculum to life, beyond what we can see. I’ll close with one final Easter story.
A small town had 3 churches: Presbyterian, Methodist, and Catholic. All 3 had a serious problem with squirrels in the church. Each church, in its own fashion, had a meeting to deal with the problem. The Presbyterians decided that it was predestined that squirrels be in the church and that they would just have to live with them. The Methodists decided they should deal with the squirrels, lovingly, in the style of Charles Wesley. They humanely trapped them and released them in a park at the edge of town. Within 3 days, they were all back in the church. The Catholics had the best solution. They made all the squirrels, parishioners. Now they only see them at Christmas and Easter.
I invite you to close your eyes for a moment in prayer. Take a deep breath and say: “Thank you, God, for being with me through all my times of difficulty, joy and celebration.” Now think of someone in your life who is going through a difficult time. See this person guided by God and surrounded by love. Know that what is happening to this person is meant to bless, restore, and renew. See this person emerging from the experience alive and resurrected, a centered and loving being. Thank you, God, for being with my loved one through all their times of difficulty, joy & celebration. Amen.
Closing prayer: This is a glorious new day. Let your heart be free. Let your spirit soar. Let the light of faith be your resurrection. Let the mountains be removed from your path. Let the glorious new you celebrate your glorious new life and your new way of living in faith. Amen.
What do you think?
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