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Reflecting on Easter Past

Over more than 50 years of church ministry, our challenge was to make each Easter season come alive for the congregation. The story of the death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus is so powerful, it truly speaks for itself. But in re-telling it each year, our hope was to make it freshly relevant for each generation.

However, the re-telling of this amazing story, must not obfuscate the truth. Further, all efforts were made to not bury this incredible miracle under a blanket of dead liturgy or stagnant ritual. This challenge required much prayer and study of the Word. The results were mixed.

Not long after the Easter season was past, planning began for the next year. In this way, our minds were fresh from the season, and we had plenty of time for prayerful thought. Our church placed the focus on six key meetings of Passion Week.

Palm Sunday usually featured the children’s palm parade with special music that reminded us of the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. We always had real palm branches and the children dressed in traditional Bible-times attire. Occasionally, we had a live donkey come down the aisle. Not the best idea.

Palm Sunday evening was given to a Bible study of the events of the upcoming Passion week. Sometimes we used a panel discussion, guest speaker, or video to present the material. This was followed by small groups discussion and prayer.

Wednesday evening my message dealt with the Old Testament prophecies regarding the betrayal, trial, Crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus. People were amazed at all the prophecies that were fulfilled during Passion week.

The candlelight Good Friday service offered the old “Blood” hymns, and the service of Communion. Other elements of the service may have included the Living Lord’s Supper, a candle-light walk of Biblical events, responsive readings, original drama presentations, or serving of the Passover Seder Meal. Sometimes, an old nail was given to attendees as they left the sanctuary.

One year, we presented an original drama where we performed a “CSI-style” forensic investigation of the Calvary “crime scene.” We had the “crime scene” on the platform sealed off with yellow crime tape, and placed numbered ID markers on the floor where the “evidence” served as our message outline.

The 40-minute Easter Sunday sunrise service presented the old hymns, Scripture reading of the Resurrection story, special acoustical music, and a brief message. It was usually outside (weather permitting), and was followed with coffee and pastries.

The Easter Sunday morning service was a joyful and victorious service where either the choir/praise team would present a full-length musical or I would preach. The platform would be decorated with Easter lilies that had been purchased in memory of or in honor of loved ones. Good memories!

Being retired, I miss preparing for Easter in the manner I have done for so many years. It was the best time of the year for the church.

Thanks for letting me remember. Happy Resurrection Day!

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