Published: Sunday, April 4, 1999
Easter offers reminder of human struggles, too
Clark Morphew, Staff Columnist
My grandmother died on Palm Sunday about 20 years ago. She went to bed, crossed her hands on her chest and slipped into eternity. My father found her the next morning, at 94 years old looking beautiful but dead on her narrow day bed.
So when I went to church this past Sunday, I was drawn to the final hymn, ``The Old Rugged Cross,'' which was her favorite song.
This was not providence, not something the Lord planned for me, but it sure put me in mind of Grandmother Morphew. There's not much I can tell you about her, a pioneer woman who gave birth to 16 children -- and some of them turned out OK.
Her life was all about struggle. There was not much anxiety because all the struggle just kept flowing down into her life. And when it was finally slowing down, when she was in her 70s and grandpa was dead, she had time to speak personally with me just once.
We sat at her piano, an old player type with the paper rolls, and we put on ``The Old Rugged Cross'' and sang with big voices and when it was all rolled out, she told me that was her favorite. So when we sang that hymn in church last Sunday, it had special meaning for me. It's about struggle -- about the agony of meeting the worst of life and letting it flow over into oblivion and victory.
``For 'twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died, To pardon and sanctify me.''
She didn't make it to Easter -- died in the early hours of Palm Sunday -- celebrating in her dreams the trials and victories of life. So the week of passion has always meant a good deal to me. Because that week, for Jesus, was nothing but struggle. And for my grandmother, it ended a lifelong struggle against poverty.
``Then he'll call me some day to my home far away Where his glory forever I'll share.''
Grandmother never had a chance to tell me what it means to share in God's glory forever. I suspect she knows, but the lines of communication are blurry right now. So I wonder what it will be like when all the angels gather to welcome us into the splendors and glory of God.
Will it be like Hollywood, where the trumpet sounds and the sun beams shine on us and the firmament shivers with the thrill? Or will it be like a good morning, one of those sunshine days when the birds are singing, the neighborhood is quiet and the phone does not ring. Will we discover day by day the heavens are perfect, the inhabitants don't fight, families aren't squabbling and the vegetables are always ripe?
I tell you, this Hollywood interpretation of religion has confused us and the traditional understandings just don't seem right. I've known pastors who had to cling to their jobs for saying that Moses (or Charlton Heston,) probably did not split the Sea of Reeds just the way it happened in the movie. There are still people who believe Jesus had no hair under his arms after watching a certain movie about the New Testament. And when preachers try to point out those mistakes to people in a sermon, human wrath is their reward.
Easter is never going to be a big explosion where the roof of the church falls away and the angels hover in the breach. We are the most fortunate people on the face of the earth. Never has there been an economy that allows such luxury for an entire nation of people. Meanwhile, all over the world, misery is the order of the day. What is Easter to us?
Watching those unfortunate people in the Balkans wrap their possessions in a blanket and set off to find refuge makes me think about life without an Easter. I mean, what is daily life to us would be a magnificent Easter for them. Can you imagine how thrilled they would be to walk into any grocery in this country and shop for food? What would they say about our highways and schools and the incredible world of entertainment that pleases us every day and the absolute security we enjoy without much effort? Those are people who can picture Easter.
I contend people cannot appreciate Easter without struggle and can only understand resurrection when they have been on the road to death.
Columnist Clark Morphew (firstname.lastname@example.org)