Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Water! Baptism? Time to Rejoice! - A Lectionary Reflecton for Easter 5B (Acts 8)

Art is by Mengistu Cherenet

Acts 8:26-40 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
26 Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) 27 So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” 30 So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. 32 Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: 
“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
    and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
        so he does not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
    Who can describe his generation?
        For his life is taken away from the earth.” 
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 36 As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” 38 He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

                Here lies one of the most unique passages in scripture. It involves two primary characters—Philip, one of the Seven called by the church to serve tables (Acts 6) and the Ethiopian Eunuch, who is traveling home from Jerusalem by way of the road leading from Jerusalem to Gaza (most likely to pick up a ship that would transport him toward home). There is also an angel of God, who sets up a meeting between these two men. Standing behind this encounter is the church’s mission statement found in Acts 1:8. In that verse Jesus tells his followers that when the Spirit comes, they will bear witness to him beginning in Jerusalem, and from there to Judea and Samaria, and then to the ends of the earth. Philip has already participated in that expansion by preaching in Samaria, in what was the first outreach of the early church beyond the original core Jewish audience. Now, with this encounter, it appears that the expansion continues, with Ethiopia being opened up to the message of the gospel. But not only that, but there is a word of inclusion of one who had been excluded or at least marginalized.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music (Gregory Alan Thornbury) -- A Review

WHY SHOULD THE DEVIL HAVE ALL THE GOOD MUSIC? Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock. By Gregory Alan Thornbury. New York: Convergent Books, 2018. 292 pages.

“Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?” That's a question that resonated with me as I traversed high school and college during the 1970s. Growing up on the Beatles, Moody Blues, and Three Dog Night, I faced the question as a newly “born again” Christian whether I should abandon my former listening habits without abandoning the musical style in which it was conveyed. Could I as a good Christian enjoy rock music and be faithful to Jesus? Fortunately for me, there was a burgeoning Christian music scene that allowed me to enjoy the music of the day, only with Christian lyrics. By the time I entered this Christian music world, the offerings were quite broad, ranging from Barry McGuire to Andrae Crouch. Keith Green sang at my church before he became a household name. Many of these groups came out of Calvary Chapel and traveled up and down the West Coast, visiting towns like mine, even coming to my church. Like many of my friends I went through this stage where I got rid of my secular records and replaced them with Christian ones. Yes, I wanted rock and religion both, and I got my fill (though I later went back and added all that music back into the mix, along with new musicians). As a sidelight, I should add that we were told to view these concerts as worship settings. We were told to beware of a concert mentality, whatever that meant. After all it was a concert not a worship service, though there might be a lot of religious talk, but it was more evangelistic that worshipful. Besides, when the concert was over, albums were sold, and autographs sought.

Among those musicians whom I embraced was Larry Norman, though he was of a different sort than many of the other Christians musicians I encountered. He was more aloof and iconoclastic. He was also acclaimed as the father of Christian rock, and the most important forerunner of the Contemporary Christian Music scene. I had the good fortune to hear him at least once in concert in Portland. It was probably 1977. The Grateful Dead were to perform in the same venue the next evening, and Dead Heads were already camping out. Norman made comments about their devotion. He also had something to say about the Christian world, out of which he spoke and sang, noting that while the local Christian bookstores would sell his albums, they wouldn't promote his concerts (not that he needed much promotion as the theater was full of fans). I remember his seemingly deadpan humor, as he told stories that made you laugh, but as they were told with a straight face, you wondered whether laughter was the best response. While there were imitators, there was no one quite like him in the Christian music scene. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Love in Deed, Not Word - Thoughts on the 2nd Reading - Easter 4B

1 John 3:16-24 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

16 We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17 How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?  
 18 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 19 And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him 20 whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; 22 and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.   
23 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

Note: I was not in the pulpit, but since the Second Reading from the lectionary draws from 1 John, a book that I've been preaching from, I share these reflections taken from a Bible study that I am developing that will hopefully be published in the near future.  

            Having asked how one could say one loved, while refusing one’s brother or sister in need, John reinforces his message by telling the community: “let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action” (vs. 18). What is stated in verse 18, restates what had already been stated in verse 17. How can you say you love God and not help a brother or sister in need? Thus, love is a verb. It requires action, which will lead to reassured hearts.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Academy of Parish Clergy Book of the Year Awards for 2018

2018 Academy of Parish Clergy
Book of the Year Announcement
The Academy of Parish Clergy, Inc. proudly announces that the 2018 Book of the Year Award has been awarded to Saved by Faith and Hospitality by Joshua W. Jipp and published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (2017). Jipp is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. The Book of the Year Award is given to the best book published for parish ministry in the previous year. In addition, the Academy presents the Reference Book of the Year Award to Acts: Belief: A Theological Commentary on the Bible by Willie James Jennings and published by Westminster John Knox Publishing Company (2017)). Jennings is Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Africana Studies at Yale Divinity School.  
In addition to the Book of the Year and Reference Book of the Year awards, the Academy offers two lists of books recommended for use by clergy in parish ministry. The first list offers the Top Ten Books for Parish Ministry published in 2017. The second list offers the Top Five Reference Books for Parish Ministry. They display an excellence and helpfulness that clergy are invited to incorporate into their libraries to benefit their ministries. The two lists appear below alphabetically by author name.
The awards and book lists were presented at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Academy of Parish Clergy on April 17, 2018 at the Siena Conference Center in Racine, Wisconsin. Dr. Jipp was able to be present and shared a word about his book. Unfortunately, Dr. James was not able to be present, but he was recognized for his outstanding work.
Book of the Year Committee:  Robert Cornwall, Chair, Henry Coates, and Jess Scholten.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Clergy Supporting Clergy --- Academy of Parish Clergy

Add caption
I am at the annual conference of the Academy of Parish Clergy. I have been a member for some 13 years or there about. I am editor of the journal -- Sharing the Practice -- and last year joined what we call the College of Fellows -- that makes me a FAPC (Fellow of the Academy of Parish Clergy). This is a multi-faith organization of professional religious leaders who are dedicated to growing in the practice of ministry. To be honest almost all of our members are Protestant, with one exception -- a Buddhist nun (also a Fellow). I share this as a way of reporting the importance of peer support.

Clergy are human. We get tired and weary. We can become fearful and angry. We often feel that our calling and identity are not well understood. On one level, we want to be seen as ordinary people. At the same time we engage in a vocation that often separates us out from others (whether that is our intention or not). I greatly appreciate this group because it offers an opportunity to share our burdens, to bare our souls. I appreciate it as well because it is ecumenical and multi-faith. Sometimes denominational gatherings, as valuable as they might be, can't provide the same sense of freedom and support as this group offers.

So here I am in Wisconsin, on the shore of Lake Michigan, in a winter-like April week, enjoying the blessings of fellowship and learning. If you're clergy of any faith tradition or professional religious leader, and you're looking for the kind of experience I have been having why not join us.

Monday, April 16, 2018

A Word about Salvation - Lectionary Reflection for Easter 4B

Acts 4:5-12 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. 11 This Jesus is 

‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;
    it has become the cornerstone.’ 
12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”


                A healing leads to preaching, and preaching leads to arrest, which leads to a trial, and a trial gives an opportunity for preaching. At least that’s the way things seem to work for Peter and John here in chapters three and four of the Book of Acts. Peter had been preaching to a large crowd in Solomon’s Portico, after healing the man who was disabled at the gate to the Temple. In other words, an act of power opens an opportunity to explain the source of power, which of course leads to the message of the cross and the resurrection. While you might think that it would be the cross that stirs the pot here, it is really the message of the resurrection. It appears from the opening verses of chapter four that it was the message of resurrection of the dead that got the attention of the religious leaders, who order them arrested. That is the background story for Peter’s next sermon, this time delivered in front of the religious leaders who have gathered to pronounce judgment on Peter and John.

Unfortunately for the leaders, Peter takes advantage of this appearance to speak once again about the resurrection. Peter begins his defense with an acknowledgment that it seems they had been arrested for doing something good, that is, bringing healing to a man who had suffered for years. The question was—how did they do this? The answer is simple—they acted in the power of the one whom the religious leaders had crucified, but whom God vindicated by raising him from the dead. If you want to know how this happened, well that’s the answer—Jesus! Yes, this Jesus whom God has raised is the source of healing, which means they have been arrested for doing a good deed in the power of the risen one!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Children of God and the Problem of Sin - A Sermon for Easter 3B

1 John 3:1-7

Who am I? What is my identity? We’ve all asked these kinds of questions of ourselves. In that spirit, let me introduce myself to you, as I know myself relationally. I am Bob, the son of Robert and Beverly, brother of Jim, husband of Cheryl, and father of Brett. If that doesn’t tell you enough about who I am, I could add that I am pastor of Central Woodward Christian Church in Troy, Michigan. If you need more, I can show you my resume, which gives details about my occupational and educational background, along with a lot of other details. 

Our reading this morning from 1 John adds another important element to my identity. In fact, it might be the most important factor of all, because it applies to all of us gathered here this morning. John invites us to “see what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God.”

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Grateful (Diana Butler Bass) -- A Review

GRATEFUL: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks. By Diana Butler Bass. San Francisco: Harper One, 2018. Xxxi + 224 pages.

                What are you grateful for? Are you even grateful? While many of us grew up learning that it is proper etiquette to say thank you for gifts, even gifts we really don't like (you know the sweater that a relative gave you that is really hideous!), we might not be very good at saying thank you. That is especially true when it comes to sending thank you notes. Whether or not we are competent at expressing our gratitude, surely there is something to be thank for, even in moments of difficulty. Especially if we find expressing gratitude difficult, not because we’re ungrateful, but we just find it difficult to give expression, perhaps we need a word of wisdom from one who also struggles with gratitude. Diana Butler Bass confesses “I have always struggled with gratitude. I wanted to be grateful, but too often I find myself with no thanks” (p. xiii). It is out of those struggles that she writes this book on “the transformative power of giving thanks.”  

Diana Butler Bass is a gifted writer. I've read most of her books, which tend to focus on religious or spiritual matters. I have found them to be thought-provoking and even inspirational. Diana brings to her books scholarly expertise in the history of American Christianity as well as deep experience in the church and in the broader religious world. So, even when I struggle with what she writes, I find much of value to draw from. In the past many of her books have focused on church life and analysis of religious trends, but this book is different. It is more spiritual in nature, and less religious. Whatever your spiritual or religious or non-religious vantage points, I think you will find this book to be inspiring and a book that speaks to our times.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

John Wesley - Optimist of Grace (Henry Knight III) - A Review

JOHN WESLEY: Optimistof Grace (Cambridge Companions). By Henry H. Knight III. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2018. Xv + 152 pages.

There was a time, not long ago, when conventional wisdom suggested that the eighteenth century was a time of religious negligence, marked by latitudinarianism and deism. The one bright spot was Methodism. Recent scholarship has offered a more nuanced perspective, but Methodism still plays a significant role in that story. While scholars explore the period, offering their perspectives on the various movements that were active in England and North America during this period, interest in John Wesley and the movement that he helped create is not only of historical interest. Wesley’s influence continues to this day, as adherents to the various forms of Wesleyanism number around seventy-five million. The descendants of Wesley’s movement include Methodism, but also various holiness churches, and Pentecostalism (though not all Pentecostals are Wesleyan). Thus, John Wesley helped launch one of the most influential movements in Global Christianity.  

Henry Knight III, a professor of Wesleyan studies and evangelism at Saint Paul School of Theology, a United Methodist seminary located in the metro-Kansas City region, offers us a brief but insightful introduction to the life, ministry, and vision of John Wesley. This small book is a contribution to the Cascade Companions series from Wipf and Stock Publishers. Knight accomplishes his purpose in writing this book. He introduces us to the theological foundations of Wesley’s work. He notes that in recent years scholars have begun to acknowledge Wesley’s importance not only as an evangelist and organizer (he was this, of course), but as an important theologian in his own right. Today he has been placed together with Jonathan Edwards as one of the key theologians of that age, and his influence has continued to this day.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Turn Back to God - A Lectionary Reflection for Easter 3B

Fresco by Tommaso Masolino da Panicale (1427)

Acts 3:12-19 Common English Bible (CEB)
12 Seeing this, Peter addressed the people: “You Israelites, why are you amazed at this? Why are you staring at us as if we made him walk by our own power or piety? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God of our ancestors—has glorified his servant Jesus. This is the one you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence, even though he had already decided to release him. 14 You rejected the holy and righteous one, and asked that a murderer be released to you instead. 15 You killed the author of life, the very one whom God raised from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 His name itself has made this man strong. That is, because of faith in Jesus’ name, God has strengthened this man whom you see and know. The faith that comes through Jesus gave him complete health right before your eyes. 

17 “Brothers and sisters, I know you acted in ignorance. So did your rulers. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he foretold through all the prophets: that his Christ would suffer. 19 Change your hearts and lives! Turn back to God so that your sins may be wiped away.

Note: During the season of Easter the First Reading from the Revised Common Lectionary is drawn not from the Hebrew Bible, but from the Book of Acts. 

                John the Baptist and Jesus had a common message: Repent. Turn back to God. Stop your rebellion. In the post-resurrection age, Peter picked right up with their message. He proclaimed to any who would listen: turn from your sins and embrace the realm of God. For Peter this messaging included reminding his audience that the religious and political leaders conspired to kill Jesus, the author of life. So, “turn back to God so that your sins may be wiped away.” Preaching a message of repentance so soon after Easter Sunday is probably a bit radio-active. After all, shouldn’t we be celebrating the coming of spring. For those of us who live in colder winter climates, spring is something is to be celebrated. So, why talk about sin and repentance? Perhaps, in Peter’s mind (and Luke’s), repentance and resurrection are related. After all, it was the conspiracy to have Jesus executed, because of his message of repentance, that led to his death and then resurrection.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Christ Our Advocate - A Sermon for Easter 2B

1 John 1:1-2:2

“Christ the Lord is Risen Today. Alleluia” This morning that declaration continues to ring out as we hear the invitation to walk in the light of God. As the author of 1 John points out, we meet the God who “is light and in him there is no darkness at all” in the person of the risen Christ.  

Here is the message of Easter: The risen Christ shines the light of God into the darkness of this world, with that light comes a new age of the Spirit. The old age, which is marked by sin and death has lost its grip on power. It’s still with us. We see it all around us, but a new age is breaking into our world, and Jesus invites us to carry this light of God into a world where the agents of the old age are resisting the light.  

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Parades, Peeps, and Paradoxes -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

Easter Sunday is now past, but the season of Easter continues. The egg hunts and other phenomena connected with Easter are done, but at for some of us, Easter still speaks, for the resurrection stands at the center of our faith. Martin Marty's column, which came out on Monday, speaks to the way in which Easter is understood both in its "secular" form and its religious form. He makes mention of an article by conservative Catholic writer George Wiegel in the Wall Street Journal, which speaks to the rise of Christianity as being rooted in the inexplicable nature of the resurrection. I invite you to read Marty's article. Unfortunately, unless you are a Wall Street Journal subscriber you won't be able to read the articles referenced.In any case, I invite you to continue reflecting on the message of resurrection.  

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Parades, Peeps, and Paradoxes
By MARTIN E. MARTY   April 2, 2018
Photo Credit: Max Elman/Flickr (cc)
Easter parades survive in classic Hollywood films, on the avenues near cathedrals (which paraders pass but rarely frequent), in peeps, and in song. Seldom is there a trace of connection to the religious event which prompts Easter celebrations. Evidently there once was such a connection. But as Wikipedia remembers and comments: “By the mid-20th century, the parade’s religious aspects had faded, and it was mostly seen as a demonstration of American prosperity.” Peeps—those colorful marshmallow bunny- and bird-shaped seasonal candies—have now morphed into generic multi- or non-seasonal treats, the sweet religious particularity of Easter having thus “faded” at the candy counter.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Remembering the Rev. Dr. Marin Luther King -- Fifty Years After

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.  [King Jr, Martin Luther. The Essential MartinLuther King, Jr.: "I Have a Dream" and Other Great Writings (KingLegacy) (Kindle Locations 2952-2957). Beacon Press. Kindle Edition.]

                Today, we stop to remember the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis Tennessee. The words above brought to a close Dr. King’s final message, delivered at Mason Temple, the headquarters of the Church of God in Christ. Dr. King was in Memphis to lead a march in support of sanitation workers, most of whom were black, who had gone out on strike. He gathered at the church with supporters as King sought to expand the Civil Rights Movement to include economic justice. Known as the Poor Peoples’ Campaign, this event in Memphis was intended to lead into larger programs. As the words of the sermon disclose, Dr. King may have had a sense that he would not live to see this program come to fruition.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Community in the Shadow of the Resurrection - Lectionary Reflection for Easter 2B (Acts 4)

32 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. 33 With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. 35 They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). 37 He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

                During the Easter season, the first reading in the Revised Common Lectionary comes from the Book of Acts (as opposed to the Hebrew Bible). As we move through this season of post resurrection visitations on the part of Jesus, we hear words about life in the early church. On this Sunday we hear a word about a community that has chosen to live the common life. When I was teaching a college class on the book of Acts years ago, I liked to tell the students, who were from a conservative Christian background, that this was evidence that the early Christians were communists—long before Karl Marx came around. I’m not sure they appreciated my making note of this, after all communism is a dirty word in some circles. but it was a good conversation starter.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Who God Says You Are (Klyne R. Snodgrass) - A Review

WHO GOD SAYS YOU ARE: A Christian Understanding of Identity. By Klyne R. Snodgrass. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2018. X + 246 pages.

                The biblical story begins with God creating the earth and all that it contains. God begins by separating light from darkness, earth and sea, and then one by one the elements of the created order are added, culminating in the creation of humanity in the image of God—as male and female. With each act of creation God pronounced it good. That includes the creation of humanity, who are charged with being stewards of creation (Gen. 1). That God created humanity in God’s image is a reminder that we are who we are because of God’s actions (this is a theological statement not a scientific one). The two creation stories (Genesis 1 and 2) speak to the question of identity, a question that most of us ask regularly. Who am I? What is my purpose? What makes me who I am?

Klyne Snodgrass takes up these questions, suggesting that our identity is defined by God, who declares who we are. Snodgrass is not a psychologist or sociologist. He is a New Testament scholar teaching at North Park Theological Seminary. It is from that vantage point that he makes "the Bible is about identity." While the Bible addresses the identity and nature of God, it does so to help humans know what it means to be created in the image of God. Following John Calvin, Snodgrass writes that “you cannot know yourself without knowing the One in whose image you were created” (p. 2).  In other words, Scripture helps us understand who we are.  Who we are is different from vocation. It may include vocation, but it is much more than that. Now, one might respond that the Bible is about God not humanity. Barth, for instance, believed that Bultmann was too focused on anthropology and not enough about God.  So, that is a question that must be wrestled with.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

The Power of the Resurrection - Sermon for Easter B

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

What makes Easter Sunday memorable? I invite you to take a moment to picture in your mind something that stands out about Easter. Maybe it was something recent or something you remember from childhood . . .   What came to my mind was picking up a pansy from the parish hall at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church after the Easter service. I don’t know why I remember those trays of pansies laid out on the table for the children to take home, but I do. I don’t even remember what I did with it when I got it home. Still, I remember those colorful trays beckoning me. Your memory might be similar or very different, but we all have memories of Easter past. 

One of those memories might involve singing “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.” For many of us, Easter is not Easter without singing this very old Charles Wesley hymn, which boldly proclaims: 

Lives again our Glorious King, Alleluia! 
Where, O death is now your sting? Alleluia!

Easter has a lot of traditions. Some are religious and others, like searching for Easter eggs, are not. What is of first importance, however, is the story of the resurrection of Jesus on the third day after he was nailed to a Roman cross. Easter is a bold declaration that death has lost its sting. God broke the bonds of death, when “up from the grave he arose, with a mighty triumph over his foes.”