April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain....” T. S. Elliott, nearly 100 years ago, offered these words as the opening of a great (some say it was his best) poem titled “The Waste Land.” April is always a transitional time, both in the reviving of the earth from a winter’s slumber, and in the quickening of our lives, when the daily pace begins to gain momentum toward the freedom of summer.... once school-day exams are completed and “liberty” from academia has been won. My most memorable introduction to Elliott’s sentiment was offered by Dr. Fred Craddock, who began the “Senior’s Day” presentation in my seminary days with the words “April is the cruelest month”.... and then asked, “What say you, Seniors?!?” The howl of laughter and “Amens!” that rang in the fellowship hall of Glenn Memorial UMC in Atlanta didn’t subside for quite a few minutes!
Personally, I love April; it was the birth-month of our first child, Alacia! I get to take the top down on Phyllis’ car, get out the hose to wash away all the pollen from the sidewalks and steps, think about cutting the grass in the yard, and starting a list of places I’d like to visit during the coming summer-time. April’s full of promise and hope and expectation. Goldie, our Retriever, seems to know that it’s time to get outside and play a bit - even though she is eleven this year! Her ramblings in the yard seem to grow longer now that it’s warmer, there’s no rush to get back inside when it’s so deliciously inviting to linger outside!
Next year, Easter Day comes right in the midst of this “cruelest” month, hoping to redeem it, as springtime struggles to awaken the earth from its wintertime slumbers. Only a few days ago, just before you received this publication outlining our congregation’s life and ministry in the coming month, we gathered ‘round an empty tomb, peering into its darkness, just like those disciples of whom each of the gospels spoke. You’ll remember, too, that virtually all of them went home, “scratching their heads” and trying to make sense of the “cruel” moment they had experienced. The grave in which they’d just laid their beloved friend, Jesus, was empty. Their expectation - just like ours - is that the bodies of the deceased remain where they are placed!
And yet, rather than keeping their experience as some great secret, they began to tell others, as in the children’s song: “I will sing unto the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously! The grave is empty; won’t you come and see?!? I hope that during the coming weeks, you will find a moment’s “holy boldness” and make that invitation to someone else - friend, family member, co-worker, stranger in line at the grocery store, or someone at the restaurant. “Won’t you come and see?” is a gentle, non-threatening invitation to see beyond the “cruelty” of the month and all its changes, and find that in it, our good and loving and gracious God has offered to all of humankind the gift of eternity.
I look forward to meeting your friends, family, and all those you invite!
Grace and peace,
Jim Earley, Sr. Pastor