Ring the bells, Easter people

I write with a word of gratitude to your pastor for inviting me to take part in your Holy Week worship. On Easter Sunday, Laurel Heights joined a whole array of congregations in lifting songs of joy and praise to God in new and unfamiliar ways. I was amazed by these tremendous efforts and by the faithfulness of all our songs in the face of such a dark time. I also watched and listened as the church’s bells pealed with resurrection joy, marking the hour and the day, from their brilliant tower. Life in the midst of death, indeed.

I remember from my time as a local church pastor what Easter Monday felt like. The biggest push of the year was complete. Crowds had invariably been larger than usual; music, glorious; sanctuary, beautiful. I’d managed my own kids’ Easter outfits and baskets and celebrated a nice Sunday meal, and by Monday I reveled in a well-deserved day off.

This year, just like everything else, Easter Monday felt different, too. As I scrolled through Facebook, I read testimonies of pastors who had jumped the big Holy Week hurdle and made it to Monday but found little relief there. For some, it was an opportunity to express the grief they’d been carrying for weeks. The cloud of trouble remained, and getting to spend the day in sweatpants was no big treat.

We meant what we said on Easter Sunday—that the grave is empty, that Christ conquered the worst this world could throw at him. Yet it is an odd Eastertide we are living. We stand in a place that’s actually reminiscent of the very first Easter people in the early hours—locked in a room, afraid, wondering how to reconcile all that they had experienced between the cross and the tomb. In that place, the risen Jesus appeared, and he gave his friends what they needed to take the next step in their journey of faithfulness.

We are all doing the best we can right now, and you are doing a very good job of being church. It is my prayer that with each day, you will find Christ coming to you, to speak peace into your home. Whatever your doubts or weariness, I pray you will know that Jesus has breathed the breath of his Spirit into you, and that his living presence will accompany you through every moment to come.

Paul quoted Frederick Buechner in his Sunday sermon. To elaborate on that quote: “The worst isn’t the last thing about the world. It’s the next to the last thing. The last thing is the best. It’s the power from on high that comes down into the world, that wells up from the rock-bottom worst of the world like a hidden spring.” As a friend paraphrased Buechner, “If it’s not the best thing, it’s not the last thing.” Take heart, Easter people. Let’s keep singing and ringing the bells, claiming the resurrection together.


Rev. Laura Merrill, Assistant to the Bishop & Director of Clergy Excellence
Rio Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church