The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and those who live in it;
for he has founded it upon the seas and established it on the rivers.
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord and who shall stand in his holy place?
Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
and who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and who do not swear deceitfully.
They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from the God of their salvation.
Holy Week and Easter is always a physically, spiritually, and emotionally exhausting week for church people in general, and pastors in particular. In one week we have been from the joy of Palm Sunday, with children waving palm branches and singing songs of welcome to the Messiah King, to Maundy Thursday and the beauty of the Last Supper with Jesus washing the feet of the disciples and sharing a last meal with them before he is betrayed, arrested, tried and condemned as his friends abandoned him in fear. Then we go to the pain and disappointment and despair of Good Friday and the crucifixion and burial of Jesus which we experience through the somber, heart-wrenching beauty of the Tenebrae service as the candles are extinguished one by one and the altar is stripped and we are left in stark darkness and silence all through Hoy Saturday, when Jesus is not here. But on Easter Sunday morning we hit the high holiness of the Resurrection with redressing the altar, music and lilies and joy starting at sunrise and continuing through breakfast and on through worship until lunch time.
Rick and I began a tradition of the Easter afternoon nap early in our ministry. My great Aunt Essie had a sister (whose name, as far a I ever knew, was “Sister”) living not far from us. And every Easter, just as blessed sleep had overcome us, the phone would ring and Aunt Essie would say, “Happy Easter! Now come and look at Sister’s flowers!” It was not so much an invitation as a summons. And so we would drag ourselves out to the car and drive into Rocky Mount to admire Sister’s azaleas and irises and snowball bushes and forsythia. And do you know what? They were beautiful. It was as though all creation had put on its most beautiful garments to welcome the risen Lord. And I would remember those words from Psalm 24; “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.”
It seems that in this odd time of quarantine, many folks have ventured out to admire God’s handiwork, and spruce up their yards a bit. Every yard in our neighborhood looks well-groomed and colorful with flowers. All along the streets are big piles of branches and clippings, the fruits of the labor folks who have come out into the sunshine to do some yard work, and to care for God’s creation. “The earth is the Lord’s, and all that is in it!” Everything! Even the fire ants whose humongous dwellings seem to pop up overnight in my yard. Even the poison ivy that wraps around a tree in the back. All creation is loved by God. All has its place. All has its own beauty and wonder.
So as we come into the house from working in the yard, and my heart sings this psalm, “The earth is the Lord’s…” I pause to wash my hands (as we all are so carefully doing these days), I remember that the Psalm goes on. “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord, and who shall stand in his holy place? Those who have clean hands and pure hearts…” These days my heart is not always pure. I grumble and complain at having to stay home. I am disappointed that our Easter family dinner took place over Zoom. I want to see the people I love in person. I want to shake hands and give hugs (and receive them too), and hold babies.
That time will come, the Psalm tells me. “They will receive blessing from the Lord…” and then I look around at the sunshine and the flowers. I think of all the people who I am so blessed to know. And I think, “Yes. I have already received blessings. Thank you.”
Lord, you have created this whole wonderful world and you have called it good. We do not always pause to thank you for the beauty that you have put all around us. We do not always recognize the goodness in all things. Give us clean hands, and make our hearts pure that we may receive your blessings with joy and thanksgiving. Amen.
All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small,
all things wise and wonderful: the Lord God made them all.
God gave us eyes to see them, and lips that we might tell
how great is God almighty, who has made all things well.
Pastor Rachel Moser