Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hang on for spring

Driving to church today, I thought, couldn't we just postpone the Easter season until it starts to feel like Easter?

It was a cold, gray day today. There has been little or no inkling that spring is just around the corner--or around any corner in this latitude. All the effort that goes into celebrating Easter and the Sundays after Easter seems wasted. It's like using a tiny space heater to heat the backyard.

Of course, we'd be in a pretty bad fix if we waited to celebrate Easter until we felt like it. That Easter feeling can come and go in a flash. I had it and lost it this afternoon while singing "Awake My Heart with Gladness." In stanza three, between "Now nothing ever saddens" and "The joy within my heart," I stopped feeling glad.

What happened? Well, I thought of things that do sadden my heart. I thought of dead loved ones, of loneliness and weakness and of how much energy it takes to push back gloom and find hope. Is it really there? Like crocuses or early tulips under the dead leaves? I haven't looked for those yet this spring.

I got back into the hymn in the stanza sung by the choir alone. The hymn writer's imagery is vivid in this verse. "My Lord will leave me never/Whate'er he passes through." Christ is on the move, but he's not leaving me? How can this be? Ah yes, this stanza starts with "I will cling forever/To Christ, my Savior true." I'm seeing myself hanging on for dear life, literally, as Christ charges through the dungeons of hell, breaking chains and crashing through prison gates. Yow! The hymn says "I follow him through all." In my mind, I'm like a cartoon character. My feet are not touching the ground.

The next--the final stanza--brings us to the heavenly gates. The transition seems abrupt. (Wonder how many of the original German verses were left out?) And it's not all warm, springtime, feeling happy about Easter. "Who there my crown has shared/Finds here a crown prepared/Who there with me has died/Shall here be glorifed!"

Sharing the cross, dying--that would include living through some cold and gloomy days in March--real ones and metaphorical ones.

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