Crosses in the Sky

So here we are on Easter Sunday. We’ll be sending it out a little early today because thru a set of unforeseen circumstances, Tony will be preaching 3 times today (once in Japanese) and that doesn’t include the dawn service or the evening celebration, which of course we’ll try to attend as well.

I hope you’re looking forward to a wonderful day, hopefully COVID free.  This last week, we had only a five-hour notice before a surprise “Lock Down”, much like a pop quiz. It was imposed on anyone who’d been in the Brisbane area in the last week!  The self-imposed lockdown was only for three days, but we’d gone up to Brisbane (an hour away), last Sunday for the Japanese Church that meets there. For a moment, we considered just not fessing up, but then remembered that we had “logged in” as per government rules, so big brother was watching.

All this came about because of an unexplained CoVid outbreak, with four people testing positive. The authorities panicked and shut everyone down.  It didn’t hurt us as much as our grandkids, (who’d also been up there for a basketball game).  They were in the last week of their first term of school, which was brought to a screeching halt.

Now, as I’m writing this, we’ve been ‘released’ for Easter and the school holidays, as long as we wear masks.  This is a first for us, but I don’t think we’ll get much sympathy with all you readers who have been subjected to this for over a year now.

But this morning I’m here to talk about Heroes.  Of course the obvious one today would be Jesus, don’t you think?  What would we do without Him and His wonderful Resurrection!

But I’d also like to mention a guy from 312 AD.  He was the Roman Emperor Constantine.  You may or may not have heard of him and I’ll let you decide if he was a hero or not.

As most of you know, in his role as Emperor, he was gearing up for a big battle. On the eve before he would be meeting the enemy at a place called the Milvian Bridge, Constantine looked up in the sky, and saw what he was convinced was a cross glowing out of the sunset.  Then that night, he had a dream where he claimed he saw Jesus. The message he heard was loud and clear: “Carry the Cross into Battle”.

The dream, along with the heavenly vision, convinced him. Royal flag makers were rousted out of bed, and told to replace his elaborate war banners for ones with a large cross on them. The next day, Constantine had an unprecedented victory.  This convinced him to become a “Christian” immediately, and furthermore to put an end to Christian persecution.

Researching his story might leave you wondering if this was a good or bad thing for Western Civilization in general and the Church in particular. Imagine a world where one day you were meeting in small groups while hiding from the law, and the next day those lawmen were coming to your church and telling everyone that they had to be baptized!

But the fact is, this event opened the way for the acceptability of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire.  Constantine’s mother actually became a true believer, and set out for the Holy Land, in search of all the places mentioned in the Bible where Jesus lived and worked. Using all that was available, the 300 yr old oral tradition, she identified many of the places that are still popular, so if nothing else, the tourist industry owes her a huge debt of gratitude. We all believe the things actually occurred in the Holy Land and it’s nice to have an idea where it could have possibly happened.

Constantine is also credited for initiating the 326 AD Nicene Creed, a convention of over 300 reigning church fathers,  which we still recognize today. That declaration of belief states that Jesus is both ALL God and ALL man, not created but begotten.

And one more thing….. he started the first recognized Christian ‘event’ we call Easter. Now, without prejudice or persecution, we all can celebrate Christ’s resurrection!  Aren’t we happy about that?

Hopefully you can gather with others today and thank Jesus again for dying and resurrecting so that we can have eternal life!

And maybe we could have a little shout out to the Easter bunny, totally pagan but much loved, who in Australia at least, shuns the real eggs and focuses completely on the Chocolate ones!

Till next week, hopefully with no surprise government edicts,
Marsha

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