Sunday, March 28, 2010

Easter hymns

I love everything about Easter. Well, just about everything: I was never crazy about the hollow chocolate bunny profiles with the beady candy eyes. Hollow? Artificial? Can anything be more antithetical to Easter itself?
On the other hand, the regal, pure, statuesque, over poweringly fragrant Easter lilies are the perfect symbol for the celebration. Lilies come out of the ground, from quiescent entities deep underground. From nothing springs the deep green sprout; the entire plant is "crowned with many crowns" of purest white. They are impossible to ignore, impossible to resist; and time after time and year after year they return.
I love the bright and flowery garb of little boys and girls. When I was little, we got our new spring dress for Easter. For many years, my grandmother presented us with new spring dresses in pastel florals cottons fresh from her Singer sewing machine and the fabric store in downtown Jefferson City. For many years after that, my mother made lovely hand made dresses in spring florals for my two girls. Whatever the weather, the kids would don their new spring apparel and pose outside...often their smiles were frozen to their faces and their long hair would be whipping in their eyes. A springy Easter is more a theory than a practice in northwest Missouri! We are years past the introduction of a new Easter hat on the adult ladies, but I remember the Easter bonnets in our little white church growing up. Many ladies sported corsages for Easter morn as well and Ben was diligent in providing a flower for his mom while he was at home. Even when I'd have to go back to work after Easter dinner, I enjoyed the idea of my exotic orchid from the morn.
Our church still has an early morning service, but not the sunrise service we attended when the kids were younger. We felt keenly our kinship with the women at the Tomb when we crawled out of our beds into the dark chill of a March morning at the farm to throw on our clothes and make the trip to town for the 6:30 service. We only broke our fast with coffee and doughnuts in the fellowship hall after welcoming the Resurrected Savior in the dimly lit church. Maybe the kids missed a sunrise service, but most years, all five of us headed to town. Afterwards, we'd come home to water or chore and the "bunny" would make sure the eggs were hidden mostly out of the reach of the farm pets. Usually the "bunny" from Grandma Millie's would already have made her very very early morning deliveries of baskets for all the family members at the front door.
When I was growing up, we'd dye dozens and dozens of boiled eggs at Granny's. Nothing fancy involved...just lots of stinky hot old fashioned egg dye and the white crayons to write everyone' name with. With several acres of apple trees and a huge yard, the egg hunt would proceed for quite awhile. I'm sure we never found all of them, but waste was clearly not the issue; my father and his brothers usually got into some kind of egg battle later on; not all of the eggs were boiled!
Our home church was nothing fancy, but it was beautiful when the violet vestments and altar cloths were replaced with the celebratory white. Trinity in Jefferson City had the advantage of a giant organ and much larger choir; the organ raised the roof even higher.
I love the Easter hymns; the Lutheran hymns of my youth are augmented by the even more ringing and uptempo songs of the Baptist hymnal. And our Easter hymns have not been made trite or commercial by constant re-arrangement and overplaying. Instead, they are reassuring in the way family reunions are: we are part of the group, part of the past and part of the future. We can sing with faith and enthusiasm, full of confidence and vigor.
Our Easter morning services in Tarkio have been graced and blessed with Dennis Martin's singing too. I don't even know who recorded the song 'He's Alive' originally, though I recall hearing it on KMA on some Easter morning. The feeling of stepping back to those days and sitting in the rooms with the fearful and confused disciples permeates our present day church when he sings and our Savior stands among us in our hearts as He appeared that first Easter.
The children have sung musicals; our choir has presented cantatas...Easter morning sunrise may be for meditation, but the rest of the day is for music and singing.
May we all, near and far, rejoice in our risen Lord. Resurrection...what a wondrous word.

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