Last week, as I was preparing for Easter Sunday, I realized that I don’t think I’ve ever missed being in a worship gathering, on any Easter Sunday morning, ever in my life. And while I recognize this could sound boastful (except to the person who thinks, “Thank God I haven’t had to endure that!” which would mean it sounds at least pitiful, if not foolish, to them) I’m not suggesting this makes me better than anyone else, or that I have some sort of devotion to God that exceeds anyone else’s devotional level or standard, or that I think I’ve earned some sort of points with God because I’ve been such a consistently dedicated celebrant on Easter.
And do me a favor and discount that I’ve spent about 70 percent of my life in active pastoral ministry and, as such, it’s expected that I will show up and even take some sort of lead in the Easter worship experience. And please discount that the first quarter of my life was spent under the watchful care of parents who were dedicated Christians and my dad was also a pastor and there just wasn’t any appropriate excuse for staying home from church on any Sunday morning, let alone Easter Sunday!
I did note last year, in this column, that I lost my love for Easter Sunday morning sunrise services the very first time I was dragged out of my warm cocoon and hauled off to freeze in the inevitable snowy Easter morning air. I also noted that I’m not angry or bitter about those Easter morning excursions, but this year I also assert that, while I haven’t made any pledges or promises to myself, I’ve also silently gone about avoiding Easter sunrise services, in spite of the fact that Mary Magdalene, and a couple of other wonderful ladies, went to Jesus’ literal tomb on that first Easter morning to visit and grieve a bit more. And I get it! But I also get it that Jesus isn’t there any longer, so (I excuse my behavior) I just can’t reasonably justify keeping up this tradition … and, baby it’s cold outside!
Now, once again, please humor me and let me firmly assert that I do not look down my religious nose on folks who worship at any form of sunrise observance, or any other Easter week observance, for that matter, nor do I consider myself more enlightened or more spiritual than they are because I neglect some observances.
I’m just talking about what’s going on in my Jesus dedication heart this year. And while we didn’t celebrate any of the mid-Easer week observances that some celebrated, when I was growing up neither were those traditions talked about, compared or disparaged in our family.
One important Easter celebration we did observe was the Easter egg hunt in the afternoon after lunch. My dad was an old farm boy, born in Montana and raised in coastal Oregon, so the eggs meant either breakfast, or, when left in the nest and hatched, chicks. Either way, they represented life. So I didn’t grow up with prejudice against either the term Easter or the colored eggs and bunnies and chocolate. (Please! No prejudice against chocolate!)
Except, there was that one year when all the eggs weren’t accounted for. Dad and Mom counted the eggs they hid in the house; remember, snowy, frozen Easters in Klamath country and my folks were gracious to us kids and we had our Easter egg hunt in the house. But that one egg was missing. Dad looked everywhere: no egg – until, about three or so months later, there was this really skanky smell down between the kitchen and the hall. Oh! There it is! Dad recovered that egg, neatly hidden in a little nook above the door casing, now nastily rotting – a symbol of life gone bad. Well, Dad didn’t miss the chance for a spiritual lesson on this one, I’ll tell you!
And the years rolled by and I came to learn that some Christian folks celebrate pieces of Holy Week that I was never introduced to and some others have strong reservations around the so-called pagan rituals that were dear to me. To me, Easter has always been fun and life-giving and I have never lost sight that if it weren’t for what Jesus did for us – represented for me in the events of this past glorious Easter week – I wouldn’t have the promise of life that I rest in, on a nearly daily basis! I get it that Jesus died and was buried and arose again from his death and a grave and I, therefore, have access to life beyond my eventual grave, by his grace to me and because of my faith in him! And I love it!
And just because Easter week is gone for another 365 days (counting from last Sunday) Easter is ever alive in my heart! And I want to keep it that way!
So, what I retain in my heart after decades of Easter celebrations is an awe and appreciation for the risen Lord and the life he’s brought to me. Happy week after Easter to you, and may the joy of this season be ever alive in your heart as well, throughout this coming year!
Pastor Dale Pratt can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org