He is risen, INDEED!
I am late posting this, although, really, it's never too late. Plus, liturgically, Easter lasts for another 6 weeks until Pentecost. I'm suffering from a bit of "OCD" writer's block. I keep thinking of things I'd like to research and write about, things like early Church history around celebrations of the resurrection, and I'm not finding the time.
So, first, a bit about my celebration of Easter. I went to Dunedin, to the Great Vigil at All Saints' Anglican Church. Here's a little information about the Easter Vigil liturgy. The service started with a bonfire in front of the church. One of the advantages of being in the Southern Hemisphere this time of year is that it is not only possible, it's EASY to start the Vigil in the dark, as the rubrics in the Book of Common Prayer suggest. In Montana, after Daylight Saving Time begins, it's still light at 8 PM and since this is typically a long service, it's quite difficult to start it after dark and not lose people due to the late hour. (Of course, we are all wimps, because this service originated as an actual all-night vigil. Check out the Wikipedia article for more information than you could ever want about that.)
To back up, just a tad, I got a flat tyre (tire) on my way to the service. It's a long story but to truncate it a bit, I called my boss (I was near his place) and he came and rescued me and took me to church then went back and put my spare on and then drove my car back to me while his wife drove their car so that I could go straight home after the service. It was probably the most wonderful part of the whole thing! This man couldn't care less about church. He's not "anti" church or Christianity, just not interested. But he exhibited a most Christ-like, genuine care for me and for what he knew was important to me. And he never showed any degree of annoyance or in any way made me feel like I needed to repay him for his kindness. As I was waiting in the dark for him to come and rescue me, I was thinking how much I had wanted to go to the Vigil and how I had planned out the day with just that in mind and I was so close to making it and it looked like I was going to miss it. I had a moment of peace and clarity there--I said a prayer asking God to make a way for me to make it there or to help me to be ok with it if I couldn't make it. I took a deep breath and let go of my wants and expectations and had a sense that whatever was in store was completely God's will and exactly where I was supposed to be. That's nothing short of miraculous, frankly, as I'm the world's worst control freak! And, in the end, the surprise was Branko, coming through to help me with my car AND get me to church! Who knows what kind of work the spirit might be doing in him, or me?
So, to get back to the vigil, it was a beautiful service, starting with the bonfire and lighting of the Paschal candle. The first part of the service is in the dark, by candle light with readings from the Hebrew Scriptures which tell the ancient story of God's salvation of his people. The readings were interspersed with psalms and canticles. The musicians were amazing, including the 15 year old organist! After that, the lights come on and everyone joins in the proclamation that "Christ is Risen!" The remainder of the service is spent in hearing the Gospel, singing songs of praise, and remembering our baptisms and renewing our own baptismal vows. And afterwards, there's a big party!
It was interesting, because this service, for me, is always the START of Easter! Although the space of time from Good Friday morning to Saturday night is quite short, it is a long time for me, an impatient person, to sit in that space of grief and pain. But this year, I celebrated this amazing event in one of the very first time zones in the world! I couldn't, then, go on Facebook and proclaim the Good News, could I? Not when most of my friends were still in that hard place with Jesus in the tomb. It seemed sort of inappropriate. So...I drove home on my spare tire, went to bed, and got up in the morning and did it all again. Sort of...I did it in an entirely different format at St. Mark's in Balclutha. I found I can really get into modern praise songs, as long as I've also been able to bathe myself in the rich tradition of the ancietn liturgy.
Because of my tyre, I stayed close to home for the remainder of the holiday weekend. No fabulous photos to post. I wasn't able to get the tyre fixed until Tuesday, the day I went back to work. But that's ok. It was good for me to take some walks and runs and meditate on the beauty and glory of it all.
One of the things I did was listen to a sermon by Jeff Miner about how we can live into the power of the resurrection. It's nice to say "Christ is Risen" and rejoice that Jesus was raised from the dead. But what does that really MEAN? And how does it or should it affect my life? Often, churches are packed on Easter Sunday with people you won't see again until Christmas Eve. Pastors have a hard job to do, to make the most of their one shot at reaching those people with the Gospel. People want to see that we're really "walking the walk." Are we REALLY following Jesus? Even when it's really hard? Are we "dying" to our own expectations, our selfish desires, and letting God raise us up to a new life of love, surrender, worship, and service? If all people see is our "Hallelujahs" and our hand waving and clapping but no substance, no acts of love for the poor, the oppressed, the outcasts, what good is it for us to proclaim that Christ is Risen? It's something to think about...daily, weekly, not just on Easter Sunday.
In keeping with the rather scattered motif of this post, I want to share something that comes to mind every so often, especially when thinking about death and resurrection. It's a memory of my car wreck in 2006. I'm not sure if it's ACTUALLY a memory, but it's become embedded in my narrative of the event to the point that I hold onto it as a memory. In July of 2006, while driving home from work, I rolled my car off the interstate. I don't remember why and I may never know why. I remember only bits and pieces of what happened after that for the next several days, as I was rushed to the Livingston hospital, flown to Billings, operated on and taken care of in the ICU. At some stage, I had this very vivid flash of a memory of what happened as my car was flying through the air. I remember a feeling of total surrender, knowing that I couldn't possibly survive this. I didn't "WANT" to die--we had just returned from visiting Kate in Guatemala and I wanted to bring her home! But in spite of that, I found myself looking straight into the eyes of Jesus, saying, "here I am, Lord, I guess it's time." I felt a sense of absolute peace and love, as I knew that I would be safe in his arms. And then I heard, "No, not yet. It's not your time, yet. Your family needs you. There's more for you to do." It was like I'd been hit with a ton of bricks (maybe that was the car landing!) But it was a moment of disappointment because I knew that this was going to hurt...a lot...and that I was going to really have to fight for my life.
What the memory does for me, at Easter, is it drives home to me how I don't have to fear death because Jesus overcame death. But, on the other hand, it also makes it crystal clear that Jesus' death and resurrection must not be in vain. My life was spared for some reason. It's all part of being "Guided by Grace" again. I'm following in the path that is put in front of me, even though I often have no idea what it means or why I am on it. It's very simple, and yet, sometimes it's the hardest thing in the world to do.
Christ is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!!