Rev. Sara Isbell  |  Directing Pastor


When I was little, my mom used to take my sister and me shopping for new Easter dresses. I don’t remember ever doing the “hats and gloves” piece, but a bright, pretty new Easter dress was a tradition we never seemed to get tired of. I remember going around and around the hanging racks of girls’ Easter dresses at Kmart (sometimes getting distracted by the temptation to play “hide and seek” among the clothes!) until we found the perfect outfits: not too short, not too scratchy. And then we’d put our dresses on layaway until they were paid for.

Remember “layaway”? If you’re under 40, you probably don’t remember that form of “financing” where you’d have the store put your purchase aside, in a back room, for safekeeping, until it was paid for. Maybe you paid by the week, maybe by the month. But once it was paid in full, the customer could go back to the store and pick it up – and that’s how little girls got their new Easter dresses!

“Pay first, take it home later” – that’s the way I remember it.  That’s not really the way we do things now. These days we prefer, “Take it home first, pay later.” There are implications and repercussions for choosing “delayed disbursement” over “delayed gratification.” Sometimes when our desires out-size our wallets, we find ourselves still paying for those Easter clothes long after they no longer fit!

This year, I wanted a new Easter suit. Something pretty, professional, with a pocket for my microphone.

Unfortunately, women’s suits aren’t available like they used to be. After eight stores and as many hours over several weeks, I still hadn’t found anything. I finally settled on a store for which I had a gift card, and picked out a jacket, blouse and scarf that I thought looked nice for Easter. But when I got up to the cash register – well, let’s just say I had to make a choice between “delayed gratification” and “delayed disbursement.” I thought about it. How important are visual impressions? How much does it matter to the message, how the pastor looks on Easter Sunday?

I bought the jacket. The blouse and scarf are going to have to wait. I was a little disappointed – I mean, I’ll never get those eight hours back again, and I ended up wearing under my new jacket a blouse that probably belongs in the Goodwill pile.

But it turns out, Jesus is risen, anyway! He wasn’t waiting on my Easter suit to make his own appearance – in fact, my appearance didn’t bother him at all. The resurrection came right on time, and worship was wonderful, and we had everything we needed for the day. I was able to make an extra gift to Kumler, to help them re-stock after the vandalism incident. I didn’t have to hold back on my offering or my REACH gift, because of a shirt and scarf. And the truly important part of Easter: worshiping the risen Christ together as a community – was not delayed at all. In the end, I was glad I had chosen the clothes to “lay away” instead of my generosity.  (And I still got the jacket!)

As we move from the “receiving” joy of Easter to the “giving” joy of Commitment Sunday, I encourage you to take time to consider your own priorities, urgencies, and gratifications. What brings you real joy? What kinds of investments are needed now for the building of the kingdom, and what might be able to go on “layaway”? What might “delayed gratification” do for our spiritual lives and our priority-setting as Christians?

Talk it over with your family. Pray it over with God. We’ll see you on May 7!