This isn’t how it ends

“Let the story be the story,” is a wise way to approach reading the Bible with children and youth. The stories of Holy Week are no exception. This Lent, during  children’s time in worship, we have shared stories of Holy Week sequentially, each week building on the last. One by one we have blown out six purple candles on the table. Without sharing the hard details that younger ones aren’t ready for yet or trying to rationalize the mystery, they heard that Jesus died on the cross. We blew out the Christ candle. We didn’t try to explain it. We let the story be the story. This is what happened…

I had to double check with the pastor on Monday morning to be sure I hadn’t imagined it. Something I felt rather than heard. A silent gasp, wide-eyed children brought still as they sat on the chancel steps.  With just a puff of air, the story had the sanctuary’s attention. Though we all know the ending, the empty tomb, alleuluias ready on the tongue, we were silently, suddenly aware.

Smoke rising from the Christ candle was the only movement in the room. The words, “Jesus died,” held the gravity of finality for one, holy moment. Even though we know the ending, we imagined that we didn’t. Mouths open wide, caught between inhale and exhale as the smoke rose upward.

“Wait!” we were about to say, “Not THAT candle. Surely there is a mistake, that light cannot be extinguished.” This is not how the story ends! Before we could protest, the candle was re-lit with words of mystery and comfort. “The light shines in the darkness. The darkness cannot extinguish the light.” Then, exhaled breath, movement, light. Together, we entered Holy Week.

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