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EASTER!!! (Part 1)

March 26, 2008

Wow. Wow, wow, wow.

I have to say that the Easter Sunday services were the most incredible church experience I have ever had. By the time we left, my face actually hurt from smiling so much.

The first service we attended was the 6:30 sunrise service… the Easter Vigil. The service began in darkness with the lighting of the Paschal candle. They brought the candle in with the proclamation of “The light of Christ” and we all lit our own little candles from this same fire.

My first experience with the little candles was the Christmas Eve Service. Those little guys sure do give off a lot of heat! I learned my lesson and made a point of holding the candle a good distance from my face this time. (I am proud to say that it made quite a difference. No sweat emanating from my pores, this time!)

Mother Anne gave the sermon during that service. And her message was PHENOMENAL. Seriously. As she spoke, it felt like she has been reading parts of my journal. It’s one of the best messages I have heard in a long time.

Two children were baptized and received into the community at the Easter Vigil. I have to admit that these baptisms did not move me as profoundly as other baptism services that I have attended. There’s something about the picture that is presented by watching someone go under the water and then rise again into life in Christ. Still, there was something that was really cool about the way we all participated with them, as a community. How we joined them in renewing our baptismal vows (which pretty much boils down to reciting the creed, in chunks, and answering a handful of questions with “I will, with God’s help.”) How we welcomed them into the community of believers, exhorting them to join us in the life of hope and obedience and committing to stand with them. “Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ? — We will.”

After the baptisms, the clergy even sprinkled the entire congregation with holy water as they left the building. I was conveniently (or not so conveniently) located in the aisle seat, so I got good and wet. No matter how much you brace yourself for something like that, there’s no way to really be prepared for a sudden shower of water, making a swift, horizontal journey to your face.

A few seconds after this, Christina (who was sitting beside me) lost all ability to contain her laughter. Unfortunately, I was not very helpful in this matter. She had to sit down twice and try to pull herself together. It was quite amusing.

The second half of the service began with “Alleluia, the Lord is risen,” and the response, “The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia.” And then… the “Holy Noise.”

I have to admit that the Holy Noise caught me a little off guard… but it swept me into ecstatic reality. I was struck with how profound that moment in history was… the moment that we were all gathered to remember and celebrate. The in-breaking of the age to come… the initial glow of the dawning new day, the day whose light we look to and whose fullness we await. When the firstborn from the dead rose again to life, demonstrating the power of God, the power of the resurrection… the power that is available for us and will be fully exercised in us when we are raised to new life with Him. The assurance of our hope. God’s yes to the groans of His anguishing creation.

The whole service was so beautiful. The irregular elements that marked our Easter celebration and the standard components of a regular service alike.

Oh… and I got my tulips. The whole front of the church was beautifully decorated with fresh Easter lilies and tulips. It was wonderful! (I don’t think I have ever become so engaged in looking around and taking everything in when approaching the altar rail to receive communion. It was almost too much. I loved it! All of those delicate little tulips… brought in to participate in the celebration of Jesus’ victory over the powers of death.)

By the time the service ended, the sun had fully risen. What a transition, from darkness into light.

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