“Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” 2 Peter 3:13 (NKJV)
By Bro. John L. Cash, “Country Preacher Dad”
Christmas is always a stressful time for me. By the time everybody gets through celebrating the stew out of that holiday, I’m often exhausted and almost sick. But Easter is always relaxing. The traditions of Easter are fewer, but they’re wonderful. Even though my boys are almost grown, we still dye some eggs together as a family. I generally make some Jell-O eggs because Spencer likes them. The Rabbit leaves some marshmallow chicks, and we usually have something new to wear to church on Sunday. My mom often comes for a visit. The children of the congregation hunt eggs at the home of “Mr. Pic” Humphreys, who is approaching age 80 and is my oldest deacon.
It sounds strange for a preacher to say, but Easter feels like a vacation to me. I preach only once on Resurrection Sunday, and evening services are dismissed. After morning worship, we have the rest of the day to celebrate together.
At Antioch Church we always have a fellowship dinner on Easter Sunday. The women in Mississippi can really cook, and we always have quite a spread. One time, Mr. Pic’s son-in-law, Curt, came from Louisiana for an Easter visit and cooked jambalaya (in addition to the other food the ladies had prepared.) I don’t want to exaggerate here, but I think he cooked over 15 pounds of rice!
The Baptist preacher and his wife stopped by to drop off their teenage daughter (who was dating Mr. Pic’s grandson). I pleaded with the visitors to stay and eat with us, but the visiting pastor’s wife said, “We couldn’t. We’d feel funny.” I told them to please stay and to look in Curt’s jambalaya pot before they made up their minds about leaving. The visiting pastor took a glance at the mountain of seasoned rice that Curt had prepared and said, “I think it will be all right if we stay!” That made me very happy.
All these traditions make me so glad on Easter. But my happiness runs deeper than the traditions — my happiness is based on the truth of Easter. Resurrection Sunday is a celebration of the doctrine that we so joyfully affirm in the Apostles’ Creed: “I Believe in the Resurrection of the Body.”
When I first came to Antioch Church, I’m not sure that I believed in the resurrection of the body. It wasn’t because I was a doubter but because the thought had never occurred to me. Like most people, I always said that folks died “and went to Heaven”. I guess my theology of the afterlife was flavored by what I’d seen in old cartoons—you know, people die, they “go to Heaven”, and they sit on a cloud wearing a set of wings. Honestly, the idea of doing that for all eternity seemed very boring.
But as I continued to study the Scriptures, I came to realize that God has something much more wonderful promised to his children. He has promised them the resurrection of the body. On the Last Day the Lord will raise the corruptible bodies we now have from the grave and change them to bodies that are incorruptible—the kind of body that Jesus had when he rose on that first Easter Sunday.
Now here’s the part that’s even more wonderful. Not only will we be given new bodies, but we will live forever on a new Earth. The Apostle John said in the Book of Revelation that God showed him “a new heaven and a new earth.” That is, he saw a new sky and a new world. The thought of that gives me great joy because I love life on this Earth we have now. How wonderful it will be to live with our loved ones on the new Earth—where we will still have the joys we enjoy now, except with those joys being made perfect. There will be no pain, no sickness, no sadness, and no death, as we live with God and our loved ones forever in unbroken relationships.
So, dear Mama, take a little time to think on these things. Be happy in the joys of this Easter—as we wait for the time when every day will be even better than Easter.
Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad” *Sing that title to the tune of “Secret Agent Man” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and is beginning his third decade of being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. He and his lovely wife, Susan, and his sons, Spencer (age 17) and Seth (age 14) live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church” (where we chain up our dog, Walter, so he doesn’t chase Peter Cottontail). You should write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.