Holy Week is barely behind us – a week that began with the celebration of Palm Sunday and continued through the intimacy of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday and the solemnity of Good Friday into the joy of Easter morning.
I find it incredibly interesting how the world around us has coincided with this liturgical progression this year. Palm Sunday was sunny, beautiful, warm (well … warm by March-in-Minnesota standards, anyway). By Maundy Thurs., we had all been driven to the intimacy of the indoors by colder temperatures and a blanket of snowfall. Good Friday was chilly, wet, overcast. It was a darker sort of day, both inside the church and out.
And then, by Easter evening, we had this:
And in that moment, when Peter and I were standing in our backyard marveling at the sunset with the boys in our arms, I kept having this hymn running through my head.
For the beauty of the earth,
For the splendor of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies,
God of all, to you we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.
Folliott Sandford Pierpoint (1835-1917), an English poet, was inspired to write these words by the beauty of a spring day in his native town of Bath, England.[i] He originally penned the words to this hymn intending for them to be used during communion – a way to infuse joy into a part of the service that was usually very solemn.
Just as Pierpoint intended to infuse the solemn and sacred ritual of the Lord’s Supper with an element of joy, so the joy and the miracle of Easter infuse our lives and hearts with joy, even in the midst of the solemn, the troublesome, the worn-out, and the mundane. In the miracle of Easter – in the elation of the unexpectedly empty tomb and the declaration of the Good News: HE IS RISEN! – we find a Light that cannot be extinguished. We find a Light more awe-inspiring even than the most stunning sunset the world has ever seen. We find a Light warmer and more life-giving that the brightest rays of sunshine. Into the solemnity of our days and worries and responsibilities, God injects the Light of Hope – hope in a life everlasting, hope in a Savior who came and died and rose again for our sake, hope in a future that is unknowable in the particulars but sure in grace.
“Our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and a good hope. May he encourage your hearts and give you strength in everything you do or say.” ~ 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
[i] The New Century Hymnal Companion: A Guide to the Hymns. (Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press, 1998), 225.