Easter — the pinnacle of the Christian calendar, and if we are to be believed, the turning point of time. Yet as is often observed, our Easter celebrations are not laden with the affection and cheer, the memories and emotional wallop of Christmas. No one makes rom-coms about falling in love at Easter or croons about being home for Easter. Many contend this is a good thing. Perhaps. Comparatively, Easter hasn’t been overburdened by commercialism, secularism, or sentimentality.
A few years ago, I wrote here about Ten Things Christmas-y. It was a good exercise for me to list things large and small that I savor in that season. So I decided to pick up the challenge to see if I could come up with a comparable list for Eastertide. I made it to eight. Here goes…
1.) The Butter Lamb: Older friends presented us with our first butter lamb — butter pressed into a lamb-shaped mold. I was charmed. It is cute and kid-friendly. It also puts something of symbolic value on the dinner table. I was so enamored that I purchased a couple molds and for several years presented friends with butter lambs for their Easter dinner. One caveat, a butter lamb seems to cut down on butter usage. No one wants to be the first to whack a hunk off the lamb’s hindquarter or, even more, decapitate the little creature. Another quick observation about Easter dinners: My memory tells me that as a child, our Easter menu was typically ham. In hindsight I wonder, was there any significance to this? A celebration of Christian freedom? A passive anti-Semitic poke? Or was it simply considered cheap and available?
2.) Easter Sunrise Worship: Most pastors have a “favorite” worship service of the year. I suppose mine is Easter Sunrise. I recall standing in a cemetery in bone-chilling cold as soggy snowflakes the size of saucers fell. Or the time a woman had to leave her high-heeled shoe behind as it had become entirely submerged in the springtime goo during worship. We’ve gathered indoors now for years. We’re sticklers about beginning in the dark. We adjust the beginning time annually, depending on when Easter falls and the sun actually rises. None of this 8 am “sunrise” stuff. There is something exhilarating about waking up very early. It feels like those mornings when you’re going on a road trip or have an early plane to catch. Driving to the church, the houses are all still dark and the traffic is virtually nil. Maybe it feeds my catacombs fantasy/envy. Attendance is small — the hardcores, most of whom come year after year. In sweatsuits and loud plaid flannel pants. Helter-skelter hair, unshaven, and without makeup. Worship is brief. We hear the Easter Gospel and share the Lord’s Supper. Thirty minutes later we are heading home as the day of days dawns.
3.) Easter Dinner with Colleagues — in our early years in upstate New York, we often got together with other ministerial colleagues (and now lifelong friends) on Easter afternoon. We were spent, exhilarated, feisty, goofy, deflated, far from family, and maybe a bit lonely. Our young kids played together. We compared notes and swapped war stories. We laughed a lot and were almost drunk with exhaustion.They were happy and holy times.
4.) My Chocolate Bunny: Somewhere in my middle teens, I was probably a rather miserable specimen. I made a snide comment to my mother about having never received an Easter basket with a chocolate bunny. Meanwhile, all my friends received a candy-extravaganza every Easter. I had assumed my no-Easter-basket plight was due to some sort of religious principle, not wanting to detract from Christ with a bunny and eggs, blah, blah, blah. Yet even at that moment, I could immediately sense that I had hurt my mom. She was stunned by my complaint. I now think it was not religiosity on my parent’s part, but merely unfamiliarity or an oversight. The next Easter, and well into early adulthood, I received a solid chocolate bunny every Easter from my mother.
5.) Bright Monday: Marking the day after Easter as a day for laughter and jokes is somewhat new to me. I’m struck that during the pandemic there’s been an increased desire for dumb jokes, groaners, and dad jokes. We just want to laugh. Bright Monday is apparently a time for practical jokes too. But few people like to be the butt of these. And all of this is an invitation to share a different understanding of Easter, as Jim Bratt explained here on The Twelve a few years back. It is the ancient Christus Victor understanding of the Atonement. On Easter, God “tricked” Satan. The big bad fish took the hook baited with Jesus. But aha, it was Satan who was caught! We laugh at Satan’s folly and celebrate God’s triumph with tricks on one another. Tuesday is not too late. Share a bad joke with your friends today.
Okay, these next two are more Lent-y than Easter-y. Allow me to blur the lines a bit.
6.) Foot Washing on Maundy Thursday: I’ve long been a proponent of foot washing, if for no other reason than Jesus’ adamance about it. I’ve shared before that my commitment to foot washing hasn’t exactly produced a lot of acceptance or enthusiasm among most Maundy Thursday worshippers. Of course, this in turn, only makes me more committed, although with Covid, we’ve taken a two-year hiatus. To those who choose to participate, it can be an intimate, meaningful moment. As for the rest, I’m not sure if occasionally feeling uncomfortable in worship is necessarily a bad thing.
7.) Good Friday Cross Walk: Piety in my town can be somewhat cloying. You might then think that an opportunity to process through our downtown carrying a cross, singing hymns, and pausing here and there for scripture and prayer would tap right into that. You’d be wrong. But like foot washing, popular rejection has not deterred me. Seeing religious people scurry to hide or awkwardly pretend not to notice as the cross goes by on the sidewalk is droll and delicious. But lest you think that making people feel embarrassed is my goal, the actual procession, with people of all ages, and from several churches is a good thing. Often the early spring wind is biting, but we trust the Spirit is blowing too. Addendum: in addition to my congregation, the greatest number of participants come from a church of hyper-conservative, homeschooling, uber-Calvinists. Sometimes worship produces strange partners.
8.) The Bells of Rome: This one isn’t mine. It is Sophie, my wife’s. Growing up in a French Catholic family, her Easter eggs were dropped by flying bells from Rome. I can think of little more preposterous or distressing than massive bronze bells flying overhead bombarding the land with eggs — unless, it might be pastel rabbits laying eggs made of candy. BTW, her memories of Easter dinners are lamb, which seems understandable and appropriate. Unless, of course, the New Creation of Christ compels us all to be vegans. Relax, people! It’s humor. Take a deep breath and smile.
What are your memories and things Easter-y?
Keep the Eastertide joy going. Christ is risen, indeed!