Faithful mark holiday

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 24, 2011

Members of Sharon Baptist Church make their way into the Woodland Cemetery during their annual Cross Walk Friday.

Easter concludes week of services

As the sun came above the horizon this morning, hundreds in the county marked in special services the holiest day in Christianity. Easter is honored as the time when the Christians’ savior overcame death and brought the promise of eternal life.

The Easter season began 40 days earlier with Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, a time of sacrifice and repentance. It culminated in Holy Week that began on Maundy Thursday when churches remembered Jesus breaking bread with his disciples in the Last Supper.

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This year many churches observed a modified version of the Seder, the Passover feast that Jesus as a practicing Jew participated in.

“The Gospel says that the night before his crucifixion, he was gathering with his disciples in the upper room to celebrate Passover,” the Rev. Sallie Schisler, vicar at Christ Episcopal Church in Ironton, said.

“It helps us recall what was going on during the time before he died. It also connects us with our Jewish heritage. It is a way for us not only to get in touch with one another but a way for us to connect with what was going on in Holy Week.”

For the Jews the Seder remembers the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. Featured at the Seder is a special plate that contains six foods symbolic of the story of Exodus.

There are bitter herbs symbolizing the cruelty of slavery; a sweet paste of fruits representing the mortar used by Jewish slaves to put together bricks for the Egyptians; salt water representing the tears of the enslaved Jews; a roasted lamb bone for the lamb sacrificed at the temple; a roasted egg, also representing sacrifice; and matzo for the unleavened bread the Jews were forced to eat in their haste to escape.

Then on Good Friday Christians honored the crucifixion of Jesus with special services. For the past 20 years Sharon Baptist Church in Ironton has offered its members and the community the opportunity of enduring part of the crucifixion experience with its Cross Walk.

“It’s the Passion of Christ going down the last road of Golgotha,” the Rev. Steve Harvey, pastor of Sharon Baptist, said. “I think it has a deep spiritual meaning for people. It is an eyewitness of what Christ went through. It is a relationship kind of thing.”

It takes two people at all times to carry the heavy wooden cross the two-mile walk from the church to Woodland Cemetery.

“That is where we have our sunrise service,” Harvey said. “It ends on Friday and opens on Sunday. The sun comes over those big trees at 7 a.m.”

The walk always begins at noon Friday with those carrying the cross and any who wish to be a part of the procession.

“The people keep moving and cutting in and out to carry the cross,” the pastor said. “It is not a parade. It is a mission. You are on a mission. It is Friday, but Sunday is coming.”

Many pastors have noticed that in recent years more churches are observing the holy days leading up to Easter Sunday more than in the past.

“I think it is trying to bring an awareness to the Passion Week itself,” Pastor Paul Merritt of the Chesapeake Church of the Nazarene, said. The Nazarene church hosted the Chesapeake community Good Friday services this year.

“Easter has gotten caught up in commercialization with the Easter bunny and candy,” Merritt said. “When we go back historically to the events that took place, we focus on the arrest, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.”

Merritt took as the text for his Good Friday sermon, Jesus crying for water as he hung on the cross.

“‘I thirst,’ is his appeal to his disciples that they would continue to do what he had taught them,” Merritt said. “It was not only a thirst for water that he had spoken from the cross. He thirst to see the completion of the ministry he gave the 12 disciples.”