He is Risen!
Easter has certainly evolved for me through the years. Mainly, the reason for this is a change in denomination.
I grew up in a Southern Baptist church. The Dane grew up Lutheran. When we first got married, we decided that church was something that was going to be very important to us. We also decided that rather than go to two different churches, we would try out several of both denominations to see which one we would choose together.
We had a lot of interesting experiences (to say the least). At one small Baptist church that preached hellfire and brimstone, the Pastor told us, “Let me know what I can do to help you find the right church.” I was so stunned. There wasn’t the customary, “We certainly would like for you to come back next Sunday.” I felt like he might as well have said, “Get the hell out.” We didn’t need a second visit there to know that it wasn’t the right one for us.
We spent the first year of our marriage trying to find the right fit. Somewhere along the way, a lady that my husband worked with invited us to a pancake dinner at her church. We attended the dinner and knew right away that we were in the right place. For me, this meant a lot of changes as our new church was Lutheran.
There are several things that I find I like much better about the Lutheran faith. I love the concept of being saved by Grace. As a Baptist, I struggled with “being saved.” As a kid, I got saved at every revival, every Vacation Bible School and twice during this film series that I attended as a very small girl (a story for another day). Back then, I was always afraid that when I wasn’t good, I somehow lost my salvation. The concept of being saved by Grace makes so much more sense. As a fallible human, I understand that there is nothing that I can do to deserve it; therefore, nothing I can do to lose it.
Another concept I like is the idea of Sinners and Saints. As a Lutheran, I am both. As a Baptist, I was forever one and never the other.
Don’t get me wrong, there are things about my Baptist background that will never change. That whole Rapture thing. Yeah, I still believe in that whole-heartedly! And it has been a huge adjustment to come to the understanding that in a Lutheran church there is never any mention of the Rapture, because in a Baptist church that’s like the main thing.
Communion is slightly different, as in the Baptist denomination, it’s symbolic “In Remembrance of Me.” For Lutherans the Body and Blood of Christ are “truly and substantially present” in consecrated bread and wine, so Lutherans eat and drink both the bread and wine and the true Body and Blood of Christ himself. This wasn’t a big stretch for me, because I actually believed it was more than symbolic if blessed by an ordained minister, symbolic is blessed by a lay pastor. I know it’s quite a technicality, but somewhere along the line I learned that and it became a foundational belief.
Easter is the one area where things are VERY different for me in the Lutheran church. Baptists didn’t (at least none of the churches I attended) participate in the Fat Tuesday Feasts or Lent. And I had never heard of Maundy Thursday until The Dane told me about a Maundy Thursday Service he attended. I didn’t understand what “The Passion” meant until I took a class in college. Certainly Baptist teach all the same elements, but it’s presented very differently.
As a Lutheran, there are a lot of activities at our church. We have a Fat Tuesday/Shrove Tuesday dinner of pancakes (not the same pancake dinner we originally attended) and bacon. At this service, we also have the burning of the previous years palms, which are used for the ash on Ash Wednesday; we have Lenten services and really do give up things for Lent; we wave Palms on Palm Sunday – one year we even had a donkey; on Maundy Thursday, we have a program; we have a service on Good Friday (and all the services from Palm Sunday to Good Friday are very somber); on Good Friday, for the last few years, we’ve had a prayer labyrinth (really awesome) and then there is a big service for Easter Sunday with lots Easter Lilies and jubilation.
As a kid in the Baptist church, I remember the Easter Egg hunt on Saturday before Easter and then a HUGE Easter service (where my grandmother made sure that we wore our new dresses, white gloves, Easter bonnets, toted our new white purses and wore our patent-leather white Mary-Jane’s for the first time of the year, which we could then wear until Labor Day). I don’t want to belittle the Baptist faith. The Baptist celebrate the Resurrection of Christ as the greatest gift and that’s the focus. Baptist crosses do not have Christ on them because He has been Resurrected and is forever off the cross. It’s quite different in the Lutheran church and there are often symbols with Christ on the Cross until after Easter, because symbolically, He is back in the tomb until Easter Sunday when He is Resurrected.
There are good reasons for the practices on both sides; however, having been on both sides now, I believe that my understanding has grown by going through the Lenten season. For me, it is the contrast between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection that makes what God gave us such an immeasurable gift. Maybe I’ll never understand the full weight of what Jesus went through to give us that gift, but I’m certain glad He did.
He is Risen, Indeed!