I was up too late last night. We didn't get home until about 9:30, and between getting Evan settled down, doing some house tasks, setting up the coffee for the morning (can't forget the coffee!) and blogging about Easter Vigil, I didn't get to bed until about 11:30. The alarm went off at 4:45 a.m., and by 6:00 Phil, Trevor and I were en route to church for our 6:10 a.m. choir warm-up call. (Caitlin stayed home with Evan, who was picked up a few hours later by Pastor's wife; the bad news is that Caitlin is still running a fever and had to stay home.)
Services were at 6:30, 8:30, 10:00 and 11:30; the first three included adult choir and full brass, and the 11:30 service featured children's choir and youth brass. Easter breakfast was served from 7:00 to 10:00, and an Easter egg hunt was staged on the church grounds at 10:45 a.m. We were blessed with a slightly cool but beautifully sunny day for the hunt.
Here are some of the hunters waiting for the starting "gun." (Evan is in stripes in the front; notice he is the only child in short sleeves. He had a coat but his space cadet of a mom left it inside.)
The hunt is on!
Me and the Cantor, a little bleary-eyed after a long morning, but still not looking too bad if I do say so myself.
It was a stunning morning. The choirs and musicians outdid themselves, but far more important, the Easter Gospel was read and preached and the Lord's faithful fed at His table. From where I sat, there were only two downsides to the day. One, already mentioned, was that my daughter did not get to attend any Easter services. She came down with a fever Friday night and in fact sang her solo (see Good Friday post) while rapidly going down hill. She has been in bed ever since. When I called her from church this morning to check in, she started crying on the phone, devastated that she was missing worship this weekend, of all weekends. She wanted to run, like Peter and John, to the tomb to find her Lord! I told her that whether she was at church or home in bed, she could rejoice that Christ is risen! She responded as Christians throughout the ages always have: "He is risen indeed! Alleluia!"
The second not merely sad but tragic event was the death of one of our congregation's elders on Good Friday. He was only 42 years old and had suffered for years from a tumor pressing on his spine. Even people in our congregation who did not know him well recognized him as the smiling sacristan that did not let the need for a cane prevent him from assisting with Communion. Neil was one of those people whose cheerful outlook in the face of great adversity is an example of faith for us all. Over the years he experienced several periods of responsiveness to treatment, but finally the cancer was responsive no more, and Neil went to be with his Savior. He is survived by his wife Holly and an 8-year-old daughter, Laura.
The moment of Neil's death came during the Communion liturgy of our Friday afternoon service; when I heard a bell ringing during the Words of Institution I had a flashback to my Roman Catholic days, when bells ringing during Communion were a matter of course. This bell, however, was Pastor's cell phone, which he had forgotten to turn off before church. I can't help wondering if the Holy Spirit had a hand in that oversight. It turned out the call was from Holly, letting Pastor know that Neil's earthly battle was over. There were many tears shed this morning as news of Neil's death spread, but they were tears not just of grief but also of great joy, for there is no doubt in the mind of anyone who knew this steadfast layman that he is today enjoying eternity with his Father in heaven. And because of Jesus' victory on the cross, we who cling to that cross can join Neil and all the saints in heaven and on earth in saying, "Oh grave, where is thy victory? Oh death, where is thy sting?"
We got home at about 1:30. Lunch was frozen pizza. Then the grown-ups enjoyed a nap. Now I am enjoying the sounds of Evan and his dad having a water gun fight in the back yard. Does it get any better? To all my readers: a most blessed Easter season to you. And to think the celebration has just begun!