Once upon a time there was a young boy named Philip. Philip was born with Downs Syndrome. He was a pleasant and happy as most Downs children are--but he grew increasingly aware of the difference between himself and other children. Philip went to Sunday School at a Methodist church. His teacher, taught nine 3rd grade eight-year-old boys and girls…and Philip.
You know how eight-year-olds can be—so with his differences Philip wasn’t ready to be accepted. The teacher tried to help that group of 8 year olds with some creative ways. They did many things together as a group—they learned, and laughed, and played together; and really cared about one another. But Philip never really became a part of the group. Philip did not choose to be different. He just was.
The SS teacher had a marvelous idea for his class the Sunday after Easter last year. You know the eggs pantyhose come in—the teacher gave each of his 8 year old students one egg—and to go outside on that beautiful spring day, and find a symbol for new life, put it into the egg, and bring it back to the classroom where they would then open and share.
It was glorious, confusing and wild watching those 8 year olds run all around the church grounds, gathering their symbols, and returned to the classroom. They put all the eggs on a table, and with the class surrounding him, the teacher opened each one.
The first one had a flower—“ooh…aah…”. In the 2nd there was a little butterfly. "Beautiful," all the girls said (8 yr old boys don’t say "beautiful” you know). He opened another, and there was a rock. Some of the 3rd graders laughed, "That's crazy! How's a rock supposed to be like new life?" A smart little boy spoke up: "That's mine. And I knew all of you would get flowers and buds and leaves and butterflies and stuff like that. So I got a rock because I wanted to be different. And for me, that's new life." They all giggled.
“Well, that’s very profound,” the SS teacher said and opened the next egg. But there was nothing in it. The children said, "That's not fair--that's stupid!--somebody didn't do it right."
The teacher felt a tug on his shirt, and when he looked down, Philip was standing beside him--"It's mine, it's mine."
"You don't ever do things right, Philip,” the children said. “There's nothing there!"
"I did so do it," Philip said. "I did do it. It's empty. The tomb… it’s empty!"
There was a very full silence amongst the 3rd graders that day. And from that time on, it was different--Philip suddenly became a part of the group in that 8-year-old SS class. They took him in and he was set free from the tomb of his differentness.
THE TOMB IS EMPTY! HE IS NOT HERE!—the angel said! And no matter how you feel today, you can be set free from your TOMB of HOPELESSNESS! Whatever the situation is, there is HOPE for you because the TOMB is EMPTY!
Because the TOMB is empty, YOU have HOPE for your parents and your kids and grandkids; you have HOPE in your marriage, you have HOPE for your future; you have HOPE for more than JUST this life! And we can have HOPE as a church family too!
The story goes on to say that Philip died that summer. His family had known since the time he was born that he wouldn't live out a full life span. Philip died.
At the funeral, nine eight-year-old children marched up to the altar—they didn’t carry flowers, but along with their Sunday school teacher, they each laid on the altar an empty plastic egg.