And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also, He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5
Warning…familiarity ahead. You probably know the old saying that familiarity breeds contempt. You know, you hear something, you read something, you see someone, you eat something and what used to bring a smile garners a yawn or a wince. It can happen to the best of us…it probably has happened to all of us and just about this time of year it may happen again if we aren’t careful. Let me explain.
This past week, I received an email that told a story. Just about this time of year, it makes its annual appearance in our inboxes or on Facebook. While the story is told with some variation, it goes something like this. There was a special needs 8-year-old boy named Philip who loved to attend Sunday School at his church. The other boys and girls didn’t really accept Philip but thanks to the diligent efforts of the teacher, they were slowly beginning to see him as part of their group.
One Easter Sunday, the teacher brought in a bunch of plastic eggs to class. She gave one to each of the children in her class and told them to go outside and find something that reminded them of Easter. They were to place it in the egg and then bring it back in to show the class. After running around outside for about 20 minutes, the children came back into the class and placed their eggs on the table.
Their teacher began to open each egg—one by one – and each time the grand opening was followed by oohs and aahs from the class. They saw things like flowers, leaves, and even a few baby bugs and butterflies emerge from the containers and each one received warm appreciation. Just about then it happened.
The teacher finally opened one and inside there was—nothing. The children somehow knew it was Phillip’s egg and then laughed thinking he had not understood the teacher’s instruction. The children’s laugher soon grew to silence. The teacher gently asked, “Philip didn’t you understand the assignment?” And in reply, he said, “Oh yes, teacher. You see my egg is empty because it is Easter, and the grave of Jesus was empty too.” It was as if a holy stillness filled the room. Oh yes Philip, more than all the others, understood. The empty egg proclaimed the empty grave of Jesus.
Now by any standard that is a that great story that teaches a wonderful lesson. And guess what? It will garner one of two responses from most of us. Response number one is filled with ooh’s and aah’s because in the simplest of terms the beauty of Easter is given. It also touches the heart because the child who was often ignored and mocked won the day.
There is another response, and it is really the point of our Grits today. For many of us, we read the story…or even the first couple of lines of it…and then think, “Oh, I’ve heard this before.” The familiarity of the story then promptly robs us of the power of the message. You see, the story was no less powerful than the first time we heard it but sadly…familiarity did indeed breed contempt. So, what was your response? More importantly, what is your response to the message of this story we call Easter?
Here’s the big truth. This weekend, people all over the world, some Jesus followers and some not, will pause their world and probably attend a worship service. For some it will be something they thought they should do because it is Easter. And guess what? Because for them it is something different, they may just get it. But for others who regularly attend a worship service and who would never miss a service like Easter, well, the story might just garner a spiritual yawn or a casual, “Oh, I’ve heard this one before.” Trust me, as a pastor, I know the struggle of trying to make a very familiar story sound fresh. But honestly…that shouldn’t be the case…not for something like the Resurrection…not for something as big as this.
I mean, a man dying on purpose for me, for you, being buried and then coming back to life—that really is the biggest of news. It could never deserve a spiritual yawn or a casual “ho-hum.” Nope, it just flat out deserves a hallelujah. So let me suggest that no matter how well, or not, the speaker speaks, no matter how much you like, or dislike, the music, how about making every effort to hear and see the Easter story with fresh eyes. Ask God to make it like the first time—and then watch Him and hear Him say, “Gladly. I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne