My siblings and I had a lot of fun growing up, contrary to our expressions in the photo above, taken on Easter Sunday, 1957. From the looks of us, it had likely been a very long day and we had consumed too much sugar – a dangerous combination that my parents would have to contend with.
Although I was too young to remember this particular day, I have fond memories of many Easter Sundays in the following years. I recall the excitement of finding my basket on Easter morning, dressing in a fancy outfit complete with white gloves and a “shortie coat,” and walking the one block from our home to Victory Lutheran Church, where the sanctuary would have the appearance and fragrance of a heavenly garden, as I imagined it.
When I got older, the Easter sunrise service became my favorite worship service of the whole year. We walked to church in the dark, the cool air helping to shake off the last strands of our slumber. Taking our place in the dimly lit sanctuary, we waited quietly with those around us until we heard the Easter proclamation: “Christ is risen!” And we responded, “He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” At that moment, the sanctuary was illuminated and the trumpeters played a fanfare before the organ and brass led the processing choir and the congregation in the glorious Easter hymn, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.”
I spent the first 21 years of my life at Victory Lutheran Church. By coincidence, it sat in the Victory neighborhood of northwest Minneapolis, but I have always assumed the church’s name stemmed not from its location but from Christ’s ultimate victory over death, which gives us the victory, too. As the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians (15:51-55):
Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
I drove by my old church last fall. Victory Lutheran disbanded some years ago, and the building is now home to a Pentecostal congregation whose name I can’t remember. But they can claim victory, too,as can all who are followers of Christ.
Thanks be to you, O God, for giving us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.