Here we are in the year 2003. It still fills me with a bit of awe that I witnessed the turn of the millennium. We are looking back this year and celebrating some amazing things that happened, things that seemed impossible in their day. There are three major celebrations. Perhaps you are aware of them:
We are celebrating a centennial: 100 years ago few people thought it possible that man could fly. No one except the two sons of Rev. Milton Wright who at 10:35 on the morning of Dec. 17, 1903 made their first successful flight of 175 feet in a airplane driven by a four cylinder combustion engine. Today we fly much more sophisticated crafts around the moons of Jupiter. It was very hard to believe 100 years ago but the evidence of that first flight is all around us today.
We are celebrating a bicentennial: 200 years ago the borders of the United States stretched from the Atlantic to the Mississippi river. Napoleon Bonaparte in France owned the rights to trade on the Mississippi, and held the right to impose a duty on every ship that sailed out of the mouth of the Mississippi in New Orleans. And Napoleon was threatening to close the rights to trade on the Mississippi to the Americans entirely. And then something amazing happened. A U.S. ambassador to France, Robert R. Livingston, concocted a plan to trump Napoleon, and he played that trump with a flourish. He made it known in the right circles that the United States was considering settling its difference with Great Britain and reconciling with her politically. It was a bit of political misinformation, something Napoleon did not want. He was already close to war with England. So when James Monroe, who would later become president, along with Livingston, approached Napoleonís men with the idea of a land treaty, they agreed. And on May 2, 1803 (300 years ago this past Friday) the Louisiana Purchase was made for three cents an acre. The humor in it all is this: Livingston and Monroe were never commissioned to make such a purpose. Standing on the eastern banks of the Mississippi River 200 years ago it was hard to believe that the US would ever own the rights to the river and that 828,000 square mile area. But it doubled the size of the United States and the evidence of that great purchase is all around us today.
We are celebrating a tricentennial: 300 years ago on June 17, 1703 a young boy named John was born to Rev. Samuel and Suzanna Wesley in Epworth England. It was perhaps no surprise when the boy grew up to be a priest. What was a surprise is the kind of ministry he implemented. He formed a small religious study group, which put special emphasis on methodical study and devotion. They had communion often, fasted twice a week, and as they grew they added other things: social services, visiting prisoners, care for the poor, and they even ran a school. Onlookers called them Methodist and it wasnít a polite term, it was said to mock them. When John left the group, it disintegrated. But the name stuck and the evidence of that early movement is all around us today. In almost every town in this country there is a Methodist Church.
There are events in life that amaze us, fill us with joy, and make us wonder whether it really is possible. It is hard to believe, even standing on this side of history, that these things were ever accomplished. They are impossible stories that positively happened.
1. First, the reality of the resurrection amazes me (36-43).
2. Second, the reason for the resurrection amazes me (44).
3. Third, the reach of the resurrection amazes me (44-49).