Easter Renewal

My sister and I awoke that Easter morning in the frigid darkness. Snow was still piled up in banks on the sides of the roads that waited for us to make the three-mile trek into town. We stumbled around groggily in the darkness, shivering as we donned the outfits we’d picked out for this special occasion. In those days we still dressed up for church, wore our “Sunday Best” which, for us girls, always meant a dress. These occasions were the only times I could be guilted into wearing one and I cursed under my breath, knowing what was to come; frozen legs and feet and possibly slipping in front of everybody in my giant 2-inch heels as I cradled my prized trumpet. I didn’t own gloves and I thought about the sting of the cold metal on my bare hands.

We shuffled off into the car with Dad while we waited for Mom to finish the last few chores that needed to be done “in case someone stops by”. Our dad was the minister of the Congregational church in our small New England town, one of the more prominent denominations there. Ours was the big white church with the steeple that makes those calendars of quaint New England towns so charming.

We could feel Dad’s blood pressure rise as Mom passed by the front windows once, twice, three times… I hoped for her sake that Jesus hadn’t risen yet.

Finally we made our way to the golf course high on the hill where we would celebrate our Easter sunrise service. There was a little snow on the grass but only a layer of frost blanketed the 9th green, our appointed setting for the resurrection of the Christ. Dad was known to be pretty clever with props. I thought it would be a kick if he had Jesus suddenly materialize out of the ball cup like a genie from a bottle.

One after another, headlights illuminated the green as people drove up the hill and parked nearby. My friends and their parents wandered down looking as sleepy as I felt. I wondered if they had cursed this hour as much as I had.

We gathered around as the first morning light began to brighten the edge of the eastern sky behind the hilltop. Gradually, the features of the people’s faces came into greater relief and they didn’t look nearly as weary as they had at first and the colors of their special outfits became more vivid in the increasing light.

My father stepped forward and the scene grew quiet. In a low voice he began to tell the story of Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem to face his fate. He told us of the courage it took for Jesus to follow orders knowing that he had been ordained to die. The crowds had praised his arrival, but the celebration was short-lived. On the afternoon of what we now call “Good Friday”, he was martyred and crucified.

Our own crowd around the green was solemn. I wondered if it was merely the cold air that inspired some to sniffle quietly.

As the sky grew brighter almost in sync with the story, we shifted gears. A couple of teenagers on the other side of the green began to act out the next scene, pantomiming the rolling away of a huge stone from the tomb where Jesus’ body had been laid. The sniffles turned to giggles as we watched our peers take part guilelessly in this ritual.

From my spot on the edge of the crowd, I stood there taking it all in. I had heard the story every year since I was born but had never really “gotten” the meaning of Christianity, not in a way that gripped me. But on this morning as a participant in the service in the midst of a group of people who themselves had risen to be here for this remembrance, I felt the vibration of my soul declaring the importance of this moment, of this tremendous sacrifice. I understood why we were there and what Jesus had done on our behalf. My… God….

Without the warm-up I usually required, I raised my trumpet and led the singing of “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”, adding a descant on the second verse. I felt as though I were gleaming, almost like I, myself, had been transfigured. I’d seen paintings of angels playing their trumpets to herald the coming of the king… now, they felt real to me… even in me…

As time has passed and my father has been gone for nearly twenty years, I have fallen away from these moments. I moved to an area where the religious observances seem foreign to me, and I have generally developed a jaded view of “The Church”. I have watched as people have misinterpreted the sacrifice of Jesus, stripping away the purity of his gift to use for their own gain and to use as a weapon against others. The Jesus my father spoke of that day has become something of a monster to me, punishing and cruel to the very kinds of people he was said to have ministered to. I am one of those people.

But no matter how they try to twist the idea of Jesus’ life, no one can ever take that day away from me. No one can dim my transfiguration nor can they take away the relationship I came to have with Jesus. He popped out of the ball cup on the 9th green that day and has been with me ever since.

I used to keep Him in my trumpet case.

Now He lives in my golf bag…. 😀

  1. Kirsten Goss Ficklin
    April 3, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    Ellen,, this brought tears to my eyes,,, remembering your dad, Walpole and the Easter Sunrise Service….. you, lady, are a writer.

  2. Suzanne
    April 4, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    Ellen, you are one amazing lady……

  3. Karol Fenner
    April 5, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Yes, I remember, I was there too . .how blessed I’ve been with such wonderful family. Thanks for putting in in words!

  4. Tina
    April 6, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    And you say you don’t have “it” figured out…Peace lady – great story.

  5. April 25, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Very nice, Ellen! If Jesus played golf, would he wear those ugly pants? I’m just wondering…

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