In my experience, Easter Sunday is a fairly scripted event. For weeks, the choir has been practicing special music, perhaps a cantata. Extra bulletins have been printed since there may be visitors to the church, those Christmas-and-Easter Christians we are always talking about. Additional worshipers means that preparing and serving communion will take longer. There may be a bit of exhaustion—Holy Week services have drawn us into the agonies of Jesus’ last days. Pastors may have bags packed, ready to head out for a few days after all the extra work.
Easter has been coming, and we’ve made sure to be ready.
The readings for Good Friday conclude with tender and brave acts of love (John 19:38-42). Both Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are cautious—Joseph is a secret disciple of Jesus, and Nicodemus had come to Jesus in the night, perhaps with a hood over his head and looking over his shoulder the whole way. Yet these two hesitant men demonstrate courage.
When Jesus moves away from the table, strips down, and ties a towel around his waist (John 13:4), I don’t think he is thinking about how stinky James’s feet always are, or about the bunions that have been growing on Matthew’s foot as they made their way to Jerusalem. Rather, he is in the process of inviting the disciples into the most wonderful life imaginable—one in which love, intimacy, and humble service bring both deep delight and freedom from trivialities.
I remember I stopped dead in my tracks. I had been walking along the flat, dark shale bed of the ravine behind my grandfather’s farmhouse in southern Indiana. There on the ground, still in perfect alignment, lay the skeleton of a cow that had wandered away one winter many years ago and had slipped and fallen into the ravine. The bones lay in precise order—the head bone connected to the neck bone, the neck bone connected to the back bone, and so on.