May Easter services never be ordinary

Posted 3/17/18

The following story is based on actual events and is absolutely true. There are many witnesses who will corroborate what I am about to relay to you.

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May Easter services never be ordinary


The following story is based on actual events and is absolutely true. There are many witnesses who will corroborate what I am about to relay to you.

Last year’s outdoor Easter Sunday Sunrise Service at FBC Carbon Hill began like any other.  We arrived early before daybreak, took in the crisp early Spring air, set up chairs just outside our church building, greeted each other warmly, and got ready for a special worship service. Normally, the service consists of congregational singing and a short devotion from me.  And then when we conclude, we head down to our fellowship hall for a breakfast together.

But the 2017 edition of the Sunrise Service was anything but normal. As a matter of fact, it’s a time none of us will ever forget.

Everything started off as usual, with everyone singing resurrection hymns together. I stood up and began my devotion and that’s when all the commotion started.  No one could listen to me because all of our attention was diverted to a desperate fight for survival that broke out just down from us by the church door.

A little terrier dog owned by some of our members followed his family to the church and was hanging out while we had our time of worship. However, as he will milling about, sniffing and exploring, he come upon a big gopher rat. The little dog decided the gopher rat shouldn’t be there, so he began barking wildly and lunging at the rodent. The rat got forced into a corner just up from where we were all sitting and began squealing uncontrollably. 

Of course everyone’s attention turned to the sounds emanating right near us.  Who could ignore that much incessant noise? Yet nobody was prepared for what happened next.

The gopher rat decided to make a run for his life and raced down the side of our building. The little dog did what most dogs would do and chased the rat. The problem was, they both were running right towards where everyone was sitting. My eyes were cutting from scene to scene like a movie camera. One glance saw the two animals racing down the edge of the building, life and death in the balance. Another glance saw the panicked and shocked faces of the dozens sitting together in the parking lot.

Now, this would be a good time to point out that we have a few members who are extremely afraid of mice and rats. I could see the full on terror rise up from their hearts to their faces, realizing what could possibly happen in that moment. Some of the folks began to stand on their folding chairs. Others began picking up coffee cups and drinks, bracing for impact. Gasps began to escape from the mouths of most everyone gathered.  I’m sure some were hoping they had overslept and this was all just a nightmare they would wake up from soon. That big gopher rat was headed right for ground zero! 

Everything went into slow motion for me in that instant. I can remember holding my open Bible, seeing those sacred pages in my peripheral vision as I witnessed every muscle of the gopher rat exerting itself to flee the clutches of that little dog. I could see people preparing to jump ship onto the cold cracked asphalt to run for their very lives. I recall Ray Stevens’ song “The Mississippi Squirrel Revival” popping into my head, wondering to myself if we were going to have a similar experience that morning.

There was hope for us, however. The building ended and turned away from where we were sitting. Since that rat was following the side of the building, there was a chance he would turn with the building and run away from us up a short hill and through a fence. If he didn’t decide to run with the building then it was DEFCON 1 for sure.

Thankfully, the rat turned and did run alongside the building away from us still with the little dog right on his tail. The rat found a cement block to run into and decided there would be his last stand. The rodent faced pursuer and when the dog went in for the kill, that gopher rat clamped onto the dog’s bottom lip and held on for dear life. Then the tables dramatically turned. The dog began squealing and trying with all his might to free himself from the death grip of that rat. The gathered crowd in our parking lot watched this life and death struggle breathlessly. After what seemed like an hour, but actually was only a few seconds, the rat let go and both animals were glad to be rid of each other. I turned back to my half-preached text and said, “Let’s ask the blessing.” 

Needless to say, all those present that morning experienced quite a ruckus! As I think about it, though, that sunrise service on that day was just another sunrise service until the rat showed up. If the event I had described above hadn’t taken place, would I have remembered that morning vividly in my mind? Or would that service just have bled into the past like all the others: a special time together, but nothing out of the ordinary.

This has convicted my heart. Whenever we are gathered together to worship the living Lord Jesus, there should never be any “ordinary” services! How is it possible that we just go through the motions worshipping our Savior – on Easter Sunday or any Sunday?  I mean, talk about a ruckus – when Jesus rose from the dead, that was a ruckus for sure! According to the New Testament and church history, those same disciples of Jesus who were hiding for their lives before the resurrection would later willingly sacrifice their lives because they had met the risen Lord.  For over two thousand years, followers of Jesus all around the world have lived extraordinary lives full of sacrifice, hardship, miracles, and Spirit-filled power because Jesus invaded their lives with the Gospel. Should we be any different? Haven’t we met Jesus, alive from the dead as well?

As Easter approaches, there are no excuses for an “ordinary” worship service. We worship a risen savior! Jesus came to this world as a baby and grew up with us on His mind. He lived a perfect life because He knew we could not. He resisted every single temptation known to humanity because He knew we would not. And then Jesus took our divine punishment and the wrath meant for us on the cross and died as a substitute in our place. And then He rose from the grace victorious over sin, death, and hell forever more. Now, He offers us eternal life if we will trust in Him. WOW! Knowing this, how could ANY service we are a part of singing to Jesus and preaching Jesus and loving Jesus ever be ORDINARY!

My prayer is that your Easter services, and in fact, any and all worship services you ever attend ever again, will never be ordinary. My prayer is that God will manifest Himself so fully and magnificently in your worship gatherings and that your praise of Him will be so filled with joy, reverence, gratitude, and passion that your lives will never be the same. 

I mean, who needs a dog and a rat to stir things up when you have a risen Savior! Happy Easter! 

Scott McCullar is pastor of First Baptist Church of Carbon Hill and can be reached at (205)924-4145 and . The church web site is