“Lent” as a word refers to “Spring.” It has always been difficult for me to equate the beauty of Spring with the suffering, death, and tomb invoked in the Season of Lent. I look around and see a world bursting with life, where even the trees and shrubs that seemed dead are now alive. The leaves are budding, flowers blooming, birds singing — the beautiful colors — all of creation seems to be shouting, “Resurrection! That which was dead is alive!” All through the Lenten Season, the Easter celebration seems to be breaking through…
Growing up I have vivid memories surrounding Easter Day. I especially cherish those of the Easter Egg Hunts. The boys all dressed like “Little Lord Fauntleroys,” and the girls in their white patent-leather shoes with matching white gloves. All of us in pastel colors, carrying baskets laden with the colored eggs our mothers helped us make, that were to be placed in their hiding places before the hunt. Suprisingly, None of us ever connected the fact that we brought the eggs the Easter Bunny had hidden for us.
The Church building itself was beautifully decorated with several varieties of flowers and greenery grown by members of the parish, and at least three kinds of Lilies (the Lilies always stole the show). The guest musicians tuning their instruments, the people I recognized but did not know were members of the Church, all the women’s Easter hats, all the men’s sport coats, it all just seemed to add to the electric in the air, and the sense that this was a special day. The Service itself was “special,” and had a joyful, happy sense, that was not always present — or seemed forced at some other times.
Following Church, we would have the “Coffee Hour” — with all the good silver — as the young people chomped at the bit to start the egg hunt. There was always a large formally set table with a Church-lady on one side serving tea, and on the other side another Church-lady serving coffee. There was food everywhere, finger food, sandwiches, cookies, chocolates, and cakes. I never understood all of the food on display, because children were never allowed to eat much because it would “ruin our Easter Lunch.” Finally the Easter Egg Hunt was on… Shrieking. laughter, mayhem, took place as we ran into the Churchyard looking for eggs, and other treats - the older kids helping the younger ones and themselves too… All of us who had been carefully scrubbed and forced into our pristine clothes, which were starched; came back with filthy faces, torn clothes, disheveled from head to toe, eating our hard boiled eggs, candy passed out by an Easter Bunny “Helper,” and happy as Larks. Joyous Church Memories. All combined as one in my mind - God, Community, Joy, Celebration - on every level - Preparation, Worship, Fellowship - we were a Church Family celebrating Jesus and life.
A very different memory I have as a child related to Easter is that of “Good Friday.” Prior to Easter, all of the appointments were taken out of the Church, except for a big wooden cross, draped in black. The Good Friday Service lasted three hours (from Noon until 3 p.m.), commemorating our Lord’s suffering on the cross. It was like a funeral to me, except even more depressing — and very boring. At times it was even a little frightening— and far too much talk of blood. It was almost impossible to “stay still,” as my mother would say. In later life this service became important to me, but as a child I dreaded it. It was dark, and about death.
I mention these events, because they have become illustrative for me of experiences with other Christians, and the way in which our lives reflect our relationship with Jesus Christ. Alive or dead, Joyful or downhearted.
On one hand there is the Season of Lent and Good Friday. A time of fasting, prayer, self-examination, and reflection on the suffering and death of Jesus, and the tomb — of darkness. It is a time to remember the great price paid for our reconciliation with God, and the value God places on each of us, as He offered Himself completely on the Cross for our salvation, and out of a love that passes all human understanding.
On the other hand there is the Joy of Easter, or Resurrection Sunday, whereon we celebrate Our Lord Jesus Christ rising bodily from the grave, and gifting us with eternal life (I understood this from my earliest days, “Christians live forever”). Even the Easter Egg Hunt seems to help us join with creation in celebration of the Resurrection.
Which witness, The Resurrection or The Tomb, best describes our life in Christ? Both are important, both a part of our Faith. But how do we live out our Faith? Does our sense of Jesus end on Good Friday with His Death? Or do we live as those who know Jesus lives?
I pray that we never loose sight of the Joy of the resurrection, even when we face the Darkness of the Tomb.