Easter 2023 SERMON: ‘Too Good to be True: An Idle Tale?’
Rev. Jane Courtright
As a little child growing up in Milford, Pennsylvania,
I belonged to a neighborhood gang:
We were a group of elementary school aged kids
who were free to hang around together, to wander & to play,
especially during summer vacation!
Oh, the joys of small town life in the late 50’s & early 60’s!
One of the things we liked to do
was to explore our neighborhood,
scavenging for discarded pop bottles,
which we then took to the corner gas station
for the deposit $$.
That simple gas station had the
most dazzling selection of penny candy!
It also sold fudge sickles for 5 cents,
& had a fancy gumball machine
with BIG gumballs for a nickel.
These things, of course, were what we spent
our pop bottle deposit $$ on
I remember one particular summer day,
We had an especially good haul of bottles
in our red wagon.
We each had a WHOLE nickel to spend!
I decided to put mine into the gumball machine.
I hoped for a RED gumball.
I turned the handle & held out my hand to catch it.
Suddenly, gumballs were flying out of that machine!!
It seemed there was no end to the gumballs
flowing into my hands & my shirt
As I pulled up the waist up to catch them!
I was FLABBERGASTED at my good fortune,
& shared gumballs with my gang
& the whole neighborhood.
You should have seen the bubbles blown that day!
I hoped for one red gumball &
received enough gum for an entire neighborhood.
TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE?
This is no idle tale!
Dr. Carol Noren tells a similar tale.
One April evening, she found herself
living hundreds of miles from family & friends.
She didn’t have much money for phone calls,
there was nothing on TV,
So, she decided to walk to the grocery store
to get some milk & maybe just one flower.
She knew that the store marked down the price
of their flowers to 25 cents each on Sunday evenings
to make room for a new shipment on Monday morning.
She looked through the bucket of left over flowers
and decided to splurge on 2 flowers.
The manager said, “Hmmmm. That’d be 50 cents.
I tell you what: how’d you like ALL the floweres
for 50 cents?”
“You’re kidding,” Noren replied.
“No, I’m not.
We’re getting a new shipment tomorrow morning,
It’s late, and I have to throw away any flowers
that aren’t sold by closing time.
If you’ll take them, it’ll save me a trip to the dumpster!”
Noren was speechless.
She left the store with 6 dz. Roses & almost as many
Daffodils, mums, carnations and other flowers.
She had flowers for every room in her apartment,
& enough to share with others apts.in her building!
I went out to buy one flower to cheer myself up,
& returned with more flowers than I could count.
TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE?
AN IDLE TALE?
I’ve heard and seen other such tales;
One church member told me that he found unexpectedly,
$87 in cash (with no claimers) in a parking lot in Branson!
A beautician shared that, on Maundy Thursday,
she had been shopping and after,
backed into another car in the store parking lot.
Full of guilt 7 expecting the worst,
she stopped her car & got out to confront the other driver.
They both observed that there was no damage to either car.
The other driver, as they parted,
sincerely wished the beautician a ‘HAPPY EASTER!’
Some of you listening to the tales I’ve shared,
hear me the way many listen to stories from the Bible,
especially the Resurrection story of Jesus.
but it’s not YOUR story.
Maybe the story did happen to somebody,
sometime long ago,
in a place you’ve never seen…and then again….
Interest, but skepticism:
It’s the way people react to the Easter story
since the first time it was told!
Just consider our gospel reading this morning:
when Mary Magdelene told what happened to her.
At the empty tomb, nobody expected
that this story would turn out the way it did!
After Mary told Peter & John what had happened,
& they saw for themselves, they were confounded
and returned to the Upper Room.
Mary however, stayed, cried, & looked
inside the empty tomb.
Just imagine how excited & amazed she was
when Jesus spoke her name and she experienced him.
Think how she felt when she understood
that he now had new life!
*Remember how I felt when
gumballs flowed into my shirt?
*How Carol Noren felt
carrying home armloads of flowers?
*Imagine how that church member felt
finding $87 in a parking lot?
*How the beautician felt receiving an Easter greeting
right after she backed into another driver?
Do you remember those TV commercials
from Publishers Clearing House-
The ones with the prize patrol
showing up at someone’s door?”
And how the winner laughed and shouted,
jumped up and down,
hugged the prize giver, even sometimes shout,
“THANK YOU, JESUS!”
Well, the joy of Mary Magdelene
was light years beyond all of that!
She had received much more than the new life
of someone she loved & thought she’d lost
(as wonderful as THAT was!)
Mary had learned about the power of life over death,
of joy over despair, of good over evil,
and that meant that the future
would be entirely different!
And now, she got to go and tell the others
THIS GOOD NEWS!
At first, those others did not believe the Good News.
They were intrigued, but not convinced.
Curious, but not persuaded.
It was not until they could experience
Jesus themselves That they could believe it.
THEN THEY UNDERSTOOD.
You can read in the gospels,
(& we will as the Easter season
continues,) what a change it made in their lives.
No IDLE tale could have changed
their mourning into joy, their unbelief into belief.
Finally, their joy spilled over, and
they were bursting to tell everyone the Good News!
How wonderful that the Bible tells of their initial fear
& skepticism of those early followers of Jesus.
It makes them seem human & real-
not so very different from us!
If the living spirit of Jesus transformed their lives,
then the same thing is possible for us!
If we come, questions & all,
our lives can be filled with more beauty & awe
than we can dare to imagine.
So much so, that we’ll have to share it with others!
This IS amazing, breath taking, astonishing….
But it is NO idle tale. It’s the Gospel truth.
THANK GOD!!! HAPPY EASTER!!!