Every year we interrupt our schedules to pause and reflect on the tension that Easter puts upon us. If you look beyond the Easter Bunny, chocolate candy, and the excitement of spring, you find in the Easter story sadness, betrayal, abandonment, and pain. If you keep looking, in a few short days the feelings of wonder, awe, excitement, joy, and maybe bewilderment roll over us as well. Our Easter experience begins and ends much the same way.
The Maundy Thursday Service was our chance to stop and consider what it must have been like for Jesus and the disciples. We began the service by emulating a Ugandan tradition of having our hands washed by our table host while they explained the meaning it holds for our Ugandan brothers and sisters and what this might mean for us as well. Through communion led by Eszter Bjorkman, scripture read by Jacob Smoker, Roger North, Brendan Armitage, Kathy Miller, Hunter Hess, Rose King Saylor, and Lucas Campbell, and songs led by Darlene Hein, we remembered the night Jesus was betrayed. Rashard Allen invited us to wonder about the events of this evening as he sang “Were you there” from a darkened corner of the room. As each scripture was read and another candle extinguished, we experienced in the growing darkness of the room a reminder of one of the darkest moments in human history. We left the lightless room in quietness and returned home, perhaps as the disciples did, to reflect on the meaning of it all.
Saturday dawned crisp and cool, and a small group led by Ally Weaver gathered in the North Grove to begin hiding over 600 eggs in anticipation of the day to come. Steve and Judy Landis, Marlene Weaver, Annika, Jeané and Lyle Hershey, Kris and Ed Plakans, Jacob Smoker, and Eszter Bjorkman worked behind the scenes to make this day come together. Galen Sauder, with the help of his cordless power drill, told of the sacrifice Jesus made for all of us. Then it was time for Mr. Ed (Plakans) to marshal the children into two age-appropriate groups and distribute them to the areas prepared for them. The excitement was palpable as the children charged over the lawn, quickly finding all 600 eggs in record time.
Like finding an unexpected prize, an Easter Egg, this weekend of Easter was full of surprises. The ugliness of the crucifixion the day before. The earthquake, the midday darkness, the numerous ‘saints’ rising from the dead, the temple veil being torn from top to bottom, must have been very surprising, even frightening, for those in Jerusalem at the time. But as Dave Leaman reminded us Sunday morning, we have the benefit of hindsight and know that ‘Sunday’s coming!’
Sunday did indeed come.
Greetings of “He is Risen!” were echoed with replies of “He is Risen Indeed!” as preparations were being made for the Sunrise Service at 7:30 a.m. on the North Parking Lot. If that seems a little late for a sunrise service, it is! We are fortunate that the sun doesn’t rise over the hill behind the church until about 7:40 a.m., allowing attendees to sleep in a little longer. Over 50 early, and a few not-so-early, risers braved the mid-30 degree temperatures to share in the joy that must have been felt when Mary discovered the empty tomb. Katie Rose and Matt Moffett led us in music - cold fingers on cold guitar strings didn’t slow Matt at all - and Ministry Intern, Jacob Smoker, shared a meaningful story of resurrection that he experienced while serving in Jamaica for a week with his school. He was challenged by the compassion and joy that the severely disabled orphans he was working with had for one another, for him and his classmates, and for other children experiencing hardship around the world. It was an excellent challenge and reminder for all who were there. The service ended with another “He is Risen” refrain (not the last time that was heard that morning), and then we gratefully retreated to the warmth of the church and the comfort of a pancake breakfast prepared by Jeff Witwer and his team.
Finally, it was the Easter service! We can fully celebrate the miracle of this day, the resurrection of Jesus, who has made it possible for us to find complete union with God through him. Our darkness has been washed away in the light of his coming and it makes us break out in song, something we did with gusto that morning. The choir led us to worship with two songs, and Pastor Hunter Hess showed us how we have been ‘shaped by resurrection’. For as long as I can remember, every Easter service has ended with the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus, and this service continued that excellent tradition. It was again a meaningful Easter season. We remembered the pain and sacrifice and we celebrated the joy of the resurrection.
He is Risen!