When I was a little girl I got more excited about my new Easter outfit than I did about Easter baskets or even Easter candy. My family wasn’t religious, though they sent me to (Presbyterian) Sunday School. But we did go to church on Easter, and I loved having new clothes for that day. Back then — in the ’50’s — a new outfit included shoes, hat, and gloves.
The outfit I remember best was a purple and white gingham dress with a purple corduroy coat to match. My mom made them both; she probably didn’t finish the coat until Saturday night (there’s a trait I inherited!), but I loved the ensemble and couldn’t wait to put it on.
The truth is that I still like to have new clothes for Easter. Putting on new clothes is a simple way to embody the restoration of life that we celebrate in the Resurrection. In our Minnesota climate, Easter clothes are often the first light, bright garments we have worn for a long time. Furthermore, the whole process of shopping for Easter clothing brings a sense of anticipation for the coming holiday.
And no (if you are thinking this), enjoying an Easter outfit does not trivialize the theological centrality of Easter to the Christian faith. For me, at least, it is an earthy, incarnational way of bringing the great mystery of Easter into my life. It would be a terrible loss if Easter was only about clothes (or bunnies or eggs or candy, for that matter); but it would also be a terrible loss if Easter was only about solemn Bible study.
I like old hymns — in the same way that I like the old Home-Ed pamphlets that reminded women to comb their hair and put on lipstick before their husbands got home. They (the hymns — not the pamphlets!) remind me of another time and another way of expressing faith and piety. Still, I was surprised today to find my mind going to one of those old hymns … “Trust and Obey.” The words were written by Presbyterian minister John Sammis in 1887, and the story goes that they were inspired by a young man’s testimony following an Evangelical revival meeting.
To my ears, most of the text is quaint and old-fashioned, not really to my theological taste. But the phrase “trust and obey” sounds as fresh and compelling to me now as it must have been to the Rev. Sammis all those years ago.
What I hear in these words is an invitation to be more attentive to that part of my intuition that isn’t really intuition at all (because it doesn’t originate in me), but inspiration. I am trying to trust those small divine nudges of mind and heart that are so easy to brush off, and instead to be obedient to them. If I suddenly think of a friend I haven’t spoken to for a while, I am going to get in touch. If a particular fabric draws my eye, I am going choose it for the next quilt or stole or banner. If I am suddenly awakened to injustice, I am going to raise my voice. If a moment of sadness comes over me, I am hoping for the wisdom and patience to sit with it rather than to hurry on to something less uncomfortable.
The challenge in this, of course, is in discerning which inner leanings are truly the whispers of the Holy Spirit, and which ones are just my own thoughts and musings. I suppose I will get it wrong sometimes, but that’s not a reason not to try. Since it is too late to take this on as a Lenten discipline, I guess it will be my Holy-Week-and-Easter discipline.