Easter Sunday, April 24, 2011
At a Glance:
• Return to the “Castle Church”
• Dance, Dance, Wherever You May Be
• I amended Easter Dinner grace
• A beautiful example of tradition
I was torn where to be Easter Sunday. Part of me wanted to return to our home church. The other part had resolved to the fact that we are on a mission: the Sabbath Sabbatical. And, although it would be easy to go home, I know that the Lord’s callings rarely include creature comforts, they are about sharing Christ’s love. While I was yo-yoing, my daughter unknowingly made up my mind for me when she said that we were going to the Kalamazoo First United Methodist Church — our home church!
We showed up a half hour early and the sanctuary was nearly full. As often the case at First Church (as it is commonly referred to), everyone was dressed in their Sunday-best. On the altar, was a large cross made from Easter Lilies; each flower sponsored by a member of the church in memoriam of a passed loved one.
“Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.”
In true First Church spirit, not only was the congregation and sanctuary decked out, but so was the music program. The Minister of Music, Jackie Stilger, the organist, Bernie Foulk, the choir and invited musicians made for a world class ensemble. The choir, in full regalia, entered the sanctuary from the narthex, proceeded down the nave, then, when nearing the altar, split with half of them going to the outer left aisle and the others going right heading towards the back, both reconvening in the rear and then repeating this procession while singing, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” At the end of the hymn and after the choir had entered their loft, which flanks the altar, I noticed the guest musicians upfront. That is when I recognized the trumpeter: it was Erin Yanacek from The Parish Church. She was joined with a fellow brass blower and a pair of tympani tappers.
After lighting the peace candle, we passed the peace of Christ to one another where my family and I were welcomed back by many of the members. Some, being avid readers of this blog, asked how the journey has been, while others asked where we have been. For such a large church in both architecture and congregation, we are a family.
After taking our seats, the Easter Resurrection candle was lit and we read aloud our proclamation which ended with the ultimate, “Alleluia, Christ is risen; Christ has risen indeed!” Even though it is impossible to followup a statement like that, we were moved to our feet with a vivacious version of, “Lord of the Dance.” No, not Michael Flatley’s international dance troupe, but the 1963 folk song written by Sydney Carter. Although video below does not represent the choral portrayal we performed, it is an excellent execution of the folk rendition:
I have heard many people attempt to summarize the gospel, but none have inspired me more than two sentences from Reverend John Boley’s sermon, “And the Earth Shook” (in fact, I amended my Easter Dinner prayer to include them!). Though the title speaks to the events of Good Friday as outlined in Matthew’s gospel when Christ gave up his spirit, the sermon carried forward and culminated with these two lines: “The world did all it could do to Christ on the cross. God did all he could for the world on Easter.”
“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open.”
This church is what I think of when I think of church. It is formal, yet friendly; elegant, yet welcoming; large, yet comforting. The weekly services are professional: the sermons are studied and the music massaged, coalescing in a wonderful Christian experience. If you want to witness a traditional and exceptional service pay a visit to the Kalamazoo First United Methodist Church.