Sitting here at the 10:15 service on Easter morning, the last in the Easter Week Celebration at our church (Life on the Vine Christian Community), I feel like I’ve lost Easter again this year. I put on a spring dress this morning, green for new life. It’s the least I can do. I have a ham for the kids when they come over tonight. That’s about it for my Easter preparation this year, or so it seems. I have lived the Easter Experience here once before and I know it is deeply meaningful, full of feasting together, quiet remembering, sorrow, and celebration.
Last year I spent it at the nursing home with my dad, who was recovering from surgery after he broke his hip. After rehab he came to live with us and everything changed. And here I am this year. Exhausted from too many late nights of my own choosing, like the mom who stays up too late to enjoy the peace and quiet of the house, but then is short of sleep. Either way, she loses.
Then there is the emotional fatigue of caregiving – the not knowing how long it will last and what will happen as the decline to the end of life continues. What if I can no longer physically care for him? It doesn’t always feel this heavy but this morning it does.
The Easter Experience here starts with the exuberance of the Palm Sunday Celebration.
And continues with events throughout the week until Easter Sunday. We’ve been unable to attend any of these events because of the caregiving and I have missed them.
Small groups gather for The Seder on Thursday night, where we see once again see how the Passion of Jesus is intimately connected to Israel’s story. We feast together, celebrate, remember, and identify with a people of faith and with the God who rescues. I love this time around the table with people I care about.
After the Seder on Thursday, there is the Tenebrae Service on Good Friday. Also called the Service of Shadows, it is a somber service where we meditate, experientially, on the seven last words of Christ as candles are extinguished one by one until we are plunged into darkness and left with the question, “What is to become of the Light of the World?” We leave in the darkness. The doors of the sanctuary are chained closed until . . .
Easter Sunday Sunrise Celebration, we gather around the fire pit as we celebrate the overcoming of darkness and the coming of the Light. We form a processional into the church, there we each receive and light our candles. The chains on the doors of the sanctuary are loosened, the doors thrown open as we . . .
The Service of the Word. Following the lighting of the candles, we experience the significant stories of scripture, from “the fall” right up to the resurrection.
There is art, depicting the garden and then the art is “ruined” by the fall. One of the children says “It’s not pretty anymore.”
And who can ever forget the story of the flight from Egypt?
Once you’ve seen mean old Pharaoh chasing after Moses and the children of Israel on their way out of Egypt, then watch the walls of the Red Sea collapse on Pharaoh’s . . . well, you can’t forget that. The story continues right up to the resurrection.
There is the Baptism of those who have been participating in the “Journey into Jesus”, even as we re-affirm our own baptisms and hear the call again to live faithfully into our baptism. We take Communion together.
And who can forget the Community Breakfast – food enough for everyone.
But Lord, I’ve missed ALL of that. I am so tired. and I just want to go home and sleep. What am I doing here? My mind is wandering, thinking of things that have nothing to do with Easter until I hear the preacher passionately begin to declare over and over: . . . WE ARE EASTER PEOPLE . . . WE ARE EASTER PEOPLE . . . WE ARE EASTER PEOPLE. I can’t help but hear and absorb the wonder, the beauty, and the LOVE that is Easter. We sing, clap, and celebrate. A mom and young son dance together in the joy of the resurrection.
Two teenage girls hold onto each other in the overwhelmingness of it all.
A man sits quietly in all the noise, with a smile of utter joy overtaking his countenance.
The singers and the band blend their hearts together to lead us in the celebration.
I begin to feel it too, ever so slightly. Gradually, it becomes real. I go home and take a long nap so I can be awake for my family coming this evening. I feel better, more alive.
I think sometimes to appreciate the joy and the TRUTH of it all, a nap is a good place to start! I didn’t miss Easter after all. There will be more years when I can participate more fully in the events.
I didn’t lose it. It was just different. As I shared this story with the preacher, Ty Grigg, he summed it up perfectly for me when he said Easter is about Jesus finding us (like he found Mary) just as we are, more than about us finding Jesus.
Photos by Annie Palubicki and Dina Lindemann. Thanks – I am so glad someone was there to take them!