03/24/2005: "Memories of Easter – Looking back Looking forward"
Here it is, right before Easter and the thought comes to my mind, am I ready for arguably the most important event in the Christian calendar? This season often stirs up memories from my youth that are frankly very enjoyable. Being raised in a somewhat rural partially farming community there was the tradition to get your potatoes planted by Good Friday. What a funny thought, did the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord even affect farming?
Now, can you imagine kids not wanting to go to church? Ok I admit there were even times I skipped going to church when I was a teenager. But skip the services right before Easter? Never! These services right before Easter are so powerful. I still remember the way we observed the forty days of Lent. The Stations of the Cross are emblazoned into my memory. I loved going to the Stations of the Cross because that service helped to focus my mind on what Christ had really done for us. We were participating in the drama that was portrayed in Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ”. This service made the event real to a child’s mind.
Palm Sunday service would begin with Jesus parading into Jerusalem on his donkey. No, there was not a real donkey but I had a great imagination. We the people in the crowd waved the palms exalting Christ, celebrating his triumphal entrance into the city. We would participate in the parade and then continue with the reading of the Passion of Christ from Scripture. It is this event, with us being in the crowd, which drove home the point ever more clearly, that it was I in the crowd that then yelled “Crucify Him” just a few days later. It is this service that helps clarify the point that I am responsible for Christ’s Crucifixion.
Then we were fully into Holy Week. On Holy Thursday, we celebrated the last supper of Christ. During this service we were given a very intimate view of Christ. We see how He loved his disciples, especially John. We see how He continued to serve others with the washing of the feet, even when He knew His hour was close. We see how Jesus was building a church when he instituted communion, “do this in memory of Me”. And we see how He deals with conflict in dealing with Judas knowing that Judas would betray him. It is awe-inspiring to contemplate what Christ was able to accomplish during his final day of freedom.
“Good Friday” is crazy name. To think of the day of the most heinous murder in history as a “Good” day causes your mind to be twisted into ways almost unimaginable. And yet if we think clearly, that day was indeed a “Good” day. It was the event that occurred on that day that opened a way for us to enter into the “Holy of Holies”. As a kid, I loved going to these three hour services. They started at 12:00 noon, going through the torturing and execution of Christ. We experienced the bewilderment of his followers, horror of the event, and the persevering faith that Christ displayed during his hours of momentous struggle. Then, it was like you were there at the cross with his mother and John when Jesus exclaimed “It is finished”. I remember being shaken to my core from the intensity of this event.
Saturday was generally a pretty low-key day. If the weather was warm enough, we would be out raking the lawn preparing for the coming spring. This was a day of remembering the event, but also of enjoying the closeness of family.
Easter Sunday was a day of great joy. Yes, the candy and goodies were nice, but they were just the beginning. You would get to church and the mood was incredibly festive. People we had not seen for a year, were there with us celebrating as a large family would celebrate. The message was clear, “He has risen, He is risen indeed”. The implications are clear; we have a God who has conquered death! We do not need to fear death anymore. We have a reason for great celebration! Prepare your hearts and minds to celebrate Easter this weekend and celebrate with zest!