My Good Friday started early.
At our church, I switched out the purple cloth on the cross to a black cloth.
Later that morning, the Commander Supreme and I would be driving to Summerfield, North Carolina.
Our oldest daughter, and her family were hosting the Pike side of the family for a Easter gathering and Easter egg hunt on Saturday afternoon.
The Commander Supreme and I drove separately. That would allow me to return to Richmond late on Saturday afternoon so I could be available to help at Trinity for our four services on Easter Sunday.
Aside from a low tire pressure warning light showing up on my dashboard, my drive was uneventful.
From that tire warning light, I learned the following: on a road trip, always have a tire pressure gauge and quarters.
We had a good family gathering on Saturday afternoon. Our one living uncle Harry and his wife, Carol, were there, and it was good to see cousins who I hadn’t seen recently.
The kids enjoyed the Easter egg hunt. In the weeks ahead, I expect a few undiscovered eggs will be found around the yard.
When we drive to Summerfield, we take what I call the back way. The main roads are U. S. Highways—60, 360, 58, and 29.
Truthfully, there isn’t much to see along this route. Lots of small towns whose names have “ville” in their spelling—Danville, Turbeville, Keysville, Farmville, Burkeville, Jetersville.
Coming back on Saturday, in the outer city limits of Danville, I started counting churches. I’m sure I missed a few, but as I neared U. S. 60 in Powhatan County, I stopped counting. At that point, I was in the mid-twenties.
And with that I asked my curious questions about these churches—what was planned for Easter, how were these small, rural churches holding up, will they still be around next Easter?
Back at the house, I unloaded, fixed something to eat, and headed for bed.
Sunday morning would come early. The sunrise service had a 6:30 start time.
I opened up the church. Next, I headed to the front lawn to transition the cross from the black cloth to chicken wire. The chicken wire would allow the congregation to add fresh flowers to the cross.
I’ll admit, the tangled chicken wire tried my patience.
Yet, we made it through all four services, and attendance was good.
We saw new faces, faces we hadn’t seen during the pandemic, and the tried and true.
The highlight was the modern worship service with lots of young families and their children.
Just like Christmas services, the challenge for churches following Easter Sunday is always this— how do we lure all those people back into the building?
The plain hard truth is that many will not be back the next Sunday, or the one after that. In fact, in some instances, it will be Christmas before they return.
Why is that?
Maybe churches burn so much energy on Easter Sunday that they forget about the next Sunday. In truth, the next Sunday should be just as important as Easter Sunday.
Out on 58 and 360, there is lots of time to think, and here is something I asked myself related to Easter: Why can’t Easter Sunday become a permanent date?
Some years, Easter is in March. Other years, Easter is in April.
I’m sure there is a very carefully thought out process as to when Easter takes place.
For example, imagine if Easter was always the third Sunday in April. We would keep the forty days of Lent, but give Easter Sunday a permanent home.
I know the answer. Easter will never have a standing date.
A church change like that would mean the end of the world, and an assurance that Bill Pike will burn in hell.
On Thursday, April 21, I went out to the front lawn of the church to remove the weary flowers from the chicken wire wrapped cross.
I managed to untangle the chicken wire from the cross, and I returned it to the Eaton Hall mechanical room where it will rest until next year.
Despite trying to keep in shape, I struggled to pull the wooden cross out of the ground. My upper body strength is fading just like those flowers faded on the cross.
Once out of the ground, the cross felt heavier this year. The walk to the Eaton Hall mechanical room was an effort.
I angled the cross down the old concrete steps, slid it through the double doors, and into its resting place in the mechanical room.
Silently, I thought to myself, I wonder if I’ll be able to do this next year?
And in truth, that is part of my question for the hope that Easter is supposed to bring us.
Despite the hope of the cross, the life challenging headlines don’t stop for Easter.
I struggle with the Easter story every year.
I want its hope not to be a one and done day.
But it seems each year, we creep further and further away from the cross, and its hope.
Just like that low tire pressure warning light appeared on the dashboard of my car, the warning lights on the dashboard of the church have been flashing for a number of years.
And in truth there are warning lights flashing inside of me.
At times, I sense the pace of life pushes me to ignore those warning signals.
Maybe Easter is a warning light.
Perhaps, Easter is a reminder about how tough life can be when I fail to be patient, to listen, to be kind, to understand, and to love.
After all, wasn’t “to love one another” the essential take away from the short life of Jesus?