Saturday, March 28, 2015

Holy Week & Children

It starts tomorrow, stretching ahead of us like a long and empty road, with obstacles hidden around each curve. For those of us who work in the church, and those of us who grew up in a liturgical tradition, Holy Week is our marathon:

  • Services on Palm Sunday - complete with palms and perhaps blessing of quilts created for the needy at home and abroad or Passion Sunday - cramming all the week's events into one service. 
  • Then, on Thursday, Maundy (Servant) Thursday, we unpack the Jewishness of Jesus as he celebrates Passover with his friends, the Institution of Holy Communion by Jesus during the Last Supper, and the Servant Leadership of Jesus as he washes the feet of his disciples. All of this concludes with stripping the church of all ornamentation so that on
  • Good Friday it will be stark and dark and sad as we re-tell the story of Jesus' excruciating death on the cross. In many churches Jesus' Seven Last Wordswill be solemnly read, followed by the toll of a bell and the extinguishing of candles to symbolize the departure of the Light of the World.
  • In some congregations, there will be an Easter Vigil on Saturday night, replete with fire and drums and darkness followed by light and noise and shouting. Then comes
  • Sunrise Service which, thanks to Daylight Savings Time regularly occurs in the dark and cold, and additional services attended by infrequently seen people and trumpets flourishes and devoted choir members singing their hearts out.
It. Is. Exhausting. 
It. Is, Amazing.

It is church at its best, and at its worst. And these days, it is often ignored by families with children because it is generally ignored by the rest of society. So the kids, if they are regular worship attenders, go from the high of Palm Sunday to the exultation of Easter Resurrection without ever passing through the valley of the shadow of death. And frankly, that's often more comfortable for us as parents. We don't have to answer difficult questions about death or face emotional responses from our children as they put it all together and realize that we, their most important people, will die. We don't like looking at our own mortality either.

I've been thinking about how parents and Sunday School Teachers should best approach this week. In the midst of my thinking,  I stopped and watched a Veggie Tales video called the Easter Carol. It was a droll parody of Dicken's Christmas Carol and most of its delightful humor would be entirely wasted on children BUT, as the Veggie folks so often do, they found a way to summarize the core message for children. And the message of Easter is HOPE.

And giving our children hope is one of our parenting tasks.
Giving people the sure and certain hope of the resurrection is one of the church's central tasks.

Hope is difficult to describe, but easy to recognize. Hope is the lengthening of daylight hours, the rising sap in the trees, the shoots pushing forth from the ground and the fruit trees blooming. It is watching our children grow, and the promise of things to come.

Easter brings the promise of our own resurrection. It seems to me that this is easier to understand in the full context of the week than as a stand-alone event. It seems easier to bring my children to church and let the leaders there help me and them to unpack these deep and difficult concepts. However, whether you go to church this week or not,  mark these days by speaking with your children (regardless of their ages) of fear and suffering and injustice and despair and death, and then remind them, and yourself, of the hope of resurrection. Hosanna & Alleluia!

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