Having been raised in a very legalistic, keep-God-in-a-box, non-denominational denomination, the only clear memories of Easter weekend I have go like this: getting a solid, milk chocolate cross in a gift box with jelly beans in each corner; a new spring outfit including a hat (required in our non-denominational denomination), patent leather Mary Jane’s and a matching duster (lightweight coat); coloring eggs for baskets and an egg hunt; and always singing Up from the Grave He Arose and He Lives, at Sunday evening meeting. I was young and knew nothing about holiness.
I also have a vivid remembrance of one particular Good Friday in (probably) 1956. Our neighbors, two houses down, were “good” Catholics, had bunches of kids, all with names beginning with “J”. Only one boy, Joe, at the head of the pack. My sister’s “bestie” was Judy and mine was Jeanie, our mom’s were coffee-drinking friends and we were definitely a part of one another’s daily lives.
Back to Good Friday 1956. A lovely, typical New Jersey day. We played all morning, ate lunch at our own homes and then around 12 noon we met in their big backyard, at the swing set, about 30 feet from the chicken coop – we each took a swing and began the three-hour silent vigil, gone was the sunshine of the morning and big dark clouds had rolled in.(1) You see, it was between the sixth hour and the ninth hour of that “good” Friday when the Lord Jesus Christ, the only beloved Son of the One and Only, true and living God, died on a rugged cross beam on a hill called Calvary. The earth quaked and the rocks split open; graves opened and sleeping saints were resurrected; the veil of the Temple was torn in two – not by a Temple priest ripping it in half, but by the One who gave us bold access into the Holy of holies.(2) It was the darkest three hours in the history of the world and five little girls, legs dangling from swings, reverently sat in the silence recognizing and honoring the crucifixion of the Holy One. We weren’t divided by denomination nor doctrine nor theology, but we were in complete submission to Truth dying on a cross.
1994, in solemnity and quiet we left the candlelit sanctuary, with the words of the pastor etched on my heart, “Yes, Sunday morning is coming, but let us never forget what happened that Friday.”
April 22, 2011, I challenge myself and anyone reading these words…
“Might we remember?”
(1) Matthew 27:45-54
(2) Hebrews 4:14-16