Summary: When we gather as the church, we -gather to celebrate and embrace God’s salvation!

The Sunday School teacher was extremely enthusiastic. She looked at the class of four-years olds and asked this question: “Does anyone know what today is?”

A little girl held up her finger and said, “Yes today is Palm Sunday.” “That’s fantastic!” the teacher replied. “Does anyone know what next Sunday is?”

The same little girl held up her finger and said, “Next Sunday is Easter Sunday.” Again the teacher replied, “That’s great!”

Then the teacher asked, “Does anyone know what makes next Sunday Easter?” The little girl again responded, “Yes, next Sunday is Easter Sunday because Jesus rose from the grave.”

But before the teacher could again congratulate her, she continued, “But if he sees his shadow, he has to go back in for seven weeks!”

Jesus did not have to go back into the grave, did He? He came out of the tomb, appeared numerous times to His followers, gave the remaining disciples an assignment to go “and make disciples of all nations,” and then returned to heaven to the Father from whom He will one day come back for the Church.

In our church we do not believe in a God who is dead or absent. We believe in a God who is alive and a “very present help” in times of both trouble and peace! A God who through His death and His resurrection makes it possible for us to live life free of guilt and shame and doubt and a whole host of other things. Amen? Amen!

What a great Sunday last Sunday! We had nearly 160 persons present for our Easter Service and the choir and readers and children did a wonderful, wonderful job!

I am also grateful for the group of readers who led us in some very important moments of meditation and reflection during the Lenten season as well. Those off-stage readings really gave us something to think about, didn’t they? Did you hear yourself in those stories? I did!

I was very, very glad for the wonderful turnout for Easter Sunday because Easter is a celebration critical to our faith. Why? No Resurrection? No Christian faith!

Jesus came to die a terribly inhumane and cruel death and then returned to life because it was that resurrection that makes possible the “Sunday after Easter.” It also makes our faith possible because when Jesus died, He died so that we might have eternal life through saving faith in Him! But He left the tomb so that we are able to leave our lives of sin and brokenness behind.

Paul said it very well in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us!”

This morning we begin a very important series, “Celebrating Our Past ... Embracing Our Future ... In Christ!” I ask that you be in sincere and earnest prayer for me during this series because I believe that this is one of the most important series that I have preached up to this point in my life. It ranks above the first sermon that I preached (almost 25 years ago) and the first series that I preached here almost four years ago! (Can you believe it?)

I also believe that it is an important series for us as we enter the future that God has for us as this church. Please be in prayer, for one another, yourselves, and me that we will clearly hear and obey God’s voice!

We are going to be spending the next six weeks “Celebrating and Embracing:” God’s salvation, God’s faithfulness, God’s plan, God’s people, and God’s Son - Jesus Christ! We are going to have some special speakers as well. Cecil Watson will be here from Church Builders Plus in Anderson the weekend of May 14, 15, and 16 as we come to the climax of our series and our capital fund campaign with a dinner at Cobblestone (no charge and childcare for those up through 5th grade will be provided by our sister congregation from LaGrange here at the church) at which time we will have the opportunity to respond to the Lord in faith and trust as we pledge toward a new facility.

Then on Memorial Day weekend, Norberto and Julie ________will be here sharing about their work in __________as we “celebrate and embrace God’s work” on that Sunday which is known as Pentecost Sunday. But, there’s more, Mike and Heather ____ will be here the following Sunday, June 6th, to share about their future work with the Church of God in ________. Mike is the grandson of Sam and Betty ________.

We have much to celebrate and embrace and this morning we are here to celebrate and embrace God’s salvation. Eric Reed in this past week’s Leadership Weekly e-mail column related the following story.

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