Reliving the Easter story in a new way

This article appeared in the Marathon Mercury on April 8th, 2020.

Easter is coming, and we’re greeting its arrival a little differently this year. There will be no procession of worshippers with palm branches held aloft, no gathering to meditate on the stations of the cross, no potluck dinner to capture the magic of Jesus’ final supper with his friends, and no loud and joyful Easter service in our church buildings. The whole town, even with the strong rays of the sun beating down on our decks, feels a little tomb-like. 

It all reminds me a bit of the Great Easter Vigil, a tradition friends in the Christian community celebrate around the globe. It’s like a mini Advent (those weeks leading up to Christmas) where we gather in the dark and wait for the daybreak together. Held on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, there is often a bonfire and readings, as the community prayerfully remembers the disciples who waited for the return of their friend and leader. I’ve found there’s often a sense of giddy anticipation because we know what comes on Easter morning – music, food and friends, all a reminder of the New Life we’re celebrating. 

The Easter Vigil fire at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Sunbury OH, 2017

But this year, the call to “shelter in place” is much like the very first Easter Vigil, attended by those earliest courageous followers of the teacher from Nazareth. We gather together in our homes, worried and afraid, unsure of what is to come, unsure of when this time of uncertainty will be over. But we cling to the promises we’ve been given of new life beyond death.

Let this strange time be an invitation to live into that ancient story in a new way. Ask yourself how it feels to be in that place of limbo, not sure when the night will end and daybreak arrives. Use your imagination to think about the kinds of conversations those scared ancient people might have had, what their fears and hopes might have been. And, when we finally emerge from our homes, when this pandemic finally ends, breath into that feeling of relief and think back to Easter. How do you feel changed by your own vigil? How might those followers of Jesus felt changed also?

So let me say an early Happy Easter to you and your household. I hope you will find light and life in the darkness, knowing the daybreak is on her way.

Written by Selina Mullin, Congregational Minister at St. John’s United

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