Monday, November 17, 2008

Better than god

Easter bunny and the cross

Siblings, sitting in their easter finest on the swingset in the backyard, smile tepidly into the camera, easter baskets holstered by their sides. Colors slide into one another, a pastel opaqueness that blurs lines and distinctions, creating a "could-be-twins" look that pleased the girl for a reason that is inexplicable. Her connection to her younger brother is more tangible than the mother and father who rarely seem to make freeze frame.

Most memories that are real, that have substance, involve church and holidays. Easter was a high holiday that began with Palm Sunday- the Sunday the messiah was purported to have ridden into Jerusalem on a donkey. Palm Sunday usually incorporated the children by having them parade into the sanctuary with palm branches and singing a song, any song that had the words "hosanna" in the lyrics. On this sunday, the pastor often had a semi-important sermon, the most important sermon of the year being delivered on Easter. Palm Sunday was mere preparation for the big day, the Sunday of the Faithful.

Easter Sunday, on the other hand was a once a year Beatles concert. Visitors, lost relatives, sporadic church-goers, non-church going spouses would fill the pews on this holiday having been convinced via cultural persuasion and family pressure that even if you didn't really believe in god, you really needed to be in church on EASTER SUNDAY. This made the opportunity a Sutter's mill experience... a sudden onslaught of new bodies looking for the golden streets. This was one of the few times the pastor would actually be preaching for the Lost, the unclean... it was a time to really lay it on the line: what would it be? Heaven or hell? Look at Jesus on that cross- how can you turn your back on the torture he put himself through just FOR YOU? And he suffered so that YOU could have life with him eternally in heaven. It is all up to you-- it was in your hands... heaven or hell. Which do you chose?

At home the whole Easter week was accompanied by a flurry of furry activity. The house was cleaned for family gatherings or just because there was an aspect of cleanliness that seemed requisite (cleanliness is next to godliness after all), Easter eggs colored and new Sunday gear: suits, ties, socks, shiny new sunday shoes, dresses, hats, slips, gloves... even underwear is fresh from the package clean. Night before baths were accompanied with a behind the ear scrubbing that left the skin luffa'd raw long before luffas were imported into popular use. There is a great deal of symbolic value in scrutinizing this emphasis on cleanliness at Easter- it wasn't just recalling Jesus's victory over death but a yearly claim to cleanliness and newness. We were new creatures in Christ after all... we should look like it once in a while!

Pre-church is taut with walking on a tightrope tenseness. Our family got up early to be sure morning chores didn't make us late- late being the availability of our regular front of the church pew. Extra people meant the church filled up fast- we loved that the lost and sinful world made it to church on their annual march to appease our christian deity but not enough to sacrifice our regular seating in the sanctuary. And mom and dad usually had to be there early to practice with the choir. There would be no slovenly slogging through the Sunday anthems for the unwashed on Easter! It was time to put on the best show of the year.

Church was achingly slow. Correction it was always achingly slow so-- well, worse than achingly slow. No time for egg hunting prior to morning cleansings, so feet fidget and hands flitter, as children writhe on wooden benches, anxious for easter egg hunts and chocolate bunnies. Pastel striped straw baskets sit on kitchen tables virtually virgin as the children's perusal was interrupted to prevent distraction from what was really important: This was the day the Lord had made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.


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