Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Amid the Easter Lilies

I greeted familiar faces when entering my hometown congregation with my parents, husband and children on Easter Sunday. Then I read familiar names on the listing of lily memorials. This year the display of lilies looked nearly identical to displays of Easters past; its accompanying list read like a roll call of those I remembered filling the sanctuary when I was a child, then youth, and finally, a young woman.

The list testified to my kindred status. Of the 32 memorials on the lily list, I knew 26 of the individuals who were being memorialized or the people who had given a lily in remembrance. I was in a place where I was known. The members of this congregation helped host my confirmation and marriage celebrations. In an authentic way, I am known by them as surely as those on the Easter lily memorial list are now fully known.

Flowers for the faithful. A great cloud of witnesses.

Beyond the floral tribute, the hymns that outlined my Easter Sunday service walked me through a faith life that has, at times, been buried and then raised again in a newer version of life.

“Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” surely this hymn is sung on Easter Sunday in every congregation that expresses belief in a crucified and risen savior called Jesus, the Christ. I cannot remember an Easter Sunday that did not have this hymn as part of its soundtrack. I cannot imagine an Easter Sunday without it.

“Lord of All Hopefulness,” a hymn that shares the same tune as “Be Thou My Vision.” The earliest “vision” version became my favorite hymn when I was just a girl of 12 or 13, brimming with self-assurance and aspirations yet old enough to recognize a need for divine focus. I understood I needed to temper my tendency for selfish ambition. Divine vision is what I longed for and is still what I need. As for the later “hopefulness” version, I discovered it while attending the Lutheran college that shaped my recognition of what it meant to live out a vocational calling. This version reassured me that divine vision was as close as the break of my day, the noon of my day, the eve of my day and even the end of my day. Best of all, hopefulness and joy go hand-in-hand in this version. Blessed assurance, indeed.

“Beautiful Savior” is the hymn lovingly recalled by alumni of the choir associated with the college that I have been affiliated with the majority of my adult life. Because it strikes such deep emotional chords with those who have shaped the institution, it now bears significance for me as well. It is a legacy hymn, sung by generations who continue to sing it with longing and love.

“He Lives.” I heard my father-in-law’s voice singing this hymn within seconds of its opening notes. Its bouncy melody calls for an echo, reminding me of visits to the congregation of my husband’s earlier years where men enjoyed providing the refrain in low, reverberating tones. The tune elicits memories for my husband that do not match my memories. We, as unique creations, entertain unique responses with a Creator to whom we are individually known.

The meaning of Easter is colored in hues that span the breadth and depth of life’s spectrum. This year I was reminded who I am and to whom I belong. I am different from the girl who first looked upon displays of Easter lilies, wondering. I now look upon them with wonder. I live an Easter life filled with hope and joy. That is my vision at the end of this day.

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