Sitting here at the 10:15 service on Easter morning, the last â€œeventâ€ in the Easter Week Celebration at our â€˜newishâ€ church (Life on the Vine Christian Community), I feel like Iâ€™ve lost Easter again this year. I did put on a spring dress this morning, green for new life. Itâ€™s the least I can do. I have a ham for the kids when they come over tonight. Thatâ€™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, Iâ€™m 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 care-giving â€“ the not knowing how long it will last and what will happen as the decline to the end of life continues. Itâ€™s not always so heavy, but this morning it is.
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 care-giving 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 Israelâ€™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 and we are plunged into darkness and left with the question, â€œWhat is to become of the Light of the World?â€ ending with symbolically chaining the doors of the sanctuary until…
Easter Sunday Sunrise Celebration, where we gather around the fire pit and celebrate the overcoming of darkness and the coming of the Light. Forming a processional into the church, where the chains are loosened,we pour into the sanctuary and light every candle in the place (and I am talking about a LOT of candles). There is a joyful wildness, a carefree-ness about it all. Then . . .
The Service of the Word. Following the lighting of the candles, we experience the major stories of scripture right up to the resurrection. There is art, depicting the garden and then the art is â€œruinedâ€ by the fall and one of the children says it’s not pretty anymore. And who can ever forget the story of the flight from Egypt. Once youâ€™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 Pharaohâ€™s army â€“ well you canâ€™t forget. The story continues right up to the the resurrection.
There is the Baptism of those who have been participating in the â€œJourney into Jesusâ€, 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 â€“ food enough for everyone.
But Lord, Iâ€™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 and I canâ€™t help but hear and absorb the wonder, the beauty and LOVE that is Easter. We sing, clap, celebrate. A mom and young son dance together in joy of the resurrection.
Two teenage girls hold onto to each other in the overwhelming-ness of it all.
A man sits quietly in all the â€œnoiseâ€ 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 and 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. Sometimes to appreciate the joy and the TRUTH of it all, a nap is a good place to start! And I didnâ€™t miss Easter after all. There will be more years when I can participate more fully in the events, but I didnâ€™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!