At the corner of Moravian Lane and Cherry Street in Kernersville, there is a cemetery, and every year, the day before Easter, the cemetery is full of lilies and families, gathered to commemorate lost loved ones. My great-grandparents Oscar and Lucille Joyner are buried in the cemetery. I am told that Lucille was the kindest woman who ever lived, with her gentle smile and her flaming red hair. There is a stone for my great-great-aunt Eugenia, who lived in the old Stafford house in Kernersville and used to feed anyone who came to her back door. There’s old Florence Rights, my great-great grandmother, who hid the family silver from the soldiers who wanted to melt it into bullets, who said she refused to die until God allowed her to forgive General Sherman.
I remember the bright June day when we buried my grandfather in the cemetery there – Dr. I. Slaydon Myers. “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes,” is the etching on his slab of granite. My grandfather has a large gravestone, and his plot of land is right beside the arched entrance. He always did like being the center of attention. But there are smaller gravestones in the cemetery, too.
Little Paul, aged 5 years.
O grave, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?
Perhaps the victory is ultimately the Lord’s, but death still stings plenty. It stings for the mother of Little Paul, who buried her child just as he began to bloom. It stings for my family, and for every family that has ever experienced loss. It stung for Christ, I’d assume. Maybe it doesn’t overcome, but it certainly stings.
Perhaps what I mean to say is, Holy Week is a drama of contrast. On azure Palm Sunday, we usher him into the city; we welcome him with waving branches and open arms. Maundy Thursday is candlelit sepia– at Passover, he takes the ceremonial washing of the hands one step further, and washes our feet. On Good Friday, “darkness came over all the land,” and he is murdered. For our awful embrace of the dark.
On Resurrection Sunday, he is recalled to life.
Perhaps we preach Christ risen, but also Christ crucified because glory is at its most glorious when it emerges from the most macabre, gruesome, abyss of despair.