The Easter sermon presents a joyful challenge for the Rev. David Chisham.

“There’s always a sense that if you’re going to pull out a really good sermon, that has to be the one,” said Chisham, pastor of the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Baton Rouge. “You’re going to see some extra faces there, folks who unfortunately may not show up again until next Christmas. There’s always a little pressure there for everything to be just right on point on Easter morning.”

Chisham said the joy of the Easter message more than makes up any added tension.

“At the same time, you can’t let the pressure of the moment become everything,” he said. “It still has to be Easter Sunday for me. With all the pressures that I’m dealing with on this one particular day, I still want to be able to enjoy and not simply be worried about all the extra pressure associated with that Sunday.”

It’s a day of celebrating Christ’s victory over death and new life, Chisham said.

“This is God’s declaration that sin and death no longer have reign over us,” he said. “It is the dawn of a new creation … There is a way we can experience eternal life right here and now. The same power of the resurrection that was at work in Christ Jesus is a resurrection energy that’s at work within us, renewing our lives and making a new creation with us.”

Chisham, 44, plans to preach a sermon titled “Write a New Ending” from the Mark 16. Services are set for 8:30 a.m. and 10:50 a.m. Sunday at First Christian Church, 8484 Old Hammond Highway.

The celebration of Easter hasn’t seen many changes over the years, but the days leading up to it have, Chisham said.

“I think the biggest change is probably Palm Sunday. To many people, Palm Sunday is kind of their Good Friday service,” he said. “It’s hard to get people to come back out midweek. They go directly from Palm Sunday to Easter and miss whatever happens in the middle.”

First Christian Church planned several events during Holy Week, including a version of a Passover seder and a Good Friday prayer breakfast.

The church said it is the only one of its kind in the Baton Rouge area. Chisham said the denomination traces it roots to the early to mid-1800s. It has churches in North America and Canada with headquarters in Indianapolis.

Among the church’s practices or characteristics, Chisham said, are weekly communion; believers’ baptism; independent congregational structure; diversity celebration; and an ecumenical spirit.

Chisham has been the church’s pastor for two years, following stints at churches at Virginia and Maryland. The Wichita, Kansas, native attended Kentucky Christian University and seminary at Abilene Christian University in Texas.

One scripture that has guided Chisham’s life is Micah 6:8: “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

The Scripture is a reminder that the Christian life is about more than acting religious, Chisham said.

“It’s about doing the right thing. It’s about doing justice and mercy and loving kindness and walking humbly and be willing to admit that you don’t have all the answers,” he said.

Women in transition

“Godly Women Transitioning to Another Level” will be the theme when the Sister to Sister Ministry of Agape and Ebenezer Baptist host their 11th annual Women’s Conference.

The free event is set for 9 a.m. Saturday, April 11, at Ebenezer, 1915 Fairfield St. in Scotlandville.

“Certainly, women are constantly having to transition throughout their lives,” said Metro Councilwoman Chauna Banks, one of the conference speakers. “Often that is difficult because we tend to like things we have perfected to stay just so. Then in our many roles as wives, daughters … people in our lives don’t want us to change.”

The theme is based on Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

“The Scripture Philippians 4:13 gives us assurance that at the end of the transition we will be (OK),” Banks said. “Transition often does not feel good and can leave us devastated, but I have learned to ask, ‘How can I get better, not bitter?’ ”

The special guest speaker will be Suzanne Branch. Other featured speakers will include Evangelist Keisha Dominique, of Promise Land Baptist Church, and Tonja Early Granville, of True Light Baptist Church.

“I think the women that attend our conference will hear from speakers that will challenge them to embrace change and eliminate fear that leads to failure,” Banks said.

Registration begins at 8 a.m. Breakfast and lunch will be served. For information on the conference, call the church at (225) 775-4172 or Thelma B. Sulcer at (225) 936-8736.

Waiting at the well

Jesus went anywhere to try to save anyone for the kingdom of God, and that should be the mind set of his followers, proclaimed Joyce Hawkins in her first message on Palm Sunday at the Israelite Baptist Church in Brusly.

Hawkins’ message dealt with the theme “How Many People Have You Brought to the Kingdom” taken from Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.

The story reveals Jesus as the model for how to bring people to the kingdom, Hawkins said.

The Jews and Samaritans were longtime adversaries, but that didn’t stop Jesus from going through Samaria, Hawkins said.

“The Samaritan people needed him,” she said. “They needed to be saved and Jesus would go where we won’t go. He’ll go in the dark places … Jesus had a mission. His mission was to go and save the lost. No barriers. No religious barriers. No gender barriers, because He only did what his father told him: to go to Samaria and sit here and wait on that woman.”

Jesus always found a way to show compassion, even for those considered outcasts by society, Hawkins said.

“If we are to offer Christ, we cannot worry about what ‘they’ say,” Hawkins said. “It’s important that we go in Jesus’ spirit. It is important that we embrace people who need Him with compassion, with love and with kindness. We can’t let culture stop us from offering Jesus.”

Hawkins continued to challenge listeners to the end of her 25-minute message, which was mixed with historical background and personal testimony. s“How many people have you gone to get?” she asked. “Have you seen anybody at the well, at the road, at the school, or on your job that need you? What did you do when you saw someone that needed Jesus? Did you show compassion? … Who did you witness to yesterday? Did you tell anybody about the goodness of Jesus?”

Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Terry Robinson can be reached at (225) 388-0238 or by email to trobinson @the advocate.com.