This week’s Acts 8 BLOGFORCE Challenge invites us to share stories of resurrection:
As we move through the latter weeks of the Easter season, it’s important to keep the story in our heads. There’s a lot of doom and gloom around cultural change and restructuring, but we are a people of the Resurrection. The BLOGFORCE question before us: “Where have you experienced resurrection, either in the church or otherwise, this Holy Week and Easter Season?”
I’ve spent a lot of time pondering this week’s question; thinking back over the particularities of Holy Week and Easter. We had our first “real” Palm Sunday procession this year: eight blocks from the main intersection in town to our front walk. Evening Prayer was delightful, with meditative music, provocative lessons, and earnest prayers. Maundy Thursday is always challenging, but I got away with not having my feet washed, and I knew that God loves me. Good Friday, as I read the Passion from John’s Gospel, I felt the tears welling up, and remembered what it was all about. And then there’s Easter Day, what can you say about a day so bright and glorious.
Even as I took the time to remember all those events, I felt like I was still missing the point. I had done plenty, but I wasn’t sure I had actually experienced resurrection. Sometimes I’m not even sure I know what that means. Life is just so busy, I wonder how much I really experience anything. And then I remembered this weekend.
On Saturday morning, we buried a Saint. It was one of those times where the procession leaves the church, but doesn’t require police assistance or a pretty white hearse. We left the Narthex and turned right into the Memorial Garden where the Committal immediately followed. As the service concluded, I raised my arm to offer the blessing, which is one of my favorites:
The God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant: Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight; and the blessing of God almighty: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you this day now, and forever more. Amen. (BCP 486-7, I’ve apparently changed the ending in my memory, this is the version I say, which is not what is actually in the Prayer Book)
On Sunday morning, we baptized a Saint. We welcomed the three-month old granddaughter of our Rector into the household of God. The church was packed, the music was glorious, and my arms felt as if they were floating as I stood in the Orans position during the Eucharistic Prayer. As the service concluded, I raised my arm to offer the blessing, the same blessing as the day before, the blessing appropriate for Eastertide, for Good Shepherd Sunday, and for a baptism, and I almost didn’t make it through. It was in that moment, as I pronounced God’s blessing upon the gathered body of Christ, that I experienced resurrection.
Things aren’t perfect at Saint Paul’s. Finances are tight. Average Sunday Attendance has plateaued. A group of people don’t like the music or the noisy children or whatever. As much as I hate to admit it, Saint Paul’s is pretty much like every other church in the world. We have our ups and down: good times and bad. I’ve been bummed about this realization. After eight years of hard work, I want to only have good stories to tell. I want it to be fun all the time, but as I raised my hand to bless the people on Sunday, I felt peace and joy that only comes from God. As I struggled to get those words out, I knew that God was in control, that his work and his will are to be done, that even when it isn’t going the way I want it to, as long as we remain faithful, it will head in the direction God wants it to. I felt relieved, and for the first time in longer than I’d like to admit, I got out of my head and experienced the moment again. I experienced God’s blessing pouring down upon his people, and upon me. I experienced all of heaven rejoicing at the baptism one tiny little baby. I experienced resurrection.