My favorite Easter memory dates back to the year I was six. Easter lilies grew in our very own yard, my basket overflowed with chocolate, and that was the year Long Ears joined the family.

Long Ears was a stuffed rabbit with—you guessed it—particularly long ears. Alas, the ears didn’t last, probably due to my tendency to use them as a handle. The rest of Long Ears, however, is currently tucked up in a box with her husband, an orange poodle named George. After watching Toy Story 3 I nearly unpacked them and their friends for a big hug ... but that’s another story.

As an adult, my Easter celebrations look a little different. While flowers still bloom in my yard and Long Ears may even come out of retirement for the season, these days I’m more mindful of what Easter really means. Chocolate and bunnies are all fine in their place, but Jesus’ death and resurrection are far more worthy of attention. So this Holy Week I’ve decided to focus my thoughts in an attempt to more fully grasp what Easter is all about. Care to join me? Here’s my plan:

Palm Sunday: There’s a lot of sorrow and suffering on the horizon, but this day is all happy songs, palm branches, and “Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord.” Feel free to wave, sing, march ... whatever suits your tradition and temperament. In the midst of all that, here’s what I’ll be pondering: If Jesus came to my town would I go out to meet him? What if I already had plans for that day? Am I willing to rearrange my schedule to welcome the Messiah? Today’s reading: Luke 19:28-40

Monday: Today’s Scripture reading throws that old “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” stereotype out the window. One day the bustling center of commerce known as the Temple—a place supposed to be set aside for prayer—really rubbed him the wrong way. So he politely walked up to the nearest stall and said, “Please don’t do that...” Oh no, he didn’t! Jesus stormed in like an action-movie hero, knocking over furniture, sending goods and people flying, pitching a holy fit. He. Was. Not. Playing. The Temple is not to be trifled with.

This brings to mind 1 Corinthians 6:19: “You should know that your body is a temple for the Holy Spirit who is in you.” Does that temple need a good cleansing? I think we can include mind and spirit as well as physical body in this internal audit. Today’s reading: Mark 11:15-18

Tuesday: Ponder the pretzel. Why? Well, it is an official food of Lent, which is still in effect through Saturday. But before you snarf it down, take a good look at your salty snack. The pretzel was invented back in the mists of time when years only had three digits. The story goes that a monk was in the kitchen mixing up some Lenten bread when he got the idea to remind his brother monks that Lent was a time of prayer by shaping strips of dough into little crossed arms. (Apparently that was a common position for prayer at the time.) So each pretzel is not just a tasty treat, it’s a call to prayer. Now, if a simple pretzel can be a reminder to pray, what else could you use as a mental sticky note to remind you to connect with God? Today’s reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Wednesday: Put yourself in the disciples’ place on that Wednesday before the original Easter. They must have been feeling pretty good, right? After all they’d just seen their leader receive a hero’s welcome and watched him kick butt in the temple. They had to be riding pretty high.

Now think how Jesus must have felt that day: He was in countdown mode. He alone understood what was coming; surely it was on his mind well before he headed to the Garden of Gethsemane. Watching his clueless disciples, dealing with the crowds ... what were his thoughts? Every time he looked at Judas, did his heart break just a little more?

What would you do if, like Jesus on that Wednesday, you knew you only had a couple of days left to live? What’s stopping you from doing those things now? Today’s reading: John 12:20-36

Thursday: The taking of communion, Holy Eucharist, the Lord’s supper, call it what you will, is often celebrated on this day in memory of that first “last supper.” It’s one of my all-time favorite ceremonies. Here’s why: From my perspective a wedding is a ceremony where two people look each other in the eye and say “I love you and I want spend the rest of my life with you.” As a never-married single I’ve not experienced that myself ... but when I engage in communion I feel as if God is saying to me, “I love you and I want to spend eternity with you. I gave up my blood and my body so that could happen; this ceremony is to remind you of that.” If possible, engage in a celebration of communion today either corporately or just you and Jesus. Today’s reading: Matthew 26:17-30

Friday:  It’s called “Good Friday” but to those at the foot of the cross it was anything but good. The party’s over. It’s execution time—and a nasty, brutal, agonizing execution it was. Let’s not skip over this part; to do so cheapens the sacrifice. Let it sink in. Feel the weight of it. Slowly make your way through today’s reading: Luke 22:47-71-Luke 23

Saturday:  There is a time for everything, Ecclesiastes tells us, and today it’s time to mourn. Take time to feel the loss. We know the resurrection is coming—but the disciples didn’t. Think of what it must have been like for them; all their hopes and dreams have been buried along with Jesus’ body and soldiers are guarding the door. Today’s reading: Matthew 27:62-65.

Easter Sunday: The tomb is empty, the soldiers fled, the stone is rolled away. Time for the victory party! Let there be singing and rejoicing and all kinds of celebration. This is the part of the story that makes all the difference. Dying for a cause is one thing but rising victorious from the dead? Only the Savior can pull that off. And he did! Today’s reading: Luke 24:1-48.

However you choose to celebrate Easter this year, I encourage you to mark the occasion in some way. Because Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.


 

Susan Ellingburg is a natural-born Texan who sings at every opportunity, reads as much as possible, and cherishes every day she gets to spend with friends.  She's a serious foodie and not-so-serious gardener who is determined not to let being single stand in the way of living an amazing life.  Read Susan's blog at TastingGod.wordpress.com.