Churches to give special message

Published 3:35 pm Sunday, April 8, 2007

The celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ begins soon after midnight in the Miss-Lou, with churches throughout the area ending their Easter vigils and proceeding with sunrise services.

One of the earliest services will begin at 4 a.m. at New Zion No. 1 Baptist Church. Other sunrise services include 6 a.m. services held jointly by Greater St. James Baptist Church and Forest Aide Missionary Baptist Church; and another by St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Most churches will hold traditional Easter services at 10 or 11 a.m. That is the case with Parkway Baptist Church, where senior pastor the Rev. Bart Walker has a message based on Hebrews 2: 14-18, a reminder in his sermon that Jesus through his death rendered useless the devil’s power of death over humankind.

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“The chief thing I will share is that Jesus came to earth for the specific purpose of dying for our sins,” Walker said.

“He breaks the power of Satan and gains for us freedom from death.”

With that knowledge, we are freed from fears of all kinds of hazards in our lives and indeed set free in the assurance that the sting of death is taken away, Walker said.

“We can look forward to a resurrection like Jesus, not like Lazarus, but a resurrection where we’ll never taste the fullness of what death is,” he said.

Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ on Sunday after a brutal death on a cross on the Friday before, commemorated throughout the world as Good Friday.

The Gospel of John tells that Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone at the doorway to the tomb had been removed.

She ran to tell two of the disciples of Jesus what she had found. When Peter and another disciple went to the tomb to check her story, they, too, found the tomb empty, as told in Chapter 20 of John.

The disciples ran home, but Mary stayed. Jesus appeared and spoke to her. He then appeared to others before his ascension into heaven.

Walker said the difference between the Christian religion and other religions of the world is the cross.

“The cross represents what God has done for us, giving us forgiveness of our sins through Christ and making us righteous before God,” he said. “Easter Sunday is a great, great day for me. I am so privileged to speak on Easter Sunday about what Christ has done.”

The Rev. Troy Thomas, pastor of Bethel Missionary Church in Vidalia, said his theme on Easter Sunday morning will be “the reasons we believe in the resurrection.”

The disciples of Jesus were willing to sacrifice their lives for what they believed, he said. He will explore with his congregation the meanings of “witness” and “martyr.”

“We say we have the truth in Jesus Christ. What are we willing to sacrifice for it,” he said. “One thing we need in this country is people who really believe in the resurrection.”

Those who truly believe that Jesus is the Son of God will lead lives dominated by the teachings of Jesus, Thomas said.

“The resurrection means that one day Jesus got up. And so will I one day get up,” he said.

Thomas will preach from Acts 1: 4-8, in which Jesus, shortly before he ascended to heaven, instructs the disciples to wait for the power of the Holy Spirit “and then you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,” Jesus tells them.

“If the resurrection truly affects your whole life, what are you willing to do,” Thomas said. That is how he will frame his Easter message.