Monday, April 13, 2009

Christ is Risen! It's "Hallelujah!" time in Nashville

Wow! Yesterday was SUCH a DAY! ! !

This Sunday of celebrating the Resurrection of the Nazarene commenced with my attending Sunrise Service and Breakfast at First Lutheran Church in downtown Nashville. (My current home church lacks a Sunrise Service.) It was very liturgical -- e.g., lots of standing and kneeling, recitation of the Nicene Creed and giving each other the Sign of Peace. "Liturgical" hardly bothers yours truly, however. And this Sunrise Service also had plenty of great, good-quality music and song! In addition to the congregation's choir, we had a choir visiting from Oslo, Norway. In addition to organ and piano, we had an eight-piece chamber orchestra. At times one of these elements did a "solo" performance, at times on varying combos. And they probably all collaborated at one point or another. The finale was "Hallelujah!" (commonly spoken of as the Hallelujah Chorus, from Handel's "Messiah") and it was, well, a "hallelujah!" moment!

A delicious breakfast followed in the fellowship hall downstairs. Then I bused across town to Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples). I was a little late for Sunday School, which choir director Julie Duemler facilitated. (Pastor Jay is involved with Associate Pastor Michael, in a "Pastor's Class" for young people in ECC.) Our topic was the first written account of the Resurrection, Mark 16:1-8. We discussed the well-known and generally-accepted fact that this Gospel originally ended at verse 8, with the women fleeing the empty tomb, afraid! And what does such an abrupt ending to the story signify? What did Mark intend? How does it draw the reader (or hearer) of Mark into the story and pose the question: how do YOU complete this story?

Then it was time for Julie and choir members to leave, to practice in the adjacent choir room. We actually practiced THREE specials for today's Worship: a sung call to worship and a Closing "Thine Is the Glory" as well as the Anthem "The Strife Is O'er". All included accompanists in addition to organist-pianist Marie Wiggins. These were Gene Lovelace on trombone and Joseph Hartley on trumpet. None of the pieces may have matched Handel's "Hallelujah!", but all were impressive and uplifting and JOYFUL nevertheless!

And we got TWO excellent sermons! The children's message, led by Saundra Horner, featured expressions of excitement about the meaning of this most special day of the Christian Year. The children's remarks -- some as responses to Saundra's questions and some ad lib -- built the message. The children drew ALL present into the excitement of the Resurrection! (Saundra later told me that she had intended that the children DO the message; she was simply facilitator.) As I listened and observed, I considered Jesus' insistence that one must have the mind of a child in order to get into Heaven.

Pastor Jay's sermon touched me deeply, too, if in a somewhat different way. He really underlined the meaning of our celebration of Christ's Resurrection, by a series of illustrations. Each illustration presented something or somebody dead (or as good as dead or deeply hurting) that experienced a return to life or a renewal of life. One was the organ, which got fried last summer (a lightning storm just after I arrived in Nashville), and was "declared dead" in a letter from a repairman. BUT NOW it's performing again! Another was last Wednesday's East Nashville Cooperative Ministry Lenten luncheon hosted by our church. Far fewer folks attended than had been expected, and so a huge amount of catered food(which was de-e-e-elicious!) was left over and threatening to go to waste and be a liability rather than a profit or break-even for the caterer. And with some quick messaging from the church we had an impromptu church supper of leftovers (also de-e-e-elicious!) the next evening before our Maundy Thursday Worship done with East End UMC. And so. . . what could have been a disaster got "resurrected" into a "extra" event for us!

In the same way, Christ's Resurrection turned the disaster and tragedy of the crucifixion into that which gives meaning to the Christian faith!

A point that Pastor Jay made in conjunction with these examples, as with the Resurrection of the Savior, is that what is resurrected is not necessarily the same as what was lost in the first place! This struck me as an excellent point, considering that the body of the Risen Lord was obviously different in some ways from the one put to death on the cross of Golgotha! His closest followers didn't immediately recognize him. And he could pass thru locked doors and come and go at will -- and yet could eat food and allow doubters to touch the wounds!

Pastor Jay mentioned also that hope is a theme, even THE theme, for today. Hope!

To which I'd say, "Amen!"

No comments: