Lent to Easter

Jeff&JoI’m grateful, as I hope you are, for the pastors who shepherd the flock at Guilford Park Presbyterian Church. Jo and Jeff do a good job, week in and week out – planning services, leading committees, tending our sick and lonely, counseling, teaching, and all the other many and varied parts of their ministries. But this year I’m particularly appreciative of the way they planned our Walk to the open tomb of Easter morning. Working with our music leaders and lay leaders, they planned the most meaningful and thoughtful Lent I can recall.

Often we don’t really get to appreciate the flow and significance of those 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday that we call Lent. I recall many years when the best I could hope for was to have the children in church on Easter in decent clothes and maybe be able to sing the special music with the choir. Sometimes illness, grief or other troubles cloud our perspective. I was more aware this year, when Jeff placed the ashen cross on my forehead, that I was beginning a Walk.

An early class in which Jo talked about Lent being a time a service helped me appreciate our Lenten Food Challenge. Focusing on the hungry people that Jesus so loved grounded the coming cross and open tomb in the reality of human suffering and redemptive love. A marvelous study in the Westminster Class brought to life the last days of Jesus’ own Walk.

And finally, the services of Holy Week were rich with challenge and inspiration. The hosannas of Palm Sunday and the parade of children waving their palms were given perspective by Jeff’s sermon on the humble King riding on a donkey, eschewing military or political might for the gentle power of love, compassion, and forgiveness. We came to the table on Maundy Thursday, led by Jo and Sarah in graceful and expressive dance, to recall Jesus’ last meal with his friends and see in them our own confusion and cowardice.

On Friday the stark emptiness of the sanctuary, with only the simple shades of purple-hued banners stamped with footprints, set the tone for Jeff’s powerful reading of Jesus’ trial and execution. We walked with Jesus through unspeakable torture and injustice, pondering the hell Jesus experienced and searching for a hopeful message. And it came: That in Jesus’ journey through hell God established for all time that God can and will redeem all of creation.

And so our Walk through Lent has led us to the open tomb of Easter; to triumphant music, celebratory banners, flowers on the cross, and the joy of the children. Thank you, Jeff and Jo.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen.

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