A new book and a special offer: Homer Rodeheaver and the Rise of the Gospel Music Industry

A new book and a special offer: Homer Rodeheaver and the Rise of the Gospel Music Industry

In January 2014, I decided to write an article about Homer Rodeheaver, the trombone-playing song leader for evangelist William “Billy” Sunday in the first third of the twentieth century. I first learned of Rodeheaver a few years earlier when I visited the Billy Graham Museum on the campus of Wheaton College, Illinois, and saw a near life-size cardboard cutout of him with a trombone in one hand and a songbook in the other. The cutout was of the image of Rodeheaver below. What? Who was this? I had never heard of him and I needed to know more. It wasn’t long before I learned that Rodeheaver (one of the first things I learned was that he pronounced his name “ROW-duh-hay-vehr”) played the trombone for over 100 million people in his lifetime. That’s a lot of people. Did anyone play  trombone for more people? Maybe Arthur Pryor? Maybe? I thought his story might be interesting. It didn’t take long for Rodeheaver’s interesting story to change my life.

Fig 02-5 rodeheaver-trombone-postcard

Above: Homer Rodeheaver promotional postcard.

Several things flowed from what became an obsession to learn more about Homer Rodeheaver. The first was that I met Kevin Mungons, a Chicago-area editor and writer who had also been researching Rodeheaver. We were introduced by Margaret Banks, a curator at the National Music Museum in Vermillion, South Dakota, when I reached out to her with some questions about Rodeheaver’s endorsements for Conn trombones. Peggy told me that Kevin had been asking her some of the same questions a few years earlier. So it was natural for me to contact him and ask him some questions. We immediately became good friends (it didn’t hurt that Kevin also plays trombone).

Secondly, Kevin was very happy to help me as I worked on my article about Rodeheaver which, once completed, was published in the 2015 Historic Brass Society Journal. Click HERE to read and download that article.

Fig 01-1 rodeheaver-and-sunday

Above: Billy Sunday and Homer Rodeheaver, 1917. Courtesy of Morgan Library, Grace College, Winona Lake, Indiana.

And, thirdly, as Kevin and I continued talking about Rodeheaver, we decided that two heads were better than one, and that it might be a good idea—and fun—for us to collaborate and, together, write a book about Rodeheaver. Once we had committed to the idea, we did a deep dive into Rodeheaver’s life and work. Because Kevin was living in the Chicago area and I was living in Arizona at the time (my wife and I moved to the Chicago area in 2018 so we could live closer to our grandchildren), we collaborated mostly through phone and email. But we did meet up a few times, both in the Billy Graham Center Archives at Wheaton College, and in Winona Lake Indiana, where Grace College and the Winona History Center have a remarkable archive of documents, photographs, and ephemera relating to Billy Sunday and Homer Rodeheaver. During our research trip to Winona Lake, I played Rodeheaver’s Conn trombone (below). Of course, I played “Brighten the Corner Where You Are,” which was one of Rodeheaver’s signature tunes (he also owned the copyright to the song, and the big money was, as Rodeheaver knew, in copyrights).

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Above: Douglas Yeo playing Homer Rodeheaver’s Conn trombone, 2014, Winona History Center, Winona Lake, Indiana.

Homer Rodeheaver was not only a trombonist, and not only the song leader for Billy Sunday for 20 years, but he established the first gospel music record label (Rainbow Records), established what was, for many decades, the largest publisher of Christian hymnals, songbooks, and other music (Rodeheaver Music Co., later Rodeheaver-Hall Mack Co.), was a driving force behind the popularization of African American spirituals, and had an influence on church and community singing that is still felt today. The subject of daily front page news and feature stories and celebrity gossip, nobody during his lifetime (1880–1955) had to ask, “Who is Homer Rodeheaver?” But for people today, Homer Rodeheaver is the most famous person you never heard of. Until now. 

Rodeheaver 3D Book Cover

Last week, after seven years of writing and research (not including the many years before we met when Kevin was also researching Rodeheaver), the submission of our book manuscript to University of Illinois Press, several rounds of peer review, even more rounds of rewriting and editing, our book, Homer Rodeheaver and the Rise of the Gospel Music Industry came to market. It is published as part of UIP’s Music in American Life series of books. On Saturday, I held it in my hands for the first time.

Rodeheaver’s story is a rich story about music, publishing, Chicago, the Civil War, Jim Crow, race, the Ku Klux Klan, the perks and perils of being a celebrity, churches, money, religious devotion, Christian evangelism, community singing, marketing, airplanes, speedboats, philanthropy, Billy Graham and Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea, and the trombone. Lots of trombones. And that’s just the tip of Rodeheaver’s very large iceberg. 

The back cover of the book features two reviews. Here’s what Robert Marovich, author of A City Called Heaven: Chicago and the Birth of Gospel Music, says:

Kevin Mungons and Douglas Yeo’s biography of Homer Rodeheaver brightens an important corner of gospel music history that has gone unexplored for far too long. What they reveal in their remarkable portrait of “Reverend Trombone” is a man both of his time and ahead of his time. It’s more than a tale of the emergence of gospel singing and revivalism, it’s a quintessentially American story about a quintessential American.

And Harold Best, emeritus professor of music and Dean emeritus of Wheaton College Conservatory of Music, past president of the National Association of Schools of Music, and author of Music Through the Eyes of Faith, wrote:

I am truly taken by the book. It is good, informative, comprehensive, and free of the usual assortment of clichés, academic hems and haws, and over-spiritualization. It takes the often over-simplified view of music and revivalism and exposes it to a fascinating cross-weave of thought, content, and context which, to my embarrassment, I thought I had already had a handle on. I recommend it without reservation. There is no doubt in my mind that general readers and specialists alike will benefit from reading this book.

If what you’ve read so far piques your interest, then, as the late night television pitchman says, “Do I have a deal for you!” Right now, University of Illinois Press is offering a 30% discount on the book, both the softcover and the hardcover editions. If course, you can pay full price if you’d like; just go to the book’s page on amazon.com. But if you’d be interested in paying less, click HERE go to the book’s page on the University of Illinois Press website and enter this promo code:

S21UIP

Mungons Yeo social media graphic with discount

If you’d like to tell your friends about the book, click HERE to view and download a one page promotional PDF that has full information about the book and the same 30% off discount code.

After seven years of delving into every aspect of Homer Rodeheaver’s life, I still find his story to be interesting, informative, inspirational, challenging, and thought-provoking. I hope you, too, will enjoy the story of the man who called himself, “Reverend Trombone.”

Fig 11-1 rodeheaver-conducting

Above: Homer Rodeheaver leading singing, 1950s.

 

 

A working list of trombone solo repertoire by people of color/people of the global majority, and women

A working list of trombone solo repertoire by people of color/people of the global majority, and women

In recent years, many performers and teachers have been working to encourage more diverse programming in recitals and concerts that would include more excellent works by underrepresented composers. In an effort to help my students and colleagues who would like to know more about such works, I have started a working list of pieces for tenor or bass trombone solo by composers who are members of diverse races and ethnic groups including but not limited to Asian, Black, Indigenous, and Latino/Latina. 80% of the world’s people are non-white—they are the global majority—and their music deserves to be heard.

The list is now available on my website and may be downloaded by clicking HERE. The direct URL is: http://www.yeodoug.com/Yeo_POC_PGM_Women_composer_trombone_solo_list.pdf At the moment, the list mostly features works by Black composer as well as two important resources by Dr. Natalie Mannix with detailed information about works by women composers. I will continually update the list to include works of many other composers and I welcome hearing about additional works that should be included. Readers can contact me at the email address that is found on my list. The most recent version of the list will always be available on my website at the URL above. 

Still_Yeo_Romance

Among the works on the list is my transcription of William Grant Still’s Romance. Still (1895–1978) was a celebrated African American composer who wrote more than 200 works. In 1990, his daughter, Judith Anne Still, reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in transcribing her father’s Romance—which had been originally composed for alto saxophone in 1966—for trombone. Judith was interested in the piece becoming more widely known and I was very happy to make my transcription which was subsequently published by International Music Company. Romance is a solo with piano accompaniment but William Grant Still also arranged it with orchestra accompaniment which is available on rental from International Music Company. In May 1991, I performed Romance with the Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by John Williams. The performance, which came on the same concert where I played John Williams’ Tuba Concerto (played on bass trombone), was aired nationally on the radio and you can hear it by clicking HERE.

On April 23, 2022, I will be giving a faculty recital at Wheaton College, and my program will include two pieces that are found on my new list, Concertino by David F. Wilborn and Extremely Close by Daniela Candillari. I hope my list and other lists like it that others are preparing will be helpful as we work to know more about more great music, and have our recital and concert programming reflect compositions by a more diverse group of composers. It matters.

Musical instruments real and imagined: Lennie Peterson, Dr. Seuss, and J.J. Grandville

Musical instruments real and imagined: Lennie Peterson, Dr. Seuss, and J.J. Grandville

The human imagination is an amazing thing, a fertile ground for thinkers of all kinds to express ideas, both real and imagined. The conception and production of visual art is among one of the many plants that spring forth from our imagination’s soil.

For the last six years, I have been working on a new book, An Illustrated Dictionary for the Modern Trombone, Euphonium, and Tuba Player; it will be published this fall by Rowman & Littlefield. This new book contains 675 entries about low brass instruments and the people who play them, compose for them, make them, and write about them. All of the instruments I discuss in the book are real. They were made and played at moments in history. Some have been forgotten; others are still with us. Stay tuned for more about this book as it nears its publication date.

My Dictionary also has 125 illustrations by the noted artist Lennie Peterson. Trombone players are certainly familiar with Lennie’s work because of his syndicated comic strip, The Big Picture.” Seriously: a week doesn’t go by when someone doesn’t send me this cartoon:

Lennie_Peterson_trombone_Kaplin

Someone even sent it to me with a caption in German:

Lennie_Kaplin_trombone_German

Well, friends, it’s really OK if you stop sending it to me with the exclamation, “I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but this is the coolest cartoon ever!” That’s because I have known about it since it was published in September, 2003. Not only do I know about it—and, yes, I think it’s really cool—I reached out to Lennie at that time and asked him if I could purchase the original of the cartoon. “Sure!” he said. Here (below) is the full version of the original cartoon (Lennie’s original pen and ink; the color was added later), with the image of Lennie’s cat, Ginger, conducting, and his name printed as Lennie “fff” Peterson. I had the cartoon framed and it now hangs in my office as many of my students who have seen it can attest.

Lennie_Peterson_Kaplin_original

That’s how I met Lennie Peterson, through a cartoon about trombone players. A great friendship developed, and I quickly learned that Lennie was not just a superb cartoonist. He’s also produced a lot of really great fine art. His portrait of Beethoven—done in ink—also hangs in my office (apologies for the glare off the glass):

Peterson_Beethoven

I also commissioned Lennie to make an oil painting that incorporated a thought-provoking quotation by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. It hung in my music studio in Arizona and it now hangs in our living room:

Peterson_Yeo_Browning_painting

“But wait,” as the late night TV Ginsu knife commercial host breathlessly announces, “there’s more!” I also asked Lennie to tattoo a pBone for me, decked out in Arizona State University colors. It was proudly displayed on the piano in my office at ASU when I was professor of trombone there from 2012-2016. Lennie can do it all.

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Lennie’s multifaceted work as an artist—oh, have I mentioned that he’s a fantastic jazz trombonist as well?—led me to only one conclusion when I was asked to write my Dictionary: Lennie had to do the illustrations. So, he did. Lennie’s illustrations for the book are spectacular. Whether an illustration of the bronze age lur. . .

Peterson_Yeo_lur

. . .or Adolphe Sax’s remarkable six-valve trombone with seven bells. . .

Peterson_Yeo_trombone_seven_bells

. . . Lennie’s illustrations for my Dictionary help bring the book to life. Our partnership in putting together this book has been so rewarding, and we look forward to it being on the market in a few months. More on that later.

When you look at Lennie’s illustration of Sax’s seven-bell trombone, you may be thinking, “That’s crazy!” And it is. I tell the story of the instrument in my Dictionary, but what immediately came to mind when I saw and photographed it in the Musical Instrument Museum in Brussels, is that it looks so similar to another instrument that may be familiar to you as well:

Seuss_Grinch_WhoWhooper_valve_trombone

Can there be any doubt that when Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel, 1904–1991) conjured up his WhoHooper for the film version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966), he was not inspired by Adolphe Sax? Seuss was a master of the imaginary musical instrument, and his books are full of them. But other artists have dreamed up fanciful instruments, and for many years, I’ve been fascinated by the work of Jean-Ignace-Isador Gérard, who went by the name J. J. Grandville. Two books that carry many of his illustrations, Vie privée et publique des animaux, or The Private and Public Lives of Animals (1842; English edition, 1872) and Un Autre Monde or Another World (1844), are part of my personal library and I have spent many hours enjoying both the stories and the illustrations. With Lennie’s cartoons and Dr. Seuss’ fanciful WhoHooper on my mind, I thought I’d share some of Grandville’s images of musical instruments.

In Un Autre Monde, the chapter “Steam Concert” is about “a concert of metal musicians and singers—the only kind that will satisfy the public’s current demand for super-virtuosity and tremendous performing forces.” Hmm, that sounds like it could have been written today.

[Below] A concert of steam-powered musicians, performing, “The I and the Non-I, Symphony in C Major” [after page 16]:

Un autre monde : transformations, visions, incarnations ... et a

As an aside, Grandville later made an illustration very similar to his “Vapor Concert.” In 1846, he caricatured composer Hector Berlioz for Louis Reybaud’s book, Jérome Paturot à la recherché dune position sociale.

Berlioz_Grandville_1846_orig

And later that same year (April 1846), Grandville’s cartoon of Berlioz was used as the basis of another caricature of the great composer, this time by Anton Elfinger (he went by the name “Cajetan”) that appeared in Allgemeine Theaterzeitzung. Cajetan pulled out all the stops, with a contrabass monstre ophicleide and the dismayed audience members who are covering their ears and running away from the tremendous sound. I especially like how Cajetan added faces for one of the trombone players (on the left; he appears to be in agony) and the monstre ophicleide player.

Berlioz_Grandville_Cajetan_1846

Back to Le Autre Monde. . .

[Below] From the same concert by steam-powered musicians, here is Grandville’s, “Melody for 200 Trombones” [page 19]. Note how the bass trombone player needs a special cut out on the floor for the length of his hand slide. This is really interesting because the bass trombone was hardly known in France at the time. Berlioz encountered it during his travels to Germany but how Grandville knew about it (it would have been the bass trombone in F with its long slide with a handle) is a puzzle.

Un autre monde : transformations, visions, incarnations ... et a

[Below] Here, in the “Steam Concert,” Mlle. Tender hits a perfect ultra-high A during her duet with Monsieur Tunnel [page 20].

Un autre monde : transformations, visions, incarnations ... et a

[Below] A child prodigy, on a “harmonic railway,” plays difficult variations on the steam harp [page 23].

Un autre monde : transformations, visions, incarnations ... et a

[Below] An accident at the concert: an ophicleide bursts from too much harmony, peppering the listeners’ ears with notes [page 24]. There is so much going on in this illustration: the ears in the box seats, left and right, the notes on the floor that are struggling to get up, and the hand lighting a fuse in the ophicleide’s mouthpiece.

Un autre monde : transformations, visions, incarnations ... et a

[Below] From the chapter, “Une Journée a Rheculanum” [after page 193]: A performance of Phédre in Rheculanum. The duplex ophicleide-like brass instrument in the orchestra pit is an acoustical impossibility (as is the case with many of Dr. Seuss’ instruments) but it looks really cool.

Un autre monde : transformations, visions, incarnations ... et a

In The Public and Private Lives of Animals, Honoré de Balzac’s story, “Journey of An African Lion in Paris,” is accompanied by Grandville’s illustration (page 186) of a scene at a carnival ball (below). A snake playing an over the shoulder (OTS) dragon bell trombone (buccin) is in the band in the balcony, next to an instrument that appears to be an ophicleide.

Grandville_African_Lion

My favorite of Grandville’s musical instrument illustrations is part of a story by Pierre-Jules Hetzel (1814–1886, writing under his pseudonym, P. J. Stahl), “The Funeral Oration for a Silkworm,” a chapter in The Public and Private Lives of Animals [pages 206–209]. Grandville’s illustration of a funeral cortége with an insect at the head of the procession who is playing a serpent is stunning in its imagination and detail. Here is the whole story reprinted in its entirety, with all four illustrations that accompany Stahl’s dramatic and touching tale. Enjoy.

The Funeral Oration of a Silkworm

P.J. Stahl

Illustrations by J. J. Grandville

Grandville_Silkworm_01

The sun, having done his day’s work of thinking right well, suddenly and wearily retired to rest. The last notes of the birds’ song of praise were still lingering in the echoes of the woods, and the earth, wrapping herself in her dark mantle, was preparing for repose. The death’s-head Moth giving the final of departure, the little cortége set out on the march for the purple heath. Field-spiders, whose work consisted in clearing the road, proceeded the corpse which was surrounded by beetles, in black, carrying the bier of mulberry leaf. These were followed by tail-bearing mutes, next came the Ants, and lastly the Grubs. When at some little distance from the sacred mulberry tree, around which were assembled the relatives of the deceased, the Cardinal Pyrochre gave orders that the hymn of the dead should be intoned by the choir of Scarabs, and afterward sung by Bees and Crickets.

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At intervals, when the harmony ceased, one could hear deep signs and sobs, bearing evidence of the universal grief caused by the loss of the humble insect, whose remains were being borne to their last resting-place. The procession at length reached the cemetery on the heath, where the sextons were still bending over the new dug grave. Signs and sobs were hushed in that profound silence which betokens the deepest sorrow. But when the bearers had laid the body in the tomb, and the yawning earth closed over it, the air was rent with a piteous wail, for the mourners had seen the last of a true friend.

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An insect, robed in black, advanced to the grave-mount, saying: “Why this outburst of bitter grief? Why weep for one who has been delivered from the trial and burden of life. Yet,” he added, “weep on, for he who lies there can feel no pang of sorrow; no tears, no loving tones, can wake a responsive throb in his cold breast, nor bring him back to his earthly home!” They would not be comforted.

“Brothers,” said another, advancing in turn, “it is at the birth of a silkworm one ought rather to mourn. His life was one of ceaseless toil. By leaving this earth, he has left his misery behind; neither joy nor sorrow can follow him beyond the grave. I tell you simple truth; this is no time for hypocrisy. Why should worms mourn this event? Death has no terrors for us!” They still wept.

One of the mourners said with faltering voice: “Brother, we know that there is a beginning, and alas! an end, to everything, and that all must die; we know, too, the sorrows of our life, the labour of gathering our food leaf by leaf; we know the toil that transforms a mulberry leaf into a shining silken robe; we know the dangers that beset our lives; and the doom of the silken shroud that at last imprisons and blights the dreams of our young lives; we know that to die is to cease to toil, death being the end of the silken thread which began with our birth—we know all this, but, oh, we know, too, that we loved our brother, and who can console us for so great a loss?”

“We loved him! We loved him!” cried the mourners.

“I wept like you,” said the Cardinal, “for our brother who is gone; yet, when I meet death face to face in the silkworm, my heart expands. ‘Go to the other world,’ I say, the better world; there the gates will open for the good, both high and low; there you will rejoin your lost loved ones in a land where flowers breathe an eternal fragrance; where the mulberries bordering the glassy streams are ever green. Ah, brothers, tell them to wait for us there, for to die is to be born to a better life!”

With these words the weeping ceased. The moon broke out, silvering the heath with a chaste glory.

The good insect added: “Go back to your homes: our brother has no longer need of you.”

Each of the mourners, after placing a flower on the grave, left the scene, feeling comforted.

Grandville_Silkworm_04

Easter 2021

Easter 2021

Today is Easter, April 4. I remember Easter 2020, on April 12. Maybe you do, too. The coronavirus pandemic was in full swing. Remember when it first hit our collective consciousness, in early March 2020? We thought, “Well, this will be over by Easter.” But it wasn’t. It wasn’t over by Memorial Day, or Independence Day. There was a summer without going to the town pool, without the planned vacations. It was still with us at Labor Day. “Surely,” we thought, “it will be over by Thanksgiving.” But Thanksgiving came and went and the coronavirus was still with us. It was with us at Christmas, a strange, unsettling season without seeing all of our family because we could not travel safely. It is still with us today.

But here we are on Easter 2021. The long dark tunnel—the cold dark tomb, if you will—of the pandemic is showing signs of light. God’s great instruments of deliverance from the pandemic, the several COVID-19 vaccines, are here and are being distributed. We are blessed that the six adult members of our family have already received it, and we pray that our grandchildren will be able to get it soon, too. In the coming weeks, we will begin to travel again, first to see our daughter and son-in-law in California who we have not seen since Christmas 2019. More trips will follow, and, Lord willing, a return to a new kind of “normal” in the coming months. But today, we are thinking about Easter.

Two years ago, on April 21, 2019, on a day that seems like it was from a different era entirely—an era when I went to church and sat in a pew among friends instead of watching a service on YouTube; when I sat next to my trombone students in their lessons and played duets with them; when I went to hear concerts in a concert hall; when I ate meal in my favorite restaurant—I wrote and posted an Easter reflection on The Last Trombone. As I read it again today, I thought I would post it again. The message of Christ’s journey from darkness to light has never meant more to me than it does today. Through a long season of uncertainty and loss, and in the midst of confusion and grief, the resurrection of Jesus Christ stands as the most consequential event in all history. That Christ’s resurrection was also a journey from darkness to light is a comfort to all those who know Him, because we know that the trials of this present age are not the end of the story.

Here is my 2019 Easter reflection with a few revisions since it was first posted. Darkness to light, death to life, the dawn of a new day. That is Easter.

• • •

There are four accounts of the death and resurrection of Jesus in the Gospel accounts in the Bible – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each highlights particular moments in those world-changing days nearly 2000 years ago. In 2016, my wife and I traveled to Israel with a tour group sponsored by our undergraduate alma mater, Wheaton College, where I now teach trombone. The trip was life changing, as we visited many of the traditional sites where pivotal events in the Bible took place. One such site was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built over the traditional sites of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. The photo at the top of this blog entry on The Last Trombone is one I took of the tomb of Jesus in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Do we know for sure that he was actually buried there? No, but since at least around 400 AD, Christian pilgrims have venerated this particular place as being the site. I do not engage in debates over whether this or that site is THE site. It enough that I was in the neighborhood.

Artists over the centuries have depicted the resurrection of Jesus as a cataclysmic event, replete with angels and earthquakes, and the moving away of the stone that covered the entrance of the tomb. The Bible tells of this (Matthew 28:1-4):

And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.

Typical of such artistic representations is the one below that I saw two years ago at the Art Institute of Chicago.

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The painting is by Cecco del Caravaggio, whose real name was Francesco Buoneri, and it was painted in 1619-1620. Christ appears on top of his tomb, and an angel is dispatching Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb. Cecco’s use of light and dark is exceptional, and I spent a long time sitting in the museum’s gallery and contemplating the event that it depicts.

But in 2017, when my wife and I traveled to Italy on another Wheaton College alumni tour — a tour that took us to Florence and Rome — I saw another painting of the resurrection that has stuck in my mind ever since. This painting was in the Galleria dell’ Accademia in Florence, in the same museum that houses Michelangelo’s iconic statue of David. The painting, by Andrea del Sarto, was painted in the early sixteenth century and presents a very different view of the resurrection of Christ.

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Here is a moment before the the earthquake; we see no guards, no angel. It shows Jesus in His tomb at the moment of his resurrection. The wounds from his crucifixion are visible, as are some of his burial cloths. The image is one of quiet contemplation. I am sure I was not alone, when standing before this painting, in asking the question: “What was Jesus thinking at this moment?”

What I find interesting in all of this is that the Bible is silent about what actually happened inside the tomb at the moment when Christ was raised from the dead. He was dead, buried in the tomb. Then at some point over the next two days, Christ was resurrected, and somehow, in some way, he left the tomb. Two days after his agonizing death on the cross, the stone that had been covering the entrance to the tomb had rolled away. Mary Magdeline was shocked to see the tomb empty when she came to visit it two days after the crucifixion of Jesus, but an angel spoke to her with these earth-shattering words (Matthew 28:6):

He is not here, for he has risen.

I like to meditate on both of these paintings which depict two moments surrounding the resurrection of Jesus. Both speak to the same thing: Jesus was dead, buried, and was raised from the dead. In the days and weeks that followed, He appeared in physical form — not as some kind of ghost or apparition — before hundreds of people. This is documented not only by the Bible, but by other, independent writers. The resurrection of Jesus happened. It was and is true, and it changed the world and the life of every person in it. As the Apostle Paul reminds us (1 Corinthians 15:17-20):

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead.

C. S. Lewis spoke to this fact in his book, Mere Christianity. I have previously quoted him in my article on The Last Trombone about Christmas, but his words are worth repeating here:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about [Jesus]: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.”

That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice.

Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

The death of Jesus Christ. His burial. His resurrection. It happened. And it matters. Happy Easter. The dawn is here.