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.


       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!


She remembers,

I went out to buy one flower to cheer myself up,

& returned with more flowers than I could count.




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,



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



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.



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.




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