"Easter is busier for pastors than Christmas?" So commented an astonished friend recently when I mentioned that I had a summons for jury duty during the busiest week of the year for me. Yes, Easter is busier. As important as Christmas is, without Easter, nothing else really matters.
It took me a long time to figure this out. As a child and young adult, Easter was the day for special dressing up. It also meant an extra day off from school as schools always closed for Good Friday. In addition, there was the wild scramble to pick up a bunch of prettily colored eggs during the lunch after the Easter worship service. Other than that, the holiday seemed to appear out of nowhere. No big build up like Christmas, no endless blaring of special seasonal music from every speaker, no special decorations for house or yard. Kind of a "so-what" day except it was nice to have something new to wear and to compare my Easter clothes with those my friends had purchased and worn.
Then, deep into my adult years, I discovered the importance of Holy Week for the development of a mature, integrated faith life. I learned that I could see my own life in the way that the crowds so eagerly welcomed Jesus entering Jerusalem, and then just as easily turned against him when the crowd favored another. A leader/savior is welcome IF that leader/savior is going to do what I want--for example, take political power away from those I dislike and give that same power to me or those who think as I do. Such a one is far less welcome when I'm invited to stand with him when he is being falsely accused, beaten, and mocked. As for heading to the cross with him . . . no thanks. I'll play it safe and comfortable, if you don't mind. Not interested in being hurt, and most especially not interested in offering forgiveness to those who torture, kill and destroy. An emphatic, "NO THANKS" to that one.
Yes, I am not one bit different from those who called out, "crucify him!" Not one little bit.
That's what makes Easter so powerful. Because on this day, I find I, too, have been offered the gift of new life; that I'm one of those for whom Jesus prayed, "Father, forgive her because she doesn't know what she is doing." If I will take the time to walk again with those who welcomed Jesus, betrayed Jesus, and condemned Jesus, if I will admit my identification with them, if I will use these last few days of Lent to open even the darkest, most despicable parts of my life to healing and light, then . . . Easter is the day of new beginnings. The ultimate "do-over."
Holy Week services celebrate the excitement of Palm Sunday and then lead us to the depths. At our church, we'll remember the week in story and song on Wednesday night with a service especially geared for the children. On Thursday, we will learn again about the "new commandment (mandate)" to love one another as Jesus loved us in a time of Holy Communion and a series of prayers for healing and wholeness. On Friday, we'll look at that cross and find our own complicity with those who placed Jesus there, and then solemnly strip the altar of all its furnishings in acknowledgment of death and darkness.
But on Sunday morning . . . as the youth lead us in a sunrise celebration, we'll sing again, "Up From the Grave He Arose!!!" Thanks be to God, redemption is ours!
Otherwise, just get some new clothes and enjoy the common grace of springtime. But you will miss so much! Wish it hadn't take so long for me to figure this out.