Sheptock, Rudy

Pastor Rudy Sheptock.

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It’s an Easter unlike any other.

It may be the first Easter where individuals can’t come together in community to worship the risen Jesus. While the building may be closed, the church will be wide open. The last I checked, if death couldn’t prevent our Lord from rising from the dead, then the coronavirus shouldn’t keep those of us who wear His name from raising the roof to proclaim our appreciation.

Aren’t you glad that God is still in the business of rolling the boulders of gloom and doom away? Because Jesus lives, not only can we face tomorrow, we can find a life worth living right here and now. We don’t have to wait until this nightmare is over to dance to heaven's music.

Despite how hard fear and anxiety over the unknown might try to rule the day, the fact that Jesus conquered sin and death is the key truth that opens the door to real freedom. 

Easter gives us a reason to crank up the volume of pure joy and sincere celebration. It is not an escape from the pain of this pandemic, but it hits this disease between the eyes and exposes it for what it is.

Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of what can destroy the body, but make it a priority to deal with what can isolate your soul.” The coronavirus can’t separate us from God's love. It also can’t change the fact that the moment I take my last breath on earth, I will begin to breathe the fresh air of paradise.

The coronavirus doesn’t negate Jesus being the Resurrection and the Life, the Bread of Life, the Living Water, the Way, Truth and the Life, the Good Shepherd, the Door, the One who would never leave us or forsake us, nor does it cancel any other eternal words our Lord gave us about who He is.

The big question is, “Will Christians find their ability to authentically praise the risen Savior from the current mess they are in?” “Will we choose to worship in the middle of the wilderness, or are we so fickle and spoiled by not having our pleasures and conveniences that we will look skyward and claim spiritual laryngitis?”

I find it ironic that we have been mandated by the government to stay within our homes, buried for an unknown period that is testing our patience and spoiling us from participating in what we love about spring. If ever we were needing a timely resurrection back to life, it is now. Contrary to those who spout out that they don’t need anybody else to worship God; isolation doesn’t suit us spiritually.

God didn’t create us to be loners. We are at our best when we dwell within a caring community of loved ones. We need one another to know us even better than we know ourselves.

Social distancing is not a biblical principle. I believe we are fighting it because it is not in our DNA.

God so loved the world that He refused to accept the separation from us that sin caused. Jesus went to the extreme measure of leaving the safe confines of heaven, with no other purpose but to rescue us. He did so by becoming one of us.

He got as up close and personal with us as anyone could ever be. It was by these means that God mended the broken bridge between mankind and Himself, not by buying or constructing a massive stairway to heaven, but by His only Son willingly laying down His life to become the walk we would gain access to the Father through.

Jesus, who knew no sin, became the deadly virus itself, so that by grace through faith, whosoever could find their eternal cure and healing in Him. The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t eradicated one fact of all; God has done in love for His people. If ever there was a moment when we need something of substance to lift us out of the pit, it is now.

There was no March Madness. There has been no baseball. There will be no Masters, Olympic Games, Wimbledon Tennis, family gatherings, zoo to walk through, Morey’s Piers to enjoy, restaurants open for gathering, or place to run and hide.

There have been people talking like we are not going to have Easter this year. Are you kidding me?

You can’t wipe out Easter with a virus. Jesus is not a computer.

For years and centuries, the world tried to squash Christianity, maim the church, silence its disciples, and steal the song of the resurrection. They couldn’t edit Jesus from our vocabulary then, and they can’t keep Him down now.

Easter is not canceled, as there has always been a resurrection. There will be one again, as this, too, shall pass.

We were not made to live in tombs. We will all get out of our caves and come together again. It may not be this Easter, but we have the hope that it will happen.

That is why I encourage you to get all decked out this Easter as a family.

Don’t watch church online in your pajamas. Ladies, wear that Easter bonnet. Men, put a shirt and tie on. Let the kids pick out their favorite outfit, and tell them they are wearing it to a party.

Easter is a jump, shout, and knock yourself out occasion. I will wear the white shoes that I always wear - the ones I bought for my first Easter as a believer, in 1976. If Jesus rose from the dead, don’t you think we can rise from our beds?

Make it memorable. Take pictures. Open the windows and let the sunshine in.

Easter is not good advice; it is Good News. Hallelujah, Jesus is alive. Let your behavior back up your belief. Who is with me?

For too long, church has become an event to attend. For a time like this, Jesus is calling us to not go to church but to be the church.

I am proud of all the Cape May County churches that have been holding their Mass and services online. Who would have imagined that a smartphone, considered a distraction, would become a true lifeline?

The Lighthouse Church will be remembering Holy Week. We will have live online services on Friday at noon and 6 p.m. We will hold a live online service Saturday, at 6 p.m.

Finally, we will host the Easter Sunday Praise Jam on Sunday at 11 a.m. Our Sunday service will also be broadcasted and livestreamed on 106.3FM The Shore. The website for the radio is theshore1063.com, and the website for the Lighthouse Church is tlccma.org - this page will give you all the instructions you need to party with us.

On Palm Sunday morning, Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem, riding on a colt. He entered the holy city as a humble King.

By Thursday night, after celebrating Passover with His disciples, He was arrested and held as a common criminal. On Friday, it appeared that all was lost when the Lamb of God was crucified upon a cross. Can you imagine how dark and depressed the world was that Holy Saturday?

I believe this coronavirus has us stuck in Holy Saturday mode, but there’s more.

On Sunday, death was kicked in the teeth, and Jesus rose from the grave, and for all who believe, their stories will never end in defeat.

The earth awaits healing from this coronavirus. Christians have not been exempted from its ugly presence, but as Christians, we received Jesus as Lord to follow Him utterly and completely.

We esteem Him above everything else, despite what our present circumstances are. Church is more than just a bless me club. We are family, and our Lord has said to us, “For better or for worse, I will never leave you nor forsake you, and not even death will part us.”

We claim Jesus as absolute Lord. Let all hell rage against it. We are here by Him, through Him, and for Him, come hell or high water.

Is Jesus worthy of a true Easter celebration? You bet He is.

ED. NOTE: The author is the senior pastor of The Lighthouse Church, 1248 Route 9 South, Court House.