Do You Believe in Easter?

Message preached May 28, 2000
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Glen Arm, Maryland USA
based upon 1 John 5:1-6

With Memorial Day in mind, a time intended for remembering those who have preceded us in death, and with the celebration of Easter still ringing in our ears, let me share with you a story. First, however, let me repeat something we just heard. "Who is it that conquers the world," John asked, "but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" That is, those who are able to overcome the struggles of life are those who believe that the story they have received by faith is true. Furthermore, they therefore seek to live out and to share that truth each and every day that God gives them breath... The title of this morningís story is, perhaps, a question for each one of us to ask ourselves each and every morning - do you believe in Easter? Listen.

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Edith Burns was a wonderful Christian who lived in San Antonio, Texas. She was the patient of doctor by the name of Will Phillips. Dr. Phillips was a gentle doctor who saw patients as people.

His favorite patient was Edith Burns. One morning he went to his office with a heavy heart and it was because of Edith Burns. When he walked into that waiting room, there sat Edith with her big black Bible in her lap earnestly talking to a young mother sitting beside her.

Edith Burns had a habit of introducing herself in this way: "Hello, my name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?" Then she would explain the meaning of Easter, and many times people would then step into faith in Christ. Dr. Phillips walked into that office and there he saw the head nurse, Beverly.

Beverly, herself, had first met Edith when she was taking her blood pressure. Edith began that conversation just like most others by saying, "My name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?"

Beverly said, "Why yes I do."

Edith said, "Well, what do you believe about Easter?"

Beverly said, "Well, it's all about egg hunts, going to church, and dressing up." Edith kept pressing her about the real meaning of Easter, and finally turned her in the direction of the One who died for our sin and who rose from the grave on that Easter morning long ago.

On this particular day, Dr. Phillips said, "Beverly, don't call Edith into the office quite yet. I believe there is another delivery taking place in the waiting room.

After being called back in the doctor's office, Edith sat down and when she took a look at the doctor she said, "Dr. Will, why are you so sad? Are you reading your Bible? Are you praying?"

Dr. Phillips said gently, "Edith, I'm the doctor and you're the patient." With a heavy heart he added, "Your lab report came back. You have cancer, Edith. It doesnít look good."

To that, this Easter lady replied, "Why Will Phillips, shame on you! Why are you so sad? Do you think God makes mistakes? You have just told me I'm going to see my precious Lord Jesus, my husband, and my friends. You have just told me that I am going to celebrate Easter forever, and here you are having difficulty giving me my ticket!"

Edith continued coming to Dr. Phillips. Christmas came and the office was closed through January 3rd. On the day it reopened, Edith did not show up. Later that afternoon, she called Dr. Phillips and said she would have to be moving her story to the hospital and said, "Will, I'm very near home, so would you make sure that they put women in here next to me in my room who need to know about Easter."

Well, thatís how it turned out. Women come in to share that room with Edith, and she shared her faith with them. For many women this became a fresh start, a new relationship with a risen Savior. People on that floor, from staff to patients, appreciated Edith. They started calling her "Edith Easter." Everyone, that is, except Phyllis Cross, the head nurse. Phyllis made it plain that she wanted nothing to do with Edith because she was a "religious nut." Phyllis had been a nurse in an army hospital. She had seen it all and heard it all. She was the original G.I. Jane. She had been married three times, she was hard, cold, and did everything by the book.

One morning the two nurses who were to attend to Edith were sick. Edith had the flu and Phyllis Cross had to go in and give her a shot. When she walked in, Edith had a big smile on her face and said, "Phyllis, God loves you and I love you, and I have been praying for you."

Phyllis Cross said, "Well, you can quit praying for me, it won't work. I'm not interested."

Edith said, "Well, I will pray and I have asked God not to let me go home until you come into the family."

Phyllis Cross said, "Then you will never die because that will never happen," and curtly walked out of the room.

Every day Phyllis Cross would walk into the room and Edith would say, "God loves you Phyllis and I love you, and I'm praying for you..." One day Phyllis Cross said she was literally drawn to Edith's room like a magnet would draw iron. She sat down on the bed and Edith said, "I'm so glad you have come, because God told me that today is your special day."

Phyllis Cross said, "Edith, you have asked everybody here the question, 'Do you believe in Easter?' but you have never asked me." Edith said, "Phyllis, I wanted to many times, but God told me to wait until you asked, and now that you have asked..."

Edith Burns took her Bible and shared with Phyllis Cross the Easter Story of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Edith said, "Phyllis, do you believe in Easter? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is alive and that He wants to live in your heart?"

Phyllis Cross said, "I want to believe that with all of my heart, and I do want Jesus in my life!" Right there, Phyllis Cross prayed and opened the door for Christ to enter. For the first time Phyllis Cross did not walk out of a hospital room, she was carried out on the wings of angels.

Two days later, Phyllis Cross came in and Edith said, "Do you know what day it is?"

Phyllis Cross said, "Why Edith, it's Good Friday."

Edith said, "Oh, no, for you every day is Easter. Happy Easter Phyllis!"

Two days later, on Easter Sunday, Phyllis Cross came into work, did some of her duties and then went down to the gift shop and got some lilies because she wanted to go up to see Edith and wish her a Happy Easter. When she walked into Edith's room, Edith was in bed. That big black Bible was on her lap. Both of her hands were in that Bible. There was a sweet smile on her face.

When Phyllis Cross went to pick up Edith's hand, she realized Edith was dead. When she opened the Bible, she found that Edithís left hand was in John, chapter 14, where she read: "In my Father's house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also." Edithís other hand was tucked into the book of Revelation, on a page where Phyllis read these words, "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." (21:4) Phyllis Cross took one look at that dead body, and then lifted her face toward heaven and, with tears streaming down her cheeks, said, "Happy Easter, Edith - Happy Easter!"

Phyllis Cross left Edith's body, walked out of the room, and over to a table where two young nurses were sitting. She said, "My name is Phyllis Cross. Do you believe in Easter?"

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Postscript - After this tale came across my desk, I tried (mistakenly?) to find out if it "actually" happened. On the internet I discovered and contacted a Dr. William T. Phillips, in the radiology department of the University of Texas Medical Center in San Antonio. He graciously replied that "many people have asked me about this story. I am not the Will Phillips of the story. Unfortunately I do not know of a Will Phillips in San Antonio, although itís possible that there is or was one here." (5/24/2000 email) I later learned this story came from the fertile imagination of Russel Kelfer, a tale described as the fictional "Story of Edith Easter."

First paragraph & postscript ©2000 Peter L. Haynes
origin of story as yet unknown, contact me if you discover its source

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