Easter: A time of hope, renewal

For many, Easter and spring are almost synonymous. It's a time of newness, freshness, beauty rising out of the cold, brown-gray ground.

The Resurrection story of Jesus Christ, similarly, is a time of rejoicing for Christians, with hope arising from death, renewal from the old. A new beginning.

Today, the Easter story will be central to sermons across

the Coast. Here are a few examples.

Dustin Boles, pastor, Mosaic Church, Ocean Springs

The name of Boles' message is "Rectified."

"The word means 'rebuilt' or 'made right,'" he said via email. "There is no sin, doubt, disappointment or difficulty that any of us has ever had that someone in the Bible didn't have, too. Thomas was a doubter. Mary Magdalene felt like God had let her down. Peter sinned so badly that it felt like God was done with him. Paul (before his conversion) hated Jesus and his followers.

"But, they all had one thing in common: They met the risen Jesus. They did not get all the answers and everything was not fixed but Jesus rectified them to Himself. He made them right with Him. He forgave their sins. He gave them what they needed most: Him," Boles said.

"Easter is the central issue in the Christian faith. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, nothing else matters. If He did rise from the dead (I am absolutely certain He did), then He must be the truth and we must all either trust Him or not."

DeBo'rah Drayton-Ward, pastor, First Christian Church, Gulfport

Drayton-Ward's message will come from Acts 10:34-43.

"I'm going to talk about changing lanes," she said. "In our lives, through Jesus Christ, we change lanes in how we do things -- how we walk, how we talk. He gets us going in the right lane for life, and you remain in that lane. You don't change lanes.

"We are guided by the Holy Spirit, who is our GPS, and we allow Christ to guide us to our destination, which God has for us."

Dawn Flowers, pastor, Main Street Methodist Church, Bay St. Louis

"For me, personally, Easter is hope. The message Sunday will come from Luke 24 with the theme of 'Remember.' We just finished a series titled 'A Life That Embraces Jesus.' It was about remembering the life and teachings of Jesus," Flowers said.

Today's message will be an extension of that, remembering the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus, she said. It's a message that can be applied to anyone's life.

"What is, doesn't have to be," she said.

Murphy Matheny, pastor, Cedar Lake Christian Assembly, Biloxi

Cedar Lake Christian Assembly is taking a different approach to its delivery of the Easter message, Matheny said.

"Our theme is 'The Great Debate,' with the major theme of the theories that dispute the resurrection of Christ. We're doing it in debate form," he said.

"This year, being an election year, we put it in this type of format. It'll be presented with the opposing viewpoint -- those considered rational, anything other than the Resurrection -- and Scriptural rebuttal," he said.

"There are four major theories that have been offered," he said. "I'll take these on as well as affirm the reality of Scriptural accounts.

"We're going to be complete with a moderator and even commercials," Matheny said.

Jay Cook, pastor, First Baptist Church, Pascagoula

"The Hope of Easter" will be Cook's message.

"It's what the Resurrection of Jesus Christ means and what it can mean for anyone," he said. "It's dealing with the new life He provides -- the peace and direction we need.

"Easter is, for me, the day we best remember the source of all peace, hope and joy. We celebrate every Sunday that peace, hope and joy, but Easter encapsulates it for us."