An Easter Experience
Yesterday, Easter Day 2020, was, to say the least, an unusual day. There were no children in their new Easter clothes, no full worship spaces, no worshipers who attend only on Easter and Christmas. Here at Waycross First United Methodist Church, we had our volunteers, both technical and musical, to make our online worship happen, and we had a few people scattered around the sanctuary so I wouldn't be preaching to an empty room.
It was Easter Day, but, to be honest, when I got to the church, I wasn't "feeling it." Part of it, I think, was the lack of Holy Week activities, particularly Holy Thursday and Good Friday--I had been looking forward especially to leading Tenebrae, "the Service of Shadows," on Friday night. Part of it was this continuing unusual situation created by the COVID-19 virus. And part of it was grieving my father's passing, making arrangements for his burial in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and trying to get started on all the things one has to deal with in the wake of a loved one's passing. So it was Easter Day, but it just didn't feel like it at all.
Then the worship hour drew near. I put on my robe, and I began to feel something. I went in to the sanctuary to speak (at the correct social distance) with the folks who were there, and that "something" I had felt a few minutes before grew a little stronger. The worship service began, and I stood to offer the traditional Easter greeting: "The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!", and the feeling grew. Even the announcements became exciting to me. We sang the hymns and prayed the prayers, and the feeling was stronger still.
The preaching moment arrived, and I stood to proclaim the Easter message God had laid on my heart. As I spoke the words that I had written during the week (and had even revised that very morning), I felt an incredible presence of the Holy Spirit, more powerful than usual. And once the sermon was done, the hymn sung, and the benediction pronounced, I knew in my heart of hearts it was indeed Easter Day.
I've heard people say so many times over these years of pastoral ministry that they needed Sunday worship to "recharge their batteries." I, too, need that rejuvenation, and I do experience it as the community of faith worships together. In fact, i wonder how Christians who don't attend worship get along without it! I think, however, that yesterday was the most powerful renewal I've ever experienced. I was "laid low" by all the stuff going on in my head and my heart, but the Holy Spirit raised me up to Resurrection Life.
It was an Easter experience!