Our opening song at church on Sunday was “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” which won’t surprise any of you raised in low church traditions like mine, considering it was, ahem, Easter.
But about halfway through the first verse, I found myself unable to sing. This is something that rarely happens to me.
In fact, I’d already paraded around the house singing it a dozen time at that point, and even called my parents bright and early to sing it as an Easter greeting to them, waiting for the sung “Ah-a-a-a-leh-eh-luu-yah” response I knew I’d receive. (I get it honestly, what can I say?)
So it’s not like I’m not familiar with the song.
But at church, singing the song for the dozenth time, it was different.
For one thing, as we sang, members of the church carried Easter lilies down the aisle in memory of loved ones lost in the last year–children toddling with enormous white flowers, middle-aged men, elderly women, all with a lily in their arms to set on the communion table. Those lilies, combined with the dozens already up around the piano and the organ, were quite a sight. I do love Easter lilies.
Our church has felt a lot of loss this year, and seeing those lilies being offered for worship, as we remembered together what we believe Christ has overcome, well, how can we not feel more like church in that moment than any other moment of communal liturgy? Christ the Lord is risen today…
Additionally, we had been asked to bring a bell with us to the service, and when the word “alleluia” was spoken or sung, we were to ring our bells. Every time.
For the record, I am someone who takes this charge very seriously. I will ring it in the middle of choir songs, even in the middle of a prayer if need be. Some people brought jingle bells. Some cow bells. Our pastor’s bell this year, from where I sat, looked turquoise. Alleluia…
I brought the same pink glass bell I’ve toted to church on Easter morning for the last three years.
It was part of my grandmother’s bell collection.
When I ring it on Easter morning, I think of her.
When I see lilies carried down the aisle at church, I think of her.
When I read lines of the hymn like
Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
I think of her, and I find myself unable to sing.
Heck, yesterday, I wasn’t even able to mouth the words. For most of the song, my bell didn’t ring either. I was choked up.
Instead, I listened. Listened to others’ voices. To other people ringing their bells. Especially to the joy of the little children enjoying making a ruckus at church.
Because that is what we do on Easter.
We make a ruckus ringing bells, and we do it for each other.