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‘Most epic event,’ pastor says of Easter resurrection, ‘in all of human history’

The Rev. Jeff Shaver, associate pastor at the oldest church in Fayetteville, to deliver Easter Sunrise message of 'the Empty Tomb' at Cross Creek Park.


They’ll come Easter Sunday, with the sun reflecting off the Dogwood State Bank glass windows overlooking Cross Creek Park.

The Rev. Jeff Shaver will deliver the Easter morning message of “Lessons from the Empty Tomb,” in what the associate pastor at nearby First Presbyterian Church describes, “if you really think about it,” as “the greatest event in human history” — the resurrection of Jesus Christ from death.

The Easter Sunrise interdenominational service is scheduled for 7 a.m. at 102 Ann St., just down the hill from the city’s oldest historic church that was chartered in 1800. In the event of rain, organizers say, the service will be in the chapel at First Presbyterian Church.

Participating clergy and churches are the Rev. Frederick D. Culbreth, First Baptist Church on Moore Street; the Rev. Matthew Copple, Westminster Presbyterian Church; Bishop John L. Godbolt, One Church Covenant Fellowship; the Rev. Robert M. James Jr., First Baptist Church on Anderson Street; the Rev. Skip Walker, St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church; the Rev. Dave W. Woodhouse, Hay Street United Methodist Church; and the Rev. Michael W. Garrett, First Presbyterian Church. Also scheduled to participate is Johnny Wilson, president of Fayetteville Urban Ministry, and the Highland Brass.

Shaver will begin his sermon about the empty tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem after Christ’s crucifixion and death at the order of a reluctant Pontius Pilate giving in to Roman authorities’ and the Sanhedrin high council’s will for crucifixion. Christ, according to Bible scripture, died on the cross and was wrapped in white linens and placed in the enclosed tomb.

When Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, Bible scripture tells us, she was beside herself to discover the body of Christ was gone, and she hurriedly rushed to tell Christ’s disciples.

Shaver, 39, plans on this Easter Sunday to explain the third day after Christ’s death in a unique and simple perspective.

“When Peter and John reached the tomb, they were totally bummed out and baffled,” he says. “The disciples couldn’t wrap their heads around what was happening. So, they were like, ‘OK, let’s just head home.’ And that’s where the story wraps up. That’s it. Done.”

John, the disciple, simply accepted what was before his eyes, Shaver says.

“John wanted to keep it real,” he says. “He showed us that the disciples were feeling lost and heartbroken, and they basically decided to call it quits and go home. Imagine them saying, ‘What's the deal?’ ‘Where's Jesus?’ ‘Did someone take him?’ ‘Ah, forget it, let's just head back.’”

Shaver says he can’t help but give thought to how the disciples must have been feeling.

“And, if I’m being totally honest, I’ve been there, too,” he says. “More times than I’d like to admit. When things don't go my way or life throws me a curveball, what’s my go-to move?”

‘Something incredible’

You can get a touch lost yourself at these Easter Sunrise services in the park. You can find yourself looking toward the sky and hoping there are no clouds to obscure the morning sun on this poignant day. You can find yourself kicking away the morning dew from your shoes. You can find yourself wondering why, like others smarter than you, you didn’t bring a lawn chair. You may want to curtail your distractions, because this young preacher is saving the best of his sermon for last.

“There’s this saying that goes, ‘The people who've been through the toughest times often have the most courage,’” Shaver says. “And, if we kept going with John’s story, that's exactly what we’d find out. So, while the rest of the crew heads home feeling all sorts of down, Mary Magdalene doesn’t follow suit. Sure, she’s heartbroken. Yep, she’s crying her eyes out. But for some reason, she decides to hang around that empty tomb. And guess what? She ends up being the very first one to see something incredible.

“Jesus is alive again.

“She’s the first to realize that, even though things looked totally grim, God had an amazing surprise waiting,” Shaver says. “The resurrection is hands-down the most epic event in all of human history. Think about it. Jesus coming back to life isn’t just a cool magic trick. It’s the game-changer for everything we believe about life, death and what comes after.”

He likens it to the ultimate plot twist.

“Just when everyone thought it was all over, that the story had ended in the worst way possible, the story is not over,” the good preacher says. “In fact, it’s just getting started. The resurrection shows us that no matter how bad things look, there’s always hope for a comeback. It’s like the ultimate proof that love and life have the final say, not death.”

It’s the story with a happy ending, Shaver will tell us, and so much more.

“It’s the foundation of what millions of people around the world believe,” he says. “That there’s life after death, that good really can triumph over evil and that there’s a bigger plan at work, even when we can’t see it. So, when we talk about earth-shaking, history-making events, the resurrection is it. It’s the heart of the story that has been inspiring hope, changing lives and shaping the world ever since.”


There are those who doubt the resurrection, much like the Apostle Thomas when first hearing Christ was alive.

There are those who believe — more than 2.4 billion Christians, according to the Pew Research Center, among them.

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried,” the Apostles’ Creed reads and so many Christians recite. “He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”

The Rev. Jeff Shaver will offer us a reminder on Easter morning in the downtown park with the trickling waters near.

Bring your lawn chair.

Wipe away the sleep from your eyes.

“He is risen. Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed!”

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961.

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