Following the Scripture

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter came late back in 1979. The holiest day of the Christian calendar was on April 15 that year. Spring was almost a month old. Still winter’s hand could be seen along the banks of Huff Creek, in Logan County, W.Va., as shards of ice glimmered along the water’s edge.

But as Bill Flannery walked into the water that Sunday morning any cold he might have felt vanished when he was pulled into the waters by his pastor and raised back up as a baptized Christian.

“I am of the old school. I still believe in the old time conviction and repentance and salvation by grace through faith. I accepted the Lord as my savior as did my wife a few days prior to Easter,” Flannery recalled. “My immediate response was I wanted to be baptized. I have always enjoyed Easter because of my personal experience.”

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That baptism became a defining moment for Flannery for more than one reason. For one thing it led him to his vocation today as a United Methodist pastor, now leading the congregation at Defender Methodist, outside of Chesapeake. His message today to his members will offer his reflections on the sacred day.

“In the many years that I have been pastoring, Easter is the culmination of the faith,” Flannery said. “It brings together all of our Christian holidays. And Easter Sunday brings us to the pinnacle of our faith. Easter declares the hope of the church. The resurrection is not only demonstrated by our savior but promised to us.”

Daryl Fourman, pastor of Chesapeake United Methodist, looks at the Easter message as a continuation of those sermons given each Sunday at church.

“Each Sunday morning as we gather for worship it is sometimes described as a mini-Easter celebration,” Fourman said. “It is a remembrance of what God has done to show his love for his people and providing a way for our forgiveness and back to the relationship the he intended in creation … a loving friendship, a family relationship.”

One of the most memorable Easters for the Rev. Sallie Schisler, vicar of Christ Episcopal Church in Ironton, came when she was an 8-year-old living in Huntington, W.Va. At Trinity Episcopal, her home church along Fifth Avenue, the children of the parish were to decorate a cross in the chancel with flowers during the Easter service.

“The cross was constructed from wire mesh and in my memory it was huge, although it was probably only three feet,” Schisler said. “It looked forlorn, standing front and center, made out of chicken wire. I was really slightly embarrassed that something so ugly would be in the church on such a special day.”

But as each child approached to attach a tulip or jonquil to that wire frame, Schisler watched a transformation.

“I began to get the idea that the ugly was becoming beautiful right before your eyes,” she said. “We put our flowers together and something good happened. As I’ve looked back over the years, I realize that flowering of the cross at eight years old became a powerful Easter metaphor for me. New life, color, texture, vibrancy from something ugly and embarrassing. Just as we children transformed a chicken wire frame, God transformed Good Friday to let loose God’s extravagant love in the world.”

There are 2.1 billion Christians in the world with 159 million of those in the United States. Easter will dawn for them at different hours, but the religious significance of the day will not change from time zone to time zone for any of them.

Dr. Douglas Carter, pastor of First Baptist Church of Burlington, began to preach the story of Christ’s resurrection to his flock just as the sun peaked above the horizon around 7 this morning to his flock at their sunrise service.

“We always have a sunrise service at the dawning of the day,” Carter said. “It is a sacrifice to get up at that time. He did sacrifice his all for us.

“I just call it the great getting up morning. One day we are all going to be resurrected. I am because I am a believer in the rapture. The others will get out of the grave and stand before the maker. The truth is in the pudding. Because he rose I will too.”

Brought up in the church Carter admits he did not fully understand the powerful meaning of the resurrection until he was saved, some 40 years ago. But when he did he discovered the responsibility Christians have to spread the word, not just on one day a week.

“I think sometimes we only talk to the Christian people. We need to impact the whole world,” Carter said. “To anyone I meet, I talk to, I always bring in the resurrection of Christ. If there is no resurrection of Jesus, there is no resurrection for us.”