Each of the Gospels has its own unique emphasis as it shares the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection. In John chapter 20 we are told how Peter and John ran to the tomb after Mary reported it was empty. Verse four says, “The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.” Why was this detail of having arrived first, important to John? Did it give him bragging rights? “I beat Peter to the tomb!” I have often puzzled over this aside within the Easter story. On Easter there was a race and John outran Peter. It seems like the kind of detail one commits to memory around a life changing event. It’s the event that is important, but it’s importance is mirrored in the details that are remembered around it. For John, outrunning Peter was one of those details.
But they were not the first to run that morning. Backing up to verse two we see that Mary Magdalene was the first to run. She ran from the tomb to tell Peter and John what had been discovered: the tomb was empty. They ran to the tomb to verify her claim and see for themselves. Lot’s of running.
The Preacher of Ecclesiastes, commonly thought to be Solomon, writes in Ecclesiastes 3 “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven“. He then proceeds to list the various things for which there is a time, including in verse 8: “a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” I must confess to having struggled with that next to last one over the years, and most especially again recently.
I do not understand the reasons Russia, and her autocratic leader Mr. Putin, would feel entitled to wage war against their peaceful neighbor Ukraine. I do not understand the aggression, the violence, the carnage, the hostility and death. It makes no sense to me. It is heart breaking to hear the voices and see the pictures of Ukrainians being forced from their homeland as refugees, and being forced to defend their nation as soldiers.
Many years ago when different war drums were being beaten on the world’s stage I remember discussing with a mentor in ministry how one who follows Christ should feel about this. His response, which has always stayed with me, was “I believe God is always sad when there is war.”
More than any other emotion it has been “sadness” that I’ve felt in response to the news reports, pictures and stories emerging from the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Lives have been forever upended and altered because of this needless war.
I invite you to add your prayers for peace to those of the multitudes the world over who are engaged in intercession for the people of Ukraine, along with the people of Russia most of whom did not want this war either.
In his appeal to the member bodies of the Baptist World Alliance, General Secretary Elijah Brown said this: “As brothers and sisters within a global Baptist family, we are all called to be both peacemakers and people of prayer,” says Brown. “As one Baptist family rooted in Jesus Christ as Lord, we bear witness to the biblical truth that ‘if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it.’ It is vital for Baptists around the world to stand with those who are suffering and to fervently pray for peace.“
There are certain calendar dates that get your attention. You know what I mean, right? We all know the date 9-11-2001. Many of you remember 12-07-1941. What about 11-22-1963 or 04-04-1968? Those are the dates of John F. Kennedy’s and Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassinations. Then there is 1-28-1986? That’s the day of the Challenger’s explosion. What about 11-11-1918? That’s the date a cease fire was signed (at 11 a.m.) to stop the hostilities of WW I. Then there’s 5-8-1945 (VE Day) and 8-14-1945 (VJ Day or Victory in the Pacific Day). Every generation has it’s significant dates we commemorate. Some are great, some are sad, most are never to be forgotten.
When you add in your own personal dates, birthdates, anniversary dates, death dates of loved ones, we each have a number of dates we more or less keep track of. They may not be on our minds every day, but when that day rolls around on the calendar, we pay attention to it.
My wife teaches first grade. In first grade they keep track of days. For example the 101st day of school is a big day. It might be associated with 101 Dalmatians. The 180th day of school is an even bigger day – it’s the last day of school for the year. Lori told me that her class would be observing today’s date as well. It’s not often one comes across a date like 02-22-2022. That’s six “2’s”! One of our grandson’s recently turned 2 years old. I think he would be excited about all those “2’s” in todays day. Are you?
On March 2 the first graders always celebrate Dr. Seuss day – its the birthday of Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel – he of the rhymes and writings of all things seussical. It also happens to be my birthday. I’m not too proud to say there have been years when I was not all that excited to share the day with a guy that has been dead for so long! I’m still trying to get over it.
What are the days and dates that you recall. My Grandma Cash always spoke of “old blue Monday”. Monday, it seems, was the day my Grandpa Cash, her husband, died. She commemorated that day of the week often in his absence. Do you have any days of the week like that? What about days of the month or year?
I have not always done a good job remembering dates associated with loved ones. FaceBook helps me remember birthdays now – sometimes a little too much! But I do remember my Dad’s birthday – 04-07-1929, and my Mother’s 03-08-1932. I could not, however, tell you when their Anniversary comes around – sometime in October.
Sometimes a date only means something to an individual or a handful of individuals. For example, I remember the date I started my current pastorate. My first Sunday was 11-11-2007. This past year I was surprised when a church member mentioned the day to me and told me she had it written on her calendar.
Sundays have always been dates that featured prominently in my memory. It stands to reason that pastor’s know the calendar dates of a year’s Sundays. They are kind of big days in our routine. What are the big days in your routine?
Maybe on this unusual day – 02-22-2022 – it’s a good time to reflect on the days and dates of your life. Give thanks for those that bring a smile to your face. Try to move past the ones that make you frown or worry or bitter. Most of all, thank God for today. There’s never going to be another one like it.
*Note: It has been my practice through the pandemic to acknowledge the 100K milestones in deaths in the USA with a post. Sadly, its time for another post as America surpasses 900,000 deaths due to Covid-19. When one factors in unreported and excess mortality numbers (deaths over and above the norm during a crisis situation) 900K is most likely the low end of this data!
The United States has long prided itself on being a leader on the world’s stage. We like to think of ourselves as the best, or at least among the best. This past week we were right there again, leading the way (or at least among the leaders) when it comes to persons who have died from Covid-19. Why?
It astounds me, and embarrasses me, to be affiliated with such a callous national approach to the death toll this pandemic has racked up in our nation. Because it doesn’t have to be this way. It didn’t have to be this bad. Sure, initially while the world and science was trying to get its thinking around the virus, how it spread and why it seemed to attack those most vulnerable; death was on equal ground globally. But then we acquired knowledge on how to mitigate the spread, and then we acquired tools – incredible tools like vaccines – to further mitigate the spread and impact, including the number of deaths.
The response to those tools in the land of the free? Don’t inhibit my freedom! Don’t tell me what to do! Rather than embrace these tools as the gift of science and hope they represent, the tools themselves became politicized and . . . . well, if you’re paying attention at all, you know the mess we’ve found ourselves in. Why?
I think it’s a question worth thinking about? Why? For example, why in a society that continues to have such heated debate on the right to life, protecting the unborn, do we show such disregard for the right to continue living on the other end of life? Why? Why in a nation where we show pride and respect for those who go to war to protect the freedoms and lives of others internationally, do we find it so difficult to agree on measures for fighting a viral enemy at home? I don’t understand.
It does little good to rant, I know this. I have lamented these same things elsewhere, and unless you happen to agree with me, you are probably not paying attention or your just tired of it all and want it to go away. 900,000 no more gets the attention of the masses than did 800,000 or 700,000. It’s just a number – except, of course, it’s not. It’s a name, a face, a person, a loved one, a family member, a parent, a child, a friend, a spouse.
One of my less generous responses to those who want to dismiss the virus as “just the flu” or something with consequences to be ignored, has been to ask: “Have you ever officiated a funeral for someone who died from Covid-19?” Yeah, that’s usually a conversation stopper. But the point is, I have. I’ve looked in the eyes of those who lost a loved one and wished for a different outcome. It was and is very personal, very difficult, and very real.
So, 900,000 is a number that gives me pause, as did the other milestone numbers prior. It’s a number I lament because it represents lives lost. Why?
It was bound to happen. My son often says, “I think we’re all going to get it eventually.” I had begun to assume he was correct with the highly contagious omicron variant in high transmission. And, last Thursday, despite my fully vaccinated and boosted status, I tested positive for Covid-19. My first thought, a couple of days before, was that it was another cold, or the resurgence of a cold and sinus infection I had a month ago. But by Thursday things were a different. Achy muscles, low grade fever, congestion, a slight cough along with the prior sore throat from sinus drainage – these were the symptoms. It felt prudent to pay attention to them.
It was nearly impossible to find a test. All the test sites in our county were booked up until the following Monday – four days later! Graciously, a colleague dropped off an at home Covid-19 Antigen Self Test, which proved to be both easy to use and “positive”. I wasn’t really surprised.
Still, I had been careful, not only in getting vaccinated but wearing a mask, avoiding large indoor gatherings, keeping social distance when possible, sanitizing, eating at home or only eating take out with very few exceptions for the past two years. I happen to be married to a very cautious and diligent woman who has stressed these precautions in our home for a variety of reasons: a) Her 95 year old mother with whom we have regular contact, b) three grandsons all too young to be vaccinated, and c) a class of 25 first graders half of whom are not currently, and probably will not become, vaccinated. Plus, as a pastor I did not want to become a carrier of the virus to those in my care, nor be rendered unable to respond to needs that may arise. Nonetheless, while it may have been caution that kept me/us virus free for nearly two years, now I had it.