Easter, in this strange year, had been so long in coming. Visiting the vital black church of Zion Baptist on the Minneapolis northside, had helped. Their worship so informal, so personal, so genuinely “full of the Spirit.” On two different Sundays, with the worship leader broken in tears, having been caught up in passionate, tearful prayer. I had been prompted by my wife – and the Spirit through her – to walk the side aisle to the pulpit steps to just kneel with the preacher and hold his hand, and on the next Sunday Molly herself strode down the aisle and knelt before the woman who had prayed. We were simply drawn, to act out our sympathy, and stand by these fellow Christians.
And, our four weeks of Lenten Bible Study on Thursdays of March had turned out to be high time of the Spirit there, at the Hilltop Restaurant in the hour of sunrise. We read the passages of Jesus’ ministry, leading to the cross, and people told their stories of God in their life 'mid both tears and laughter. A truly “mountaintop” experience for me.
But now it was Easter. The Day had come. We had made our way to church, been checked in through the new protocol. Some, standing in the common, greeted us. Everyone was feeling the wonderful sense of “Home,” after all those months of church by TV, staying at home, watching an earnest TV preacher, or managing local church by Zoom, still not quite “family,” or the beloved community of the church as dear and loving “band of brothers – and sisters” walking together, sharing their lives and being that 17th century Puritan vision of the “city on a hill, with the eyes of the world upon us” – the vision of the servant people with a call to begin again, in a new land and to serve the world from that great, looming continent.
But then we reached the east door to our favorite part of the Meetinghouse, at the first row, below the “box pew,” facing in toward the pulpit.
Suddenly, just before entering the open door, we became aware of a couple standing there, as ushers, to direct us to our seats. I knew them. She was a lovely young woman, a confirmation student of mine, now a grown woman and mother, serving the church as an usher “captain” but now nestled with her father. “Oh Dick,” I said, “how are you? We have just learned of Jill’s death, so sudden, it has seemed not possible.”
Tears came to them both. “It was esophageal cancer, only six weeks between her diagnosis and her death.” And his mid-life daughter said, “We are just holding each other up, as best we can.”
It was Easter Day, the “Day of Resurrection,” of Jesus’ triumph over death and the grave, and here was their family, stricken by a sudden death of the wife and mother, whom we had seen so shortly ago, walking up the aisle in her almost young stride, now gone.
We touched briefly, sharing their loss, and went to our seats, ourselves stricken, at the paradox of it all – with the day of victory, shadowed by death of one so dear and near.
The pictured has lingered long, of still young father and his grown daughter, weeping in the doorway to church, on the day of the Christian hope. It seemed so hard – yet the victory was not blotted out. They were there, on the Victory Day, clinging to the cross and to each other – visibly declaring the truth of the Christian hope. “We are holding each other up,” the daughter said.
We know we will all come to that day, when we will learn how real it will be for us, and for all people of faith. The picture is so vivid, of father and daughter, carrying on.
It is the cross and empty tomb that charge us all to carry on, to hold each other up by faith in Jesus, coming to help each of us to be victorious, with Him.
May we all be victorious in this great reality of life.
Love to you, from Arthur
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES