Today’s post is by the Rev. Anne Edison-Albright, College Pastor at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.
My daughter, Sally, is four years old, and very interested in and concerned about Jesus’ death. At her favorite museum there’s a large crucifix and a painting that includes the image of Jesus on the cross. Sally is drawn to this room in the museum, and, on a recent visit there, she pointed to these images and solemnly announced: “Look. God died.”
There’s a big part of me that wanted to rush right in with Easter assurances. OK, let’s be real, I did rush in with those assurances. She put her little hand up to stop me. She wanted to be in that moment, surrounded by artwork that revealed one of the most profound incarnational truths of our faith. She didn’t want to be rushed.
There’s a no-rush approach to understanding how kids handle difficult feelings or ideas called The Train Analogy. The difficult feeling or situation is a tunnel, and the child is a train going through the tunnel. Well-meaning adults often want to pull an emergency switch to get the child out of the tunnel faster, but the tunnel is the length that the tunnel is. The adult’s role is to ride through the tunnel with the child, however long it lasts.
The experience of worship on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil is, in many ways, a tunnel we ride through together. It is a shared experience of Jesus’ loving final acts, his death, and his resurrection. The services are designed to be one liturgy, best experienced together, coming back again night after night. It’s an unusual pattern for us—“See you tomorrow night!”—always feels a bit weird and wonderful: when else would we set aside this kind of time for each other as the Body of Christ, for worship, for prayer, for singing and hearing the story of God? Encourage your congregation to ride through Holy Week together. The tunnel is as long as it is—there’s no rush!