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FAITHFUL LIVING: Truly celebrate Easter

“Joan, grab your lunch and let’s eat in the car. Tim’s concert starts in 25 minutes!”

It was Good Friday, 1985, and I was working as a Christian book editor. My coworker and I not only served on the same editorial staff, but we attended church together. Our friend Tim Ditch was scheduled to play a noontime organ concert at the local Presbyterian church. As we hurried uptown we talked about our colorful church organist and how he often slipped Walt Disney melodies into the Sunday morning preludes, so skillfully only the most intent of listeners ever detected them.

As we entered the sanctuary we knew immediately there would be no playful notes from “It’s a Small World” that day.

We were met by total darkness. A lighted candelabrum on the organ and the glow of sunshine filtering through the stained glass windows of the sanctuary shed enough light for people to find their way down the rows of pews.

As the bells in the tower rang out their noontime pronouncements, Tim seated himself at the organ and provided us with a musical experience that told the crucifixion story. There was no choir. No light. No singing. There was only Tim and his organ, interpreting the experiences of Christ as He faced death on a cross. At moments I leaned forward and strained to hear the notes. At other moments the powerful pipes produced sound that jarred me to the bone, seemingly pushing me back into the pew and stinging my eyes with tears.

Suddenly the powerful music came to an end. Tim stood up, blew out the candles, and silently walked out of the church, leaving us there in the dark, exhausted and stunned.

I thought back on that remarkable experience on Thursday as I flipped my calendar to April and realized that Easter Week is nearly upon us. Thanks to Tim’s incredible ability to interpret music, for a few precious moments each year I am able to imagine that I am standing in front of the cross, watching Christ’s limp body and feeling exhausted. Utterly hopeless. Powerless.

It is this issue of power and the events of Easter Week that make this my favorite church holiday. It begins with the playfulness of Palm Sunday when many of us grab a palm branch or two and wave them into the air, recalling Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. On Thursday, I will consider how the power and terror of the Roman government caused people to abandon Christ when it became apparent that He was a wanted man and their public loyalty would surely place them in mortal danger.

When Friday approaches I will spend my day considering the agony and the sacrifice Christ made for me. Then Easter Sunday will dawn and the invigorating joy will begin. There will be Easter baskets and chocolate bunnies for my children, leg of lamb and mint jelly for our afternoon meal. I am planning new outfits and planning to shoot a family photo, for my eldest daughter leaves for college this fall and this will be the last Easter we are a fully intact family.

But the trappings of spring will take a back seat when we head to church. For it is there, among other believers, that we can discard, like a cold and soggy jacket, the sorrow of death. There will be light and lilies, smiles and music. The people who normally attend three separate services at our church will unite. The sheer numbers will produce excitement and a renewed sense of unity. Best of all there will be joy because we believe that Christ came back to life. Death lost its grip on Him and us.

Easter Week is the perfect time to venture into a church if you have been secretly wondering what it is that so many will experience during this upcoming holiday. It is, in fact, the perfect time to attend services if you have been hesitant before now. You will not stand out, for there will be visiting relatives and children in new clothes to take the focus off of you. You may see and hear things new to you. But you will also observe the joy that only an experience with Christ can produce.

You will spot neighbors and coworkers you did not know attended. You’ll also identify the girl who bags your groceries, the woman who trims your hair and the guy who coaches your child’s soccer team. Best of all you will observe people united by their faith, based on Bible knowledge and a choice to step beyond the strictly academic.

We, as a Christian community, would be honored to have you join us. There is so much to celebrate and it will be even more joyous with you sitting nearby!

Freelance writer Joan Bay Klope’s e-mail address is jbklope@hotmail.com

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