Ever had one of those days? The day got off to a bad start for Mary Magdalene and the other women who went with her to the tomb. What they encountered there left them dazed with wonder and fear, but somewhere, in the middle of it all, the music began and filled their lives. What had been a hardly dared for hope became a joyful reality. How could it not end with tears of joy and delight?
Easter Sunday morning was one of those days for me too, which means that this post takes on the form of a true confession. Along with two other retired priests, l serve Grace Episcopal Church in Dayton, Washington. This morning we had seventeen eager and joyful souls gathered for Easter Sunday worship. Music would make the day extra special. A friend of mine who teaches music at a local college recruited two of his top students to adorn our worship with their skills. So far so good. The first hint that this would not be a normal Sunday morning was my wife reminding me that worship was at 9:00, not 10:00, and I have no idea why 10:00 was stuck in my head because worship at Grace is always at 9:00. The second hint was the nagging suspicion that I had told the students to be sure to be there by 9:30 to get ready. It was true.
How do you stand in front of a congregation waiting for the service to start and tell them you blew it, on Easter of all days for crying out loud? Well, it’s best just to do it and face the music, or lack of it. Their response was to say OK, if we have to wait a bit tell us about the Great Vigil of Easter, tell us all about it. We did finally get underway without music, but just as I was about to begin my sermon, in walked our two musicians. How do you stand in front of a congregation and apologize to two befuddled college students who are not even Episcopalians and have never been here, or in any Episcopal church, before? Well, it’s best just to do it and face the music, and hope for it. The congregation gave them seventeen individual welcomes, they sat down and led us in through the opening hymn, and then the misplaced gospel hymn after my sermon, then a portion of their prelude during the offertory, and by now in sync, they led us in the closing hymn at the right time. Seventeen people then sat back down and listened to a virtuoso violin and piano duet. When it was over, seventeen pairs of eyes were wet with tears of joy and delight. What had been a hardly dared for hope became a joyful reality. How could it not end with tears of joy and delight?
Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!
It’s a good thing that great good news does not depend on pastors like me to get it right. Sometimes God’s messengers bringing that great good news look a lot like college students. Sometimes God’s grace makes itself known through seventeen people in a rural congregation bearing that very name.