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Friday, April 24, 2009


I know that as a preacher I'm expected to be stoic and "spiritual" about a death in our church family. I have no doubts about Bro. Bickerstaff's salvation. I believe that even now he is with our Lord in Paradise. I believe, I know that all the pains and discomforts typical of an older Black man in the South (diabetes, hypertension, arthritis) are gone for him now. I know that our brother is truly, infinitely, totally happy, healthy, and whole now.

But, I'm sorry, it still hurts.

This Sunday School, the teacher won't be interrupted by a question that always begins "What then..." and always somehow transitions into a story about when he was in the army or when he was at Tuskegee Institute.
This worship service , I'll not hear a raspy baritone (just a few beats ahead or behind everybody else) ring out over the rest of the congregation when we sing.
This Sunday when we're all shaking hands and exchanging hugs after the benediction I won't get an impromptu history lesson that connects any location or event you can think of to a cousin in the Bickerstaff family.

I will miss it, and the anticipation of those missed moments hurts.

But the pain does not rise to despair. The hurt does not dissolve into hopelessness. Because I do believe that there is more to this life than this life. Because I do know that a faith relationship with Jesus Christ delivers us from eternal death. Because I am secure in the promise of resurrection and reunion, I miss my brother, but I look forward to hearing his raspy baritone singing out someday future. I look forward to hearing him interrupt some prophet from ancient days or some great Bible teacher yet unknown as they talk on the lawn of New Jerusalem. I expect even greater stories about the time in Paradise I missed.

I look forward to all that, and the hope of those promised moments comforts.

It really does.

Hear the eulogy at


Mr. George W. Bickerstaff

was born July 3, 1930 in Montgomery County, Alabama. He was the firstborn of the late Mr. George Walter Bickerstaff, Sr. and the late Mrs. Martha Gardner Bickerstaff. George graduated from Jimmy Lowes high School and obtained an Associates Degree in dietetics from Tuskegee Institute.

He served with distinction in the Korean Conflict and received an honorable discharge.

He was married to the late Mary Addison Bickerstaff. To their union were born four children: Johnny Addison, LaJuliet Bickerstaff, Kenneth Bickerstaff, and Lillian Bickerstaff (preceded in death).

For many years, he worked in civil service until his retirement from Maxwell Air Force Base in 1989. He was a long time member of Hall Memorial Christian Methodist Episcopal Church where he served as a member of the steward board.

Brother Bickerstaff is survived by his children: Johnny Addison, LaJuliet Bickerstaff, and Kenneth Bickerstaf; one sister, Ernestine Bickerstaff-Daniels; three brothers: Bernard Bickerstaff (Susie), Alonzo Bickerstaff (Patricia), Clark H. Bickerstaff (Mary); uncles and aunts: patsy Rodgers, Sylvia Foster, Jessie (Mack) Crum, Celestine (Oscar) Henderson, Samuel Gardner, Elliot (Sharon) Gardner, Rosie (Charles) Scott; and a host of relatives and friends.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Consider the following verse:
New Revised Standard Version
Matthew 28: 6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come see the place where he lay.

New King James Version
Matthew 28: 6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

Linguistically and grammatically speaking, both of the above translations are accurate, but this post isn’t about grammar or Greek-to-English linguistics.

It’s about our mindset toward the resurrection. There is a temptation now that Easter is past to “move on”. The ecstasy of Resurrection morning seems too magnificent, too heart-wrenching to continue in past the day. But if we just file Easter away we lose something vital. Something that is so essential to our faith that the moment had to be hidden for us to see it.

Think about it. Mary was aware of the immaculate conception. The birth of Jesus occurred with family and probably a few strangers around. Christ’s life, ministry, and miracles—His baptism, His transfiguration, His triumphant entry on Palm Sunday---all happened where others could see. The ascension was witnessed by hundreds. The charisma of the Holy Spirit was publicly displayed on Pentecost. But no human eyes saw the Resurrection. Even the guards at the tomb were unconscious when it happened.

The Resurrection, the very moment of Christ’s victory over death has human witnesses only to its aftermath.

Why? I wonder why such an important—the most important--- moment in the history of God’s relationship to humanity would not be sealed by the irrefutable observations of scores of eyewitnesses.

I think the answer is in the subtle difference between the NRSV’s technically correct phrasing and King James’s more poetic rendering of the angel’s declaration at the empty tomb.
Jesus was born.
Jesus preached.
Jesus died.

But ….

Jesus is risen!

Easter is not just about an event 2,000 years in the past. Nor is it about a service last Sunday.

Easter, the Resurrection, is about who and how Christ is now.

Christ is risen. No one needed to see Him get up, because the getting up from the grave wasn’t the main point. The main point of the Resurrection is that Jesus is not now in the grave.

In John chapter 11, Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus; but eventually Lazarus died again.
Jesus is risen from the dead never to die again.

Because the Resurrection is a present truth, we in this moment have hope of our resurrection one day, if we are in Christ (Romans 10: 9; Colossians 2: 12).

Because the Resurrection is an eternal reality, Jesus declared even before He entered Jerusalem to be betrayed and crucified that “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11: 25).

Christians serve Jesus Christ not for who He was but for who He is. He is “I am,” Yahweh, Jehovah, Lord, God. It is in relationship with Jesus, present and eternal, that we find hope, peace, promise, and purpose. We pray, study, praise, evangelize, proselytize, and minister to needs because Jesus is.

After all the eggs have been hunted, after the baskets have been emptied, after the new clothes have grown old, remember ---whatever translation of the Bible you use--- that

He Is Risen!