I can’t believe Easter is upon us. This seems to happen to me every year. I was playing in a church this past weekend, and when the pastor got up to read the announcements he exclaimed, “Oh, and you know what today is? It’s Palm Sunday.”. There was an audible gasp from the congregation, and I had to admit I too had been taken by surprise. It seems that every year I get worse at “doing Easter”.
It wasn’t always like this. I remember the first two Easter weekends I experienced after I became a Christian. Although we went to church a few times for special occasions while growing-up, most of the Easter story was a mystery to me. First there was Good Friday. I couldn’t see anything good about them executing that nice man I’d seen praying in a portrait on my grandmother’s wall, and I was even more confused about what the connection was between the cross and the Cadbury’s Easter Cream Eggs hidden around the house on Sunday morning. But, when I was 16 I started going to church and reading the Bible, and it became my desire that this story, God’s story, become my story.
My most memorable Easter happened the next year. By that time I was familiar enough with the New Testament to understand Christ’s suffering on our behalf and His victory over the grave on the third day. At the time, I was dating a girl, who was Catholic, so I accompanied her to a number of services between her church and my own church that weekend, and even participated in a Passover meal with her family. The result was that I was able to walk slowly from one event to another and to really soak-in their significance. To this day, I have never had such a meaningful experience of Holy Week, and every year, I think back to that weekend and the indelible mark it left on my walk with Christ.
I suppose the thing that made the most difference was that I was able to really put on the brakes and move slowly through the weekend and experience the events, much like they would have really unfolded. The services on Maundy Thursday and on Good Friday were solemn and sombre. There was no mention of the resurrection. Only sorrow over our sins, and the punishment Christ was made to bear for them. Yet these weren’t times of morbid self-loathing, rather they had a tone of immense gratitude and reverence for our Savior. Focussing on the “dark days” of Holy Week made Easter Sunday that much more joyful.
The other thing that was so important about celebrating Holy Week in that way, was that I learned to see the Biblical characters as broken, fickle people who were just like us. They had no way of knowing, on Friday night what would happen Sunday morning. A theme that would lead me to eventually write songs like “Streets of Jerusalem”, and “Fade” a song I’ve written for the upcoming album.
So this year, I want to try to recapture some of that first weekend. Perhaps we’ll share communion with a few friends on Thursday night, as we remember the Last Supper. Perhaps our Good Friday Service will leave out the hope of Resurrection Sunday long enough to remember what it must have been like to see the Jesus, the Light of the World snuffed-out for three days. Perhaps, this year, we’ll be able to put the brakes on again, and re-enter the mystery that is Holy Week, and find our faith made new all over again.