Were You There?

My friend’s 15 year old son calls them two-timers. More historically, the term has been “C and Es” as in those who come to church on Christmas and Easter. But I like the double entendre of two timers as in people who are posing as one thing -people of faith- but are living another reality. “I’m spiritual but don’t like organized religion” or “I find God in my garden” or “It’s just too hard to get everyone there on one of my mornings off”.  Then why come on the biggest day of the year? Does anyone watch just the first and last episodes of American Idol or Survivor? Would you really care who won the recording contract if you didn’t see the bad songs and out of the ballpark arrangements along the way? If you don’t do it for television why do it for God? I mean does the story make any sense at that point? The last time you heard about Jesus he was a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes (whatever those are), lying in a manger. Now he is being nailed to a cross and left to die. The Jesus story is a pretty big leap of faith anyway but to hear just the beginning and the end, with no meat in the middle, would really blow my mind. Do the two-timers know Jesus struggled with the Devil? Do they know he asked God to stop this if possible? Do they know Jesus rode in to town on a donkey just seven days before his crucifixion with a mob of people celebrating him as King?

I don’t like Easter. There I said it. Blasphemous I know but walk with me here and imagine what Easter Sunday is like in the clergy spouse world. The preacher is out of family commission during Holy Week. There are at least twelve services to participate in and bulletins to proof. He has his own faith journey to ponder and then of course the 984 hands to shake on Easter morning is exhausting. Although we have separation of church and state, public schools have decided spring break should coincide with what we Christians call holy week (I am sure this is sheer coincidence). Each year as friends pack  for trips to the beach or one last hurrah on the fabulous snow out west, I answer the question “will you be here for Easter?”.  I have not perfected my poker face yet so people usually self correct and say oh yea of course. I feel a bit jealous. I should be used to it by now, 13 years into it. Plus in college there were no trips to Cancun or Ft. Lauderdale; spring break was spent doing two-a-day lacrosse practices, often in the snow or freezing rain of Providence.

Often I take the girls to my parents house outside of Washington DC. We do museums and monuments and they play with my Barbie clothes from the 70s. There are some very special outfits like a blue fur coat with silver piping and the ball gowns my mother crocheted out of baby yarn and mailed to Arizona for my grandmother to adorn with french knot roses. The two of them made 14 one year for birthday party favors and each girl left my house with a handmade treasure. I need to frame one to remind myself of the amazing talent and time these two women in my life gave to me. But this year I was not up for the drive to DC. We stayed close to home and did the Asheboro zoo, played tennis, and had our Granny visit us here. It was a good week, not a change of scenery but fun and easy.

I like Good Friday. I can’t remember when I have missed a service. I do remember going to some high church growing up which used so much incense I fell asleep for the service and cured myself of any need for smells or bells in my worship. I like Good Friday because you can’t miss the metaphor. The altar is stripped bare the night before, the crosses are covered in black tulle, the flowers and silver and all adornments are put away. The clergy and other participants where black robes, not white cottas to float through the air. No processional hymn, nothing. It is as if we have walked into a house that has been robbed. Familiar but different. Solemn, dark, cleared of clutter and value. Good Friday has my favorite hymn, a spiritual titled “Were you there”

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

It gets me every time. The tune is haunting, especially when the word tremble is sung. The notes are so low and quiet I want to look over my shoulder to see if someone is sneaking in to do harm. During this hymn, I can feel the finality of death. I am transported to the crucifixion, as one of the people who cheered for Jesus on Palm Sunday and denied him a few days later. I am in the field owned as property, picking tobacco leaves and hearing the crack of a whip land on my neighbors flesh. I am listening to doctors say there is another cancer growing inside your child and we don’t know why.  These stories don’t skip from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. They sit in sorrow and pain, trying to answer the question, “why me?”. I tremble thinking of them.

 But I have never had a Good Friday without an Easter Sunday. I know we will roll away the stone to see an empty tomb. We will hire the horns and timpani and buy a bagillion white lillies and sing “Hail thee Festival Day” and “He is Risen” and wear hats and eat sugar and ham and lamb and rejoice. And we will shout Alleluia the Lord is Risen indeed.

I take it back. I do like Easter. I depend on it everyday. I just feel alone on Easter morning. I am jealous of the people who have family members saving them pews or who were organized enough to put flowers on the mite box so their child would be proud of their contribution.  I want to complain about sitting in a different part of the church or having to do baskets, breakfast, brunch, dresses, hair, parking, pictures, post sugar meltdown alone. And I hate myself for feeling anything but joyous. I feel like a two timer. I have my dress and my smile and my very unchristian thoughts about the woman sitting in my pew.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. honest and wonderful, once again.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Lisa on April 26, 2011 at 6:45 am

    You amaze me…and I’m sure many other women out there. You do it alone and have a smile on your face. Thank you for honesty and ability to express yourself so eloquently. I love you Mel~

    Reply

  3. Sooze put me on to you. Nice stuff.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Lovely on May 1, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    I am so glad I did not show up on C and E with my out of town family members. Not only was I not welcome, as I suspected, you were judging me.

    Reply

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