Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tenebrae and other misc. musings on Easter...

 Our first year doing an Easter tomb garden… Just a little grass seed and potting soil, et voila.

The roll dough is made and in pans in the fridge. The homemade ice cream is in the freezer, chilling, and the boys are upstairs noisily washing the sticky stuff off their bodies from licking the bowl. I'll make the green bean casserole tonight, and I'll put some jellybeans in a few plastic eggs and make up little Easter baskets. The Honey Baked Ham lies in state on the second shelf of the fridge. ;) Tomorrow we'll dress in whatever "church clothes" look most decent and head out to Easter service. (I'm finding out that I'm not the only one at our church that doesn't buy new clothes and do up big, elaborate baskets for Easter. And I'm grateful for that. Those things steal my joy and appropriate attention from Jesus, and I'm glad I'm not the only one.)

So this Easter, we decided to try and find a tenebrae service. My sister-in-law, Terri, really enjoyed the one that her church had when they lived in Minnesota, so I thought it was worth a shot. The problem is that evangelicals don't seem to do this kind of service routinely, so it was tough to find one. I asked around, but there was nothing close. Then I overheard a mom talking about her church at the playground,  and it was St. Marks Methodist near us. I asked if they had a Good Friday tenebrae service, and they did! Community Bible Study met there when Seth was a baby, so I knew a little bit about the church.

The service was exactly what I was hoping for. The choir sang "I Believe" while they stripped the chancel. This meant covering things with black cloths, taking off altar cloths, etc. It was moving to me, especially when someone took the vestments from around the minister's neck. It hit me that without Christ, we don't have the church, we don't have the people of the church, the ministers, the parishioners, etc. The other pieces didn't mean as much to me because those aren't a typical part our worship, but this felt a little like somebody coming up to our pastor and taking his Bible and microphone and telling him to leave because he had nothing to say anymore.

Most of the service was simply reading through the parts of Christ's passion from the book of John, and as the pastors read, they would pause and put out one of the many candles in front of them. At the end, the sanctuary was dark and quiet. One pastor took the tall candle out of its stand, walked away, and then there was a loud sound to symbolize the earthquake when Christ died. He brought the candle back, and it was left lit, alone, a tiny light in the middle of the dark room. We all followed the ministers out, and then he read the last passage, locked the sanctuary, prayed and then went out silently.

Evangelical Christianity has a lot of wonderful things about it, but I think there may have been an over reaction against symbolism and liturgy during my childhood. I know that symbolism can be empty, but that doesn't meant that it always is. Sometimes it is beautiful and meaningful, and the Bible bears that out in many places. I also wonder if, through concern that many mainline/Catholic churches focused too much on Christ's sacrifice to the exclusion of His victory, evangelical churches threw that baby out a bit with the bathwater as well. It seems like we almost never dwell on His sacrifice.

All that to say, I'm discovering something new to me (though tenebrae has been around since the 5th century) that has enhanced our understanding of Easter this year, and I'm thankful for it. A tenebrae service may become an Easter tradition for our family.

"He is risen!" And all reply, "He is risen, indeed!" :) 

 Easter mantel… found the printable on Pinterest :) 

Sealed sanctuary until Easter morning...

1 comment:

Chelsea said...

Sounds awesome! I want to go next year.