ONE MORE DAY
A few weeks ago Linda and I watched the movie United 93 on DVD, about the flight of that
hijacked airliner that crashed into a field in Pennsylvania on 9/11.
We weren’t sure we wanted to see the movie,
but it had received good reviews, and so we watched it, even though we
did not have a happy ending. The movie
was well done, and very powerful, but what impressed us most was an
feature on the DVD about the making of the movie. The
added feature was about some of the
actors portraying those courageous passengers who resisted the
died as heroes. We were gratified to
learn that the producers of the movie went to great lengths to cast the
actor for each person who died. Not only
did they enlist actors who looked like the actual passengers, they
surviving family members to obtain information about their loved ones. Most remarkably, the movie producers set up
meetings between the actors and the surviving family members. The documentary feature on the DVD chronicles
some of those real life meetings. In
some ways, we found the interactions between the actors and the
compelling as the movie itself.
Because the actors physically
resembled the passengers who
had died, it was very emotional for the families to meet them. In some cases, it was almost like their loved
one had come back to them for a day.
Almost always the actor would be met with embraces and tears. During those encounters, the family members
would do most of the talking, often sharing photographs and stories
loved one. Occasionally the actor would
try to explain how he or she tried to portray their loved one. It was almost a time of reunion, even though
the actors and the families had never met before. It
felt like a reunion because they were
connected by an unseen presence and a common bond.
The meetings were a gift, both to the actors
and to the families. If only for a day,
it almost felt like the ones who had died on 9/11 had come back to life.
It was something like that on Sunday morning after
Magdalene came to the tomb. It was like
was given one more day with her loved one who had died.
Of course, it wasn’t an actor whom she
met. Jesus really was alive.
But Mary, who loved him as much as any of the
other disciples, did not recognize him at first. She
thought he was the gardener, the
caretaker of the cemetery where Jesus had been buried.
When Mary found the tomb empty, she naturally
assumed that someone had come and removed the body.
Even the presence of two angels did not
convince her that Jesus was alive. But
when Jesus spoke her name, she recognized who he was.
The expression on her face may have been like
that of those family members when they saw the actor who had portrayed
loved one walk through the door. There
was a sudden burst of recognition, then a reaction of doubt, as though
they were seeing could not be true. But
for Mary, it was true. Jesus really was
alive. Jesus really had been raised from
the dead. Her immediate reaction was to
embrace him, but Jesus told her not to hold on to him.
Rather, she was to go and tell the other
disciples. Mary went and announced, “I
have seen the Lord.” Her mourning was
turned to joy.
What would you do if you were given one more day
loved one who had passed away? That is
the question posed by a recent novel by Mitch Albom, author of Tuesdays with Morrie, and The Five People
You Meet in Heaven. In his latest
book, For One More Day, Mitch Albom tells the story of
a man who
experiences one more day with his late mother.
As the book opens, Charley ‘Chick’ Benetto is a broken man. His life has been ruined by alcohol and
regret. A former minor league baseball
player whose only claim to fame was the six weeks he spent as a backup
for the Pittsburg Pirates, Charley has decided to end his life. He has lost his job and his family. He hits rock bottom when he finds out that
his only daughter was too ashamed of him to invite him to her wedding. So, Charley makes a midnight ride to his
hometown to do himself in. Half drunk he
crashes his car, but survives the accident.
Charley is such a failure that he can’t even succeed in killing
himself. After the crash Charley finds
himself at the
house where he grew up, and he makes an astonishing discovery. His mother, who had died eight years earlier,
is still living there. She welcomes him
home as if nothing had happened.
The rest of the book is the story
of that “one more day”
Charley spends with his mother. During
that “one more day” he learns things about himself and his family that
knew before. He begins to unravel the
mess his life has become, and he finds a reason to keep on living. It’s a day that gives him hope and a
future. It’s a day that gives him a new
life to become the person he was meant to be.
What would you do if you were given one more day
loved one who had passed away? That’s
what happened to Mary Magdalene that Sunday morning in the garden
tomb. She was given one more day with
Jesus. It was a day that changed her
life. It was a day that gave her a new
destiny. It was a day that gave her hope
future. It was a day that gave her a new
life and a new purpose in life. It was a
day that helped her to become the person God created her to be.
There are a number of stories in
the Gospels about the
resurrection appearances of Jesus, and in every story there is a common
theme. Jesus appeared to the people he
loved, and to those who loved him. The
resurrection appearances of Jesus were not designed to elicit faith,
to strengthen faith. Jesus did not go
back and appear to King Herod or Pontius Pilate to show them they were
wrong. He didn’t go back to the Chief
Priest and the Elders and the members of the Sanhedrin who had arrested
tried him. He didn’t appear before the
soldiers who had mocked him and spat upon him and beat him and pressed
of thorns into his brow and crucified him.
He didn’t suddenly materialize before those bystanders who
insults at him as he was hanging on the cross.
He didn’t stand before the crowds who had shouted, “Let him be
crucified!” No, the people the
resurrected Jesus appeared to were his disciples, the men and women who
followed him and believed in him and loved him.
To them Jesus appeared for one more day.
And it was a day that changed their lives.
You and I never saw Jesus when he
walked upon this
earth. So, we would not recognize him
even if he did suddenly appear in our midst.
Oh, we have an image in our minds of what Jesus might have
like. Most of us have an artist’s
conception of Jesus, with the long dark hair and the full beard and the
robe and the heavenly glow about him.
But those are only artists’ renditions.
We don’t really know what Jesus looked like.
But those who did know Jesus when he walked this
see him after the resurrection. Some of
them did not recognize him at first, and some of them doubted at first,
eventually they did see him and recognize him and believe in him. “I have seen the Lord!” That’s
what Mary said. And that’s what all of
them said as one by
one Jesus appeared to those who loved him.
Those eyewitnesses are long gone, but their testimony remains. Down through the centuries Christians have
been reading the story in the Bible and passing it along to subsequent
generations. Yet, if that’s all we had
to go on, the story would have long since been forgotten.
But there is more than what it written here
in the pages of Scripture. There is more
than the experience of those first followers of Jesus.
We have our own experience with the risen
Jesus. That doesn’t mean we have seen
him with our eyes. But we have seen him
with our hearts. We have experienced the
presence of our risen Lord in our lives.
In the deepest part of our being, we know that we are not alone. Through the eyes of faith we know that the
risen Christ is here.
There are many traditions
associated with Easter—Easter
eggs, the Easter bunny, Easter lilies and other flowers here at church,
outfits, Easter bonnets, Easter dinners and family get-togethers. In our family we have the tradition of Easter
pizza. Many years ago when Amy and Marc
were children, we had pizza for our Easter dinner, probably because we
busy or too tired to prepare a big meal.
We have continued that tradition over the years, even after Amy
were grown and out on their own. Marc
happens to be with us today, and yes, we’re going out for pizza after
church. But even when we haven’t all
been together, that tradition of Easter pizza has kept us connected. I suspect Amy found a pizza parlor in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam where she is this
Easter. It’s not the pizza that’s
important, so much as what the pizza represents. For
our family, the Easter pizza represents a
connection we feel with one another that stretches beyond time and
space. Even when we can’t all be together
same place, eating pizza on Easter Sunday connects us as a family. We may not be physically present with one
another, but we are spiritually present.
And yes, when we have our pizza this afternoon, Amy will be with
Among Russian Orthodox Christians
there are various special traditions
associated with Easter Sunday. One of
them involves calling on family and friends with gifts of Easter candy
Easter cakes. At each door the visitor
proclaims, “Christ is Risen!”, to which the residents of the home
is risen indeed!” A new Russian
immigrant was making the rounds among his fellow immigrants and family
on Easter Sunday. At each door he
shouted, “Christ is risen!” And each
responded, “He is risen indeed!” Except
when he came to the apartment of an old uncle who had lived in this
long time. The uncle had forgotten about
life in Russia,
and the old traditions. He had become
somewhat worldly and cynical and jaded.
When his nephew came to the door and shouted with joy, “Christ
is risen!” The old uncle replied, “So
what?” It’s a legitimate question: Christ is risen—so what?
I’ll tell you what—“Christ is risen” means that we
alone. It means that Jesus is alive, and
with us still. We can’t see him, (and
how could we recognize him if he did appear?), but Jesus is here. He’s here in spirit. He’s
here in our hearts.
“I will never leave you or forsake you,” Jesus
said. “I am with you always,” Jesus said. That’s the “so what” of the resurrection.
You and I, and all who believe, have
one more day with our
risen Lord, a day that will last forever!
Bruce Salmon, Pastor,
Church, Bowie, Maryland
April 8, 2007
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