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April 15, 2014

Lessons for Holy Week

Harry M. Covert

Since my earliest days on this planet the oft-used word “luck” has always been considered a blessing from the Divine. Nothing has changed since those formative times. If anything the celestial consents seem more obvious.


During these days leading up to Easter Sunday, described as Holy Week, they are perfect to recall and celebrate the triumphal ride of Jesus into Jerusalem. Tradition, beliefs and dogma say the event occurred some 2,000 years ago.


Admittedly this time of year brings about many fresh and pleasant days, new fashions and all sorts of smiles and joy. It is the happiness of candies, colored eggs, candy-filled baskets and terrific lunches and dinners.


Now, I won’t get into any verbal squabbles over those who may disagree with the aforementioned. This year there is an overlapping of Easter and Passover. Easter should always fall on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox. Passover comes in early spring the time when winter rains end and the weather turns mild. We sure need the news times and weather.


Years ago writing an article on how “lucky” many Haitians were to have American missionaries Rick and Irene Lange teaching, feeding and nursing them, I was reminded by a longtime friend, Pierre Guillermin, that “Christians don’t believe in luck.” How correct he was to set me straight on such an error to which I knew anyway. However, education is never too late and, a good memory and notebook are helpful forever and a day.


In these exciting days of fast-moving technological advances, more and more supposedly wise people like to have their short moments of acclaim by denying any Deity especially acclaimed by average people. It is their right, of course, to believe whatever they want; but it is deleterious to traditional American lifestyles. Remember when “strutting your stuff” on the avenues was fun with Easter Parades in almost every city and town? And, public prayers?


It has been my good fortune to enjoy Easter celebrations all over, at home and abroad. Rabbi David Ben-Ami of Pennsylvania accorded me a special seat at Passover.


Sometimes the thought occurs that we Americans are so eager to avoid trials and troubles that we fall over backwards to accommodate the small, really insignificant minorities, who don’t believe in anything except causing constant arguments with traditionalists.


Please forgive me for what may appear as name-dropping and such, but one of the most exciting Easters for me was at Westminster Abbey, filled to overflowing. The music was angelic, the sermon uplifting. I recall similar commemorations in Zaire, Kenya, Haiti, and throughout the good old United States of America.


While international services were certainly pleasurable, I can recall many sunrise and morning services where the music, soloists and choirs, among them in no particular order, St. Mark’s and Rock Church, Hampton, VA, Thomas Road Baptist Church Lynchburg, VA, First Baptist Church, and Christ Church, Alexandria, VA, Gospel Tabernacle, Newport News, VA, and St. John’s, Woodsboro, MD., and National Church of God, Fort Washington, MD.


While the above mentioned are but a few, the most remembered wasn’t an Easter Service at all but was in Leogane, Haiti. Warren Taylor, a Christian television producer par excellence, was preparing a segment with Doug Oldham, Grammy Award winning southern gospel soloist and nationally known television performer.


It was a sweltering 100-degree day in the Haitian village. Mr. Oldham was preparing a video promo for hungry children. He would then sing one of his most popular recordings, something like his famous “The King is Coming.” The audio engineer and cameraman were rolling. As the introduction started “Hello Everyone, this is Doug Oldham,” moans bellowed, halting the production. More groans, louder and louder. No stopping. Was someone dying?


Wiping away perspiration, the team raced to a ramshackle building some 30 yards away. The sounds got louder and louder. Once inside the windowless and door-less structure an elderly man was sweeping. “What’s wrong? Is someone injured?”


The man pointed to a second row of splintered benches. There a middle-aged woman in torn dress was not moaning or bellowing at all. She was praying in Haitian Creole, begging the Almighty for a miracle. Mr. Oldham asked her troubles. This was the woman’s common daily devotion, “praying for food for her family of five children” and usually lasted from morning to noon.


On that day, hands and feet answered the petitions and the mother received a week’s supply of provisions.


Mr. Oldham, a beloved musician, member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, died at age 79, in July 2010.


Naysayers can continue their march, hoping to disdain and discredit the Christian message and messengers. That’s okay, perhaps, but the onus is on the Easter Celebrants to keep telling the Story. The burden is heavy on Members of the Cloth to stop agreeing with the uninitiated.


Easter is the Message.


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