Easter Sunday: Back From the Dead
Back in the 1930's and 1940's, the North Branch of the Rancocas Creek from the Mount Holly to the Pemberton dams was quite a "happening place." People from Philadelphia would take day trips there to rent canoes in the town of Mount Holly from Hack's Canoe Rental, paddle down the lazy waterway, and picnic along the banks. Some even wanted to spend more time here and so, built little fishing shacks and summer "camps." Along with the summer residents, deer, turkey and even an occasional red fox bounded through the fields, and ducks, fish and beaver also called the creek their home.
Soon, the area became a thriving artists' colony, and you could see painters on street corners with easels set up, practicing their craft and hear musicians' mellow tunes echoing down the creek. The little town of Mount Holly offered restaurants, a movie theatre, and even an ice cream parlor. It boasted historical sites for those interested in such things: The oldest fire house still operating in America; the oldest one room school; the site of a Revolutionary War Battle; and the summer home of Stephen Girard House, just to name a few. The place was alive!
Slowly, though, as the Jersey Shore became a more habitable summer escape, Hack's saw fewer and fewer day-trippers, as they circumvented Mount Holly and headed to the beach. The fishing cottages became victims of floods or were simply abandoned. Some even burned, the casualties of accident or arson. Then one day, Hack's Canoe Rental closed. Everyone who loved this little creek sanctuary, who sacrificed, invested their time and experienced such joy, saw it all end. Quaint little Mount Holly seemed as good as dead.
At another place in the world and in another time in history, there was also a time of joy, hope and life as followers of a man named Jesus learned a new law of love. To twelve of his followers, he was also a friend. They called him Messiah, leaned in to hear his every word, and were in awe of the miracles he performed. Surely, they thought, he is the Son of God. And, for three glorious years, they followed him, even giving him a king's welcome into Jerusalem calling "Hosanna!"
But his followers must have felt that they too wasted their three year investment in time in this man who called they called Messiah, only to have their joy and hope dashed when they walked away from that hill in Jerusalem where Jesus hung on a cross, dead, that Friday. The man they had followed and loved, and promised them new life was gone. What were they left with as they hid in fear from the Roman guards?
Mary Magdalene was the first to go to the tomb on Sunday morning, finding that the stone had been rolled away to its entrance. She encountered a man, thinking him to be the gardener, and begged him to tell her where he had put Jesus' body. But when "the gardener" addressed her by name she knew it was Jesus, risen from his grave, and ran back to tell the others. When John and Peter ran to the tomb expecting grave robbers, they walked home, as Rick so aptly put it, believing anything was possible. They believed that Jesus had made the biggest comeback in the history of the world--as Jeff said. That Jesus had returned in his Glory!
Back on the North Branch of the Rancocas Creek, there has also been a resurrection: A few of the residents have held onto the memories and are expanding and rebuilding properties. In fact, our own home is rebuilt on the footprint of our family's 1940's summer cottage. And, after purchasing the little house next door, we're planning to give that new life too. Hack's Canoe Rental is still closed, but new restaurants and businesses are thriving, and local festivals abound every season.
But whatever the "comeback," whether it be a small creek-side town or a golf legend, none can compare to the comeback, the resurrection of Jesus. His comeback is YOUR freedom. He paid for your sins with his death on the cross. Jesus gives not only the freedom to live life on this earth to the fullest, but also the hope of life everlasting.
John 8:36: (NLT) So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.