First day of the week

April 20, 2014

This morning in (adult) Sunday School, someone asked me to clarify the sequence of events from the evening of the Last Supper to the resurrection. I know that not everyone agrees with the traditional view that Jesus was betrayed on Thursday evening and rose early Sunday morning. But disputes over the timeline were not pertinent to the lesson (and I’m not the teacher, though as pastor’s wife I am frequently asked questions not covered in the quarterly), so I explained briefly that what I set forth was the traditional view.

I remember from Bible school that some people think Jesus died on a Wednesday, in order to have him in the tomb for “three days and three nights.” From what I have read, however, I am inclined toward the traditional view that he died on a Friday. (Not that I think it is an essential matter. Why he died is far more important.) What I did not realize until I did some web surfing today, however, is that not everyone agrees that he rose from the dead on Sunday.

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Awake, my soul

April 8, 2012

There are many things I like about Easter, but one of the best has to be the glorious music. When I was little, the older children’s choir at our church always sang “In Joseph’s Lovely Garden,” and I always found both the music and words very moving. (Unfortunately, by the time I was old enough for that choir, the music program had changed and that choir no longer existed, so I never got to sing it.)

Once I was old enough to join the adult choir, I got to sing the Hallelujah Chorus for Easter. As the lone high schooler in the group, I struggled to learn the alto part while the adults easily sang through it from many years of practice. Once I had learned it, though, I was disappointed to discover, over the next several years, that most churches do not perform it every Easter, as did the church I grew up in. (Adults in most church choirs seem to consider it too difficult, and I have to admit that in some cases they may be right.)

Even so, there are several wonderful Easter hymns to sing. There are “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” and “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today,” two hymns by Charles Wesley that are so similar that unless I have a hymnal in front of me I tend to intermix the words and music of both hymns. I never heard “Low in the Grave He Lay” until I was a teenager at a fundamentalist church, and I have to admit that it has never become one of my favorites, but it provides an effective contrast between the disciples’ grief, and the joy of the resurrection, that few other hymns do.

Today, at the early service (I am reluctant to call anything at 7 AM a sunrise service) at the Methodist church, we finished with “Crown Him with Many Crowns.” Like the Hallelujah Chorus, it speaks more to me of Christ’s Lordship over all than specifically of the Resurrection, but if one is fit for Easter then certainly the other is also. What struck me as we sang it this morning, though, was the first half of the third line: “Awake, my soul, and sing.”

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Tie-dyed eggs

April 25, 2011

Yesterday morning in Sunday School, someone asked the origin of the word Easter. I have read that it is the Teutonic goddess of dawn, Eostare, or the Norse/Saxon goddess of spring, Ostara. Or maybe it was the Babylonian goddess Ishtar,  the Phoenician goddess Astarte, or the Canaanite goddess Ashtoreth.

The only name I could remember at the moment was Astarte, but I did point out that it was a pagan goddess. Also that I just read a couple of days ago that English is one of the very few languages that calls the holiday by a name derived from a fertility goddess. Most European languages use a name derived from the Hebrew or Latin word for Passover.

And that led to a brief discussion of whether it is appropriate for Christians to include Easter eggs — or bunnies — in their holiday celebrations. (Or, similarly, to have Christmas trees at Christmas.) We didn’t try to resolve the issue, just to share experiences and impressions, before going on to the lesson for the day, on the resurrection of Jesus.

I’ve always heard that Easter eggs have pagan origins, but I went online to see if I could find out more. To my surprise, while most websites mentioned the pagan origins, some pointed out that there is actually no clear evidence that this is the case. I have read what I find fairly convincing evidence that the origins of modern Halloween activities do not have the kind of pagan origins often attributed to them by some Christians. Could the same be true of Easter eggs?

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A promise of more to come

April 4, 2010

A few months from now, these branches will be so thick with leaves I won’t be able to see through them. Their own weight will drag them down to brush against my car. By fall we will be trimming them back just so I can get into my car without being poked and prodded.

But now they still look mostly dead. If I hadn’t seen them grow back every summer, I’d worry we cut back too much last fall. While the maple and other trees (which I haven’t succeeded in identifying despite going through a book about trees) are covered with tiny new green leaves, these (whatever they are, we haven’t even decided if they’re properly called trees or bushes) have only a few shoots of green against the stark grey branches.

Those few green leaves are enough, though. I know they mean that a lot more are on the way. (The birds chirping incessantly as I tried different angles for the picture – though always just far enough away that I couldn’t take a good shot of them – likewise assure me that our yard is teeming with life, even if I can’t see most of it.)

It seems a very apt metaphor for Resurrection Sunday. The Scripture passage from 1 Corinthians 15 that was read at both church services this morning (ecumenical sunrise service at the Methodist church, then our regular service at the Presbyterian church where my husband now preaches regularly) speaks of Christ as “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

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White Easter

March 23, 2008

White is the traditional liturgical color for Easter, though exactly what white represents is listed differently at the various websites I visited to find out why. It is described as “symbolic of gladness and holiness,” “the color of joy and victory,” “symbolizing purity and joy,” and “the color of purity, holiness, glory, and joy.”

I understand why white represents purity (and holiness because that is purity from sin) and glory (bright light), but it is less clear to me why it is associated with joy and victory. Perhaps it was first associated with the Resurrection because of the holiness and glory of Jesus Christ, and because in rising from the dead He brought joy and victory, those also became associated with the color white.

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