by Reverend Beverly Zell

It’s hard for me to talk about Easter without speaking of Lent. Growing up it was strictly a Catholic practice and since we were radically protestant we skipped all the darkness of Lent in the rush to Easter.

My first encounter with Lent occurred in my early 30s while attending a Shrove Tuesday service at the church my husband and I attended. Following a joyful pancake supper, we moved to the sanctuary for a contemplative service. Despite the dim lighting, it was hard to miss the large, rough-hewn cross standing starkly at the front of the sanctuary. At one point in the service, we were invited to hammer a nail into the cross. The minister suggested it might symbolize some transformative hope we carried, perhaps the reconciliation of a broken relationship or courage in the face of a spiritual need. I knew immediately what my nail might represent.

Each Sunday during Lent as I entered the sanctuary and took my seat, I noted “my” nail, my transformative hope. Though it remained fixed in the cross, I carried it with me throughout the week, allowing it to pierce my heart whenever it bumped against my spiritual longing.

On Easter morning I came to worship anticipating the glorious music and beautiful lilies. I paused as I entered the sanctuary, surprised to see the cross still standing in its usual spot. But something was different. All the nails were gone! And for the first time, I not only understood Easter. I experienced it.


About the author: Reverend Beverly Zell is a pastor of the United Church of Christ. She lives in Holland, Michigan.

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