I wish there had been a video camera in church this morning to record what had to have been the most glorious and Spirit-filled Easter service I've ever attended. I'm used to the very solemn and dignified rituals of Easter morning. The church dressed in white, candles burning brightly, songs full of praise and people, all decked out in their Springtime finest, walking reverently towards the altar to receive mass.
Things have changed at our quiet little church since the Hispanics have taken over. Worship for this, "happy band of Christians" (as they were dubbed soon after arriving) is all about "making a joyful noise." They are still reverent, with perhaps more rituals than we are used to, but each is done with the intent of giving praise and Thanksgiving to the Lord. There is a mixture of long-time Catholic tenets and spicy, Hispanic enthusiasm. With this morning's first "Alleluia" the crowd broke into excited bell ringing, hand clapping, and tambourine waving interspersed with enough resounding whistles and praise-making to rival something you might see in the downtown AME churches. I don't know what God thinks when he is greeted by this kind of worship, but I am sure of one thing, He could not have slept through it!
For me, Easter, like Christmas, is a holy yet mysterious time. Christians are expected to accept the stories of the life, death, and Resurrection of Christ with nothing more than faith the size of a mustard seed. In my lifetime I have believed because it was expected of me, not believed at all, believed to the point of considering the priesthood, and believed because there has to be something bigger and better than all of us. I believe because, in my humble opinion, Christ's commandment to love pretty much sums up what I think is the purpose of life.
Love is what I felt in church today. Love of Christ. Love of music. Love of color. Love of family. Love of light. Love of life. Tears rolled down my face as a couple who were celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary re-committed themselves to each other. When they turned around to face the congregation - after a perfectly delightful kiss - their faces shone with love that had been growing for many years. It was an honor and privilege to be invited to share their joy.
I've heard the word "Easter" used as a verb instead of a noun. Eastering people have been transformed from people of darkness to people of the light. Even if you do not practice a certain religion, Spring itself is an example of Easter. After a long dormant winter Mother Nature, herself, begins to Easter. Trees and flowers bloom in riotous beauty. Birds singing songs of praise and "Alleluia" rejoice in each new day. The sun's light shines longer as if to dispel the power of darkness. Life is good!
Yesterday as I searched in true Goldilock's fashion for just the right ham the man next to me struck up a conversation. He offered more than just the cursory shopper's hello. He made direct eye contact as if to pull me out of my world and into his. We spoke of hams and holiday dinners. He explained that he was buying several pieces of meat because he was feeding his neighbors - something he does every holiday. I don't have any idea what religion, if any, this man practices, but it was clear to me that he was full of love. I'm not a student of the Bible. However, I've had a recurring thought this week. It comes from John's gospel (13:35) ... "By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." There was no hymn singing nor candles burning nor incense stinking up the place, but I felt in that moment of conversation with a perfect stranger, that the meat section of Walmart momentarily turned into a sanctuary where two disciples met and shared communion.
On this day I wish for you brightly colored eggs, marshmallow chicks, chocolate bunnies, and an Eastering heart that believes in miracles,