Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sunday, Easter Sunday

Such a pastoral scene here in this Lutheran church in the heart of Minnesota (Garrison Keillor-land). But scratch the surface and the Good Friday/Easter weekend is fraught with connections and complications: cruelty, betrayal, torture, darkness,
(Grunewald, Eisenheim Altarpiece, 16th century)

then eggs, fluffy bunnies and roll away the stone. Fertility symbols and bloody thorns. Interesting how intimate this holy-day is with the Jewish Passover, the setting for the Last Supper, a seder.
(Jacopo Bassano, 16th century)
Indeed, the date of Easter is dependent on where Passover falls in the Hebrew lunar calendar. Yet I grew up without really comprehending Jesus’s Jewishness, much less his mother Mary’s.

The pastor’s sermon is a riff on a small purple crocus giving a man hope and faith after a long dark winter. The congregation’s children gather at the altar for their own special service where each is given a plastic egg and exhorted to wait, wait, all together now: open! Oh, NO – a mass sigh lifts to the rafters - empty eggs!
This very emptiness is where Easter finds its meaning - the body having left the tomb! - they are told while many small fingers click and clack the empty egg-halves. Finally a large basket of candy is hauled to the altar, staving off a general uprising.

He is risen; they have candy.

(Grunewald, Isenheim Altarpiece)
I worry about the kids who have chocolate-sugar-food-coloring issues. I worry about the kids who cling to their parent’s sides and don’t go up to join the group. Until the candy comes out, that is. Then a strange dance: run up, grab egg, run back to parent, open, look around (chagrined), sit and fiddle until the basket of candy appears, run up, grab candy, run back. Is this fair? One of the shy little boys, about four years old, spends most of the service in his mother’s arms. Then when she stands to sing a hymn, he sits on the bench behind her and slips his head between her legs, over and over until he bumps his head and gets teary whereupon he goes back up in her arms. I am transfixed. A voyeur hiding behind a hymnal.

Here’s what we used to wear for Easter in Duluth: We would shop and plan our outfits for weeks: new hats, anklets, purses, shoes, corsages. My mother would sew our dresses. Now I see jeans in church. JEANS on EASTER! If the woman in front if me had worn a proper dress, her clingy child wouldn’t have been able to slide his head between her legs. As easily, anyway.

Not that I'm wearing a dress, either. But I have proper pants on, not JEANS!

The communion service offers a selection: red or white, wine and grape juice, respectively. Some churches have given up wine altogether which makes me wonder: What Would Jesus Think? White grape juice running through his veins? Obviously I must push my imagination to its limits to grok the radical new church. They have real bread here, too, standing in for the “body,” a round crusty loaf, not the dry wafers of yore that disintegrated on the tongue like old acidy paper. But have these bread-tearers and dispersers properly washed their hands? Really, when you think about it, church is a mine-field.

Much safer later on the deck with dessert, the only real hazards being my annoying brother Dan, the mother who loves him, badminton, Ali's tortoise, and the spring swamp filled with noisy crazy burgeoning life.

And last but not a bit least, a little Skype brings the family together the new old-fashioned way:

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