This is the week we celebrate Easter or Passover. I am an Easter person and, of all the celebrations in the church, it is my favorite.
I have early memories of going to get a new Easter outfit and wearing it to church on Sunday morning. The dull colors of winter are replaced by the bright colors of spring. I love to see ladies in Easter hats.
It is the one Sunday when the church is generally packed. There are some people who show up that the FBI can’t find the rest of the year.
This year, there will be 10 people in the church and the rest of us watching online. It is so different, but we will survive and the good news of the risen Lord does not change.
For our Jewish friends, Passover is a big event for family and friends. My friend, David Reich, lives 13 miles due north of Times Square in Mount Vernon, New York.
“We gather to share the story of slavery in Egypt and the journey to freedom,” he said. “We even leave the door open to welcome the stranger to join us.”
But this year is different, with just David and his wife.
They asked the traditional four questions, which involve asking why they twice dip a vegetable in salt water, why they eat matzah (unleavened bread), why they eat bitter herbs and why the meat is roasted. The answers all relate to the Israelites leaving slavery in Egypt and going to the promised land.
For several years, we have had family and extended family and friends join us for Easter. There is traditionally way too much food and we pull out the good silver and china. This year, it will just be our immediate family. The folding tables will remain in their place and we will all fit comfortably in the dining room.
I have no doubt that our electronic worship service will include the great songs of Easter. I love them because the church sanctuary fills with voices like no other Sunday.
We sing “Low in the grave he lay,” which starts out as a dirge and ends up in a joyous march tempo. I love that song because I’ve heard it since before I was old enough to understand the words. I thought they were singing “Low in the gravy laid Jesus my Savior.” I was trying to figure out what Jesus was doing in the gravy in the first place.
We also sing “He Lives.” Which includes holding the words in the final lines for a bit of extra emphasis. “You ask me how I know he lives… He lives… within… my heart.”
It just doesn’t get much better than that.
We had the Maundy Thursday service online. This is the observance of what is often called “The Last Supper” with Jesus and his disciples. We observed the elements of communion at home. I’m glad that we did
Easter and Passover just aren’t the same without lots of people around. It doesn’t matter how we connect electronically, there is something about the presence of those you love that can’t be replaced.
My friend, David, tells me that the Jewish people have a traditional saying, “Next year in Jerusalem.”
He said they have adjusted it this year to “Next year together at home.”
He closed his note to me with a prayer that we all can say, “Please, God, may it be so.”
Amen, my friend, amen.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.