I don’t know about you – but Easter for our family was very – very different this year.
Yes – I preached an Easter sermon – but I preached my Easter sermon on Good Friday in an almost empty sanctuary to my faithful, dedicated Jack and his handy dandy camcorder.
The sanctuary was beautiful. I mean really – really beautiful on Good Friday. The sun was shining through the stained glass windows casting rainbows all over our sanctuary.
Everywhere I turned there was another rainbow. Another splash of color to gaze at. Another reminder of God’s presence to give me pause.
Steve had changed the paraments from somber, dark Lenten purple to sparkling Easter white and gold for us.
Steve also took the time to put up all of our candles. Both Jack and I enjoyed being able to light the candles together. As a pastor’s kid Jack has lit so very – very many candles, and he is good at it. I enjoyed sharing this simple task with my big boy (who really isn’t a boy any longer – just in my heart – I suppose).
Once everything was ready. The candles were lit. The lights and the sound system were on. I took my place at the front of the sanctuary, and I took a deep breath. I closed my eyes, and I said a quick prayer. I prayed for my sisters and brothers in Christ who I was missing so badly. It wasn’t a long prayer – just what my youth group kids in Wabash called a “popcorn prayer.” I have missed you all so much over the past weeks – but in that moment the longing for you was at its deepest (so far).
And the coolest thing happened – because when I opened my eyes I remembered that I wasn’t actually preaching my sermon alone. I wasn’t just talking to Jack and his camcorder (as awesome as he is). I remembered that great cloud of witnesses the Bible talks about in Hebrews chapter 12. (I was probably messing with scripture just a bit. I am pretty sure Hebrews is talking about dead people – but still I was reminded of it. . .)
It might sound crazy to some of you, but I could see all of you there in the sanctuary with me. I could see Brenda in her chair close to the organ. I could see Matt, Chloe, and Lori right up front where Lutherans so rarely dare to tread (or sit) and Bill, Vivian, Charlie and Phyllis right behind them! I could see Marcia and Elaine and their special people in the back in their seats, and Carol, Bobby, Tonya, Clint, and Amanda across the aisle from them. I could see Steve and Rita halfway back on my left on the aisle (for a quick escape in case we need any volunteers for anything during worship). I could see Easton’s mischievous grin coming from the back as he plots his next great escape, and I could see Fred busy ushering in the back.
(And please – please don’t think because I didn’t name you here that I have forgotten you or didn’t imagine you!) I saw all of you there with me, and you were wearing your Easter best!!! It looked like you all had chosen some seriously nice Easter outfits for Easter this year – nicely done Lutherans! Nicely done!
And although my heart still ached just a bit, because I so long to see all of you. To catch up and hear how you are doing. To see your faces and to say a final good-bye to these frustrating days of social distancing – I was reminded of the incredible gift and blessing of Christian community and family. And our Saint Stephen church family is a blessing for which I give our Lord thanks each day.
And I want to encourage you to do the same. Remember the gift and blessing of your church family during these long – difficult days of social distancing.
Remember one another in prayer.
Remember to reach out to one another.
Call and check in with each other. Don’t just wait until we can all see each other face to face again to make those connections. Send a text to the folks who share your pew or to the folks you always chat with during coffee hour. Shoot off a zippy quick email or three or four to the people who sit on the same side of the sanctuary with you this week and next week send one to some folks on the opposite side of the sanctuary. Write a card and drop it in the mail. Write 6 cards and drop those in the mail too!
If you need a church directory please let me know. I will drop one in the mail to you.
Reach out to one another. Check-in. Just say hi. Or say Happy Easter – the Easter season lasts for 7 weeks – until Pentecost Sunday on May 31st so you still have some time.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
In Christ and with Love –