He is Risen! The Lord is Risen Indeed!

By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell

Suggested Scripture Reading: John 3:16; John 11:25–26; John 20:1–31; Philippians 4:13; Matthew 28:20

I can still hear the Episcopal priest’s resounding voice as he bounded into the sanctuary with children carrying banners behind him as he shouted, “He is Risen!” and then the congregation responding with him as his voice boomed even louder, “The Lord is Risen Indeed!” Easter morning was a huge celebration at St. James’s Episcopal Church, in Richmond, Virginia, where my family attended church when I was a child. We, the congregation’s children, would collect money in advance of the Easter service in “mite boxes,” small cardboard coin banks, for the church’s missions. We would decorate the boxes with fresh flowers from our home gardens, and they would be placed in a huge cross frame in the sanctuary on Easter morning during the service so that they would decorate it as a blooming cross in honor of Christ and in representation of his resurrection. It was a glorious celebration with pipe organ music, the responsive readings, and joyous singing. I still think of those Easter mornings and feeling the palpable power of God’s Holy Spirit. I felt it from the moment we went into my mother’s garden and picked the flowers—I was so aware that there was great meaning in it all. Every Easter, even now, I think of those Easter mornings of my childhood.

In my current church, my memories of Easter are different but equally special. It’s the meaning of the ongoing reminders of Jesus and his resurrection that strike me most, though, maybe because of having some maturity in my spiritual walk : The words “Because He lives” over the entrance door of Elpis Christian Church in Maidens, Virginia, regularly remind me of the line from the hymn that starts with those words and finishes with “I can face tomorrow.” That’s the essence of it all: the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ’s resurrection, and all that that means to my life now and into eternity. Even the name of our church, “Elpis,” means “expectant hope”—not just a wish but a knowing that Christ will come again—that this earthly life is only a beginning of what is yet to be. Because of that hope and my belief in the words of Scripture, I know that I can face whatever I need to through Christ, who gives me the strength I need (Philippians 4:13).

Knowing of and believing in the resurrection of Jesus are essential to my Christian faith. I know that he suffered a brutal death for me, that he went to the cross willingly laying down his life so that my sins could be forgiven, the slate wiped clean of all ugliness and guilt because he paid the price. Because of his death on the cross, I can live in the presence of the Holy Trinity—the triune God can abide with me and I with him. Because of Jesus’s resurrection, I know that Jesus is the Christ, that he is who he said he was, and that because he lives, I can not only face whatever happens but also expect that he is with me now and always. That is something to celebrate!

Celebrate Easter with me. Enjoy the blessings of his love today and always. Happy Easter!

A Mandate to Love One Another

By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell


Recommended Scripture reading: John 13:34–35

It’s Maundy Thursday. Maundy is derived from the Latin word for mandate or commandment. When Jesus met with his Disciples for the Passover meal, his “last supper” with them, he also insisted on washing their feet. He did that in demonstration of how we are to care for one another. At that time, he told them to do this for each other and to love each other in his name. If you will remember, during his ministry Jesus was asked which commandment was the greatest, and he told his disciples that the law and the prophets could be summarized into two commandments: to love God and to love one another in his name, or to love as you have been loved by him. That’s the simplicity of the Gospel right there.

Of course, the concepts of these two commandments are simple, but they are not always easy to do. Jesus never promised that following him would be easy. In fact, Jesus specifically said that Christians would be persecuted and hated for following him; however, he also said that his purpose was to love us and to give us abundant life if we believe in him and follow his commandments. He also said that he would help us to endure the hardship, and that he would be with us always.

Those of us who know Christ know that his love is steadfast, that he exceeds our expectations, and that he is the author and source of love itself.

Christians, remember Jesus today! Remember the New Covenant he offered. Remember your life covenant commitment with him. Remember him in your worship and when you gather: In remembrance of him, take the Holy Communion elements, and remember the sacrifice he made for you and me. Love him with all your mind, heart, soul, and strength. Share the message of Christ’s love with others. And love each other in his name.

Jesus on a Donkey Colt: A Reflection

By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell

As you know, yesterday was Palm Sunday. Our Sunday service was more subdued this year because of the pandemic, and we did not have children waving palms in remembrance of Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem on the donkey colt. But we did remember the parade, the waving of the palms, and the donkey colt in our worship service and reflected on the fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9. Read it yourself.                     .

Although my husband didn’t mention this in his sermon yesterday, afterward we remembered to each other a story that is special to our hearts. We live in the Virginia countryside. When we go east from the church parsonage toward Richmond, we pass a small farm with two horses and a donkey. We look for “Donkey” whenever we pass by. Sometimes he’s in the front pasture, and sometimes he’s in the back pasture or out of sight on the other side of a hill, but we look for him. We are drawn to the donkey because we like animals and have learned some things about donkeys since we’ve moved to the country; maybe we love him even more because of the biblical references to Jesus and his riding on the donkey colt to Jerusalem (See also John 12:12-16).

On a previous occasion at church when my pastor-husband was talking about the humility of Jesus—how he was born in a stinky animal’s stable and how he also rode a donkey colt into Jerusalem to face his own crucifixion—one of our church members said that she prayed that Jesus would allow her to be his “stinky little donkey” in service to him. I happen to know that she does service in the trenches for Christ that she does not flaunt or advertise. May we all have her attitude!

May we all serve Christ with humility and love, being unafraid to face the “grit” of life with others, providing and caring for others in need. May we serve in practical ways—in the ways that we are uniquely able—when and where we are needed to serve his purposes. We don’t have to be beautiful, elegant, or rich to make a difference: That little donkey colt that Jesus rode into Jerusalem not only got to be in a parade but will be remembered into eternity for serving our Lord. Nothing done for Christ and his purposes will go unnoticed. Each of us has a unique ability to serve. May we readily answer the call to do God’s work. May we all be a “stinky little donkey” for Christ!

Star of Wonder, Star of Hope

By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell

This Christmas Season, I have especially enjoyed a recording of “I Wonder as I Wander” by Frank Coleman (Home Cookin’ Studio, Richmond, VA) on a cd he made with my husband, Paul Simrell, several years ago. As I listen to Frank sing the song, it creates an atmosphere for me of my own wonder and awe of what Christmas means: I think of what it meant for a starry night with a huge, unusual star over a small town where the baby Jesus lay in a barn animals’ feeding trough, the angel visitations Mary and Joseph had experienced prior to his birth, the awkward circumstances for them, and also the responsibility and honor bestowed upon them by God himself.

The world was in need of a savior. The star was a sign of expectant hope of which even the shepherds took note. The star was so prominent and lingered for such a long time that it was seen far away and beckoned the Magi to seek the new king. Even King Herod would fear for his own position when he learned of those who followed the star in search of the new king of the Jews.

Our world is in disarray now. We need Our Savior. We need to cling to that expectant hope that comes with the Christ Child. As we plan our celebrations of Christmas in honor of Jesus and his birth, the arrival of “God with us”—the story that we already know but that was awesome, scary, yet hopeful and wonderful to Mary and Joseph—we might just feel a little of that expectant hope that the Christ Child brings. No matter what happens, we who love Jesus Christ know that he is with us now and forever. No one, no thing, no circumstance can separate us from his love. We can anticipate with expectant hope that we will live with the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and that he shall reign forever and ever.

May we ponder that and wonder as we wander in awe of him as we celebrate our Lord this Christmas!

Have a safe and wonderful Christmas!

A Hopeful Prayer

By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell

 

Almighty God, Father of Love,

When everything and everyone around me are negative, I need to remember that You are in control. I ask that you help me to choose love above all else and that your Holy Spirit transform my heart so that I can reflect your love in all that I do. Help me to deny my sinful nature and to willingly and humbly submit to your loving and righteous authority.

And when I’m weighed down, anxious and frustrated, by the pain, sorrow, anger, and violence around me, remind me that my true home is in Heaven, that I’m only here on this Earth temporarily.

As I focus on the Cross and Jesus in my decision making, remind me of the positives that I can embrace around me to be emotionally and spiritually secure in your priorities. Remind me of this Scripture written by your authority:

“Finally, Brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

Further, Lord, remind me that I can give my worries and anxieties to you and that you care for me, that your love is active and steadfast, and that if I follow Jesus and focus on the Cross, that you, as the God of Peace, will always be with me.

My Holy Father, my “Abba,” hold me close in your embrace.

Amen.

 

 

(Scriptures references: Phil. 4:8, quoted (KJV); 1 Peter 5:7; Phil. 4:9)

Called to be Holy

By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell

 

While our country and the world are all going through a pandemic and while our country is ravaged by anger and violence over racism, it’s time for me to no longer hold my tongue. I do not generally voice my political views publicly, mostly because government’s laws and God’s laws of love and justice are not always aligned. When I vote, I am not always “for” the candidate but may sometimes vote against the worst of two evils as I understand the issues. But I am not for violence. I am not for bigotry. I am not for hatred in any form. I grieve with our nation right now.

While we just celebrated Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit to all believers, I am reminded that we are called to be holy. We are called to be holy just as God himself is holy. And if God’s very spirit dwells within us and we reflect his love as we are to do, we will be recognized for the fruits of his Holy Spirit. The Scripture tells us this: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians5:22-23, KJV).

This means we are to be patient, to have self-control, and to regard others with kindness and respect: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19, KJV). If we could only communicate this way—and not through violence!

We are told by Scripture that man—that is, all of mankind—was created in his image. How so? Not by our looks or our physical characteristics or our culture, but by what God intended for us to be—God called us to be holy, as He is holy. We were created for relationship with Him and to reflect His love back to Him, to be a mirror of his very love. If He is love itself, we are to be loving. We are to do all things with love in our hearts. The Scripture says, “Let all your things be done with charity” (1 Corinthians 16:14, KJV). Jesus summed it all up into two commandments: “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:34-40, KJV).

God is the one who knows what is in our hearts. God is the one who is our judge. He is the one we have to please. God reads our hearts. We have to walk with him in spirit by taking step after step after step in living with his Holy Spirit within us and in our behaviors, over and over again as we take every step of our lives. That’s how we follow Jesus. That’s how we become more Christ-like. That’s how we become sanctified.

We are called to be holy. Let us love one another in His name!

 

 

…Easter–Because He Lives!

By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell

 

Scripture Reading: John 20

 
“He is risen!”

“He is risen, indeed!”

Those are the words shouted with confidence in churches on a typical Easter morning. Unfortunately, this not a typical Easter, but the words are still relevant. The words there are facts. No one can take that from us. No virus can take away that truth.

We’ve had a period of darkness. We’ve searched ourselves. We’ve acknowledged our guilt, our pain, and our sorrow.

But…HE LIVES! We know Jesus is who he said he was. We know that he’s true to his Word. We know that we can believe his promises. We know that the risen Christ is Our Savior! We know the risen Christ, the Messiah, LOVES US—you and me! We know we are forgiven for our sins! We know He will be with us forever, “until the end of the age.” That’s something to shout from the mountaintop!

Now, go out and say it aloud. Shout it out! Rejoice! Celebrate! And while you celebrate among only a small group of your own family, as you carefully consider the health and wellbeing of others during this Coronavirus, plan a huge celebration for the time when you can gather again safely with your brothers and sisters in Christ. When you are able to gather, have the most glorious celebration ever!

May the blessings of Christ’s love be with you now and always! Happy Easter!

 

Darkness…

By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell

 

Betrayed. Abandoned. Crucified. Darkness…

For now, we enter into the darkness and we wait. The disciples of Jesus did not understand—they believed perhaps that the Jesus they believed in was merely dead, although he foretold what was yet to happen. Perhaps they were disappointed, having believed as Judas did, that Jesus would start a political revolution. Some say Judas was merely pushing Jesus to get on with it. In any case, the death of Jesus on a cross—crucified, as a criminal would be—confused them, shook their beliefs, and grieved them. They entered the profound darkness.

And though we, as Christians, know what is to come, today, we also enter the darkness for a time and mourn in solidarity with those first disciples. We ponder what it meant to them. We remember how they abandoned him—even Peter, three times in an evening—and we identify with them and their humanness. We know we would have done the same and can identify with that guilt and shame because we know that we all fall short of being worthy of His love. Yet, we have hope because we already know the full story.

I want to move on to that hope and our Easter because we know that it comes—but I think we should ponder this darkness for now, examine ourselves, take an inventory of how we live, and for just a short while remember the events of the crucifixion and Our Savior nailed to the cross. For now, the darkness…

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Suggested Scripture reading for your pondering at this time:

John 16:28, Jesus foretells his death; John 17:20-24, Jesus’ prayer for all believers; John 18, Betrayal and arrest; John 19, Death sentence and crucifixion

When the King Comes Your Way, How Will You Respond?

By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell

with Audio Message by Paul Simrell

 

It’s Palm Sunday, and our church has chosen not to gather. Why? Because we have decided it is the most loving thing to do—to do our part to stop the Coronavirus from spreading.

On Palm Sunday, we remember the parade where Jesus came through Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt. I believe he chose the colt in order to be closer to the people, at their level, because of his intimate relationship with them. He was one of us, even though He was also God.

I’ve decided to share someone else’s message for Palm Sunday, though. My husband, Paul, is pastor of Elpis Christian Church in Maidens, VA. He also writes a blog and has been recording audio sermons during this time of Covid-19. I share his Palm Sunday audio sermon message for you here from his blog at IGW3 (In God’s Word, In God’s Will, In God’s Work):

www.paulsimrell.com

 

May you be blessed by this message. May you worship the King and spread his love. May you be safe during this difficult time. God bless you!

This Christian’s Response to Covid-19

By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell

 

While the United States is experiencing more and more deaths due to Covid-19 and the whole world is experiencing the effects of this pandemic, we all must be thinking for ourselves what this means, how it will affect us personally, how we need to respond, and how this changes our lives. It requires that we look at ourselves and consider a new perspective—What are the real priorities? What truths can we hold on to? What can we control? What must we accept? What must we muster courage to face? What wisdom can we employ? And the answers to these questions are a little different when we answer them through a Christian worldview.

As I’ve pondered the Covid-19 virus situation and listened to the everchanging status of its spread and reaction to its presence, I have prayed continuously and searched the Scriptures for comfort, discernment, and wisdom. I am reminded and comforted by words that tell me that nothing can separate me from the love of God—nothing; words that tell me that Jesus told his Disciples that He is there for all believers until the end of the age; words that tell me that nothing is impossible for God; words that tell me that I should not worry, because He is in control; words that tell me that I should never be anxious, because He cares for me; words that tell me that God can take what Satan means for evil and destruction and make good of it; words that tell me that God will work all things out for the good of those who love Him; words that say that if God is on my side and He is the one in control of the universe, then who or what can harm me?

As a Christian, I know that Jesus died on that cross willingly—not because he was forced—to reconcile us back to the Father, who is pure love, so that we could have abundant life both here and in the next life. I believe in the One who loves me and with whom I will be forever, no matter what happens. Because of His resurrection, I know He lives—I know He is who He said He is—and I can trust that I, too, will live!

So how does that all change my perspective? How does that change how I live during this crisis of Covid-19? It changes me this way: I will follow Him by keeping His commandments that He summarized into two to make it easier for me to remember: I will love Him and I will love others in His name. When I don’t know what to do, I will ask myself what is the most loving way to respond. That’s how I will respond. When I fail, I will ask for forgiveness, discernment, and a willingness to do it His way. I will ask Him to transform me, so that I may be more like Him. I will live my life remembering Easter in every day, in my worship and study, because Easter is not just a day on the calendar—Easter is in my heart!