As I was listening to the radio yesterday, the station was giving tips on how to get ready for Easter. The tips included a lady with a Southern-sweet-tea accent talking about cooking up the perfect ham and candied carrots and wearing those bright pastel colors on Easter Sunday whether it felt like Spring or not!
My heart ached for more.
Don't get me wrong: I am avidly scouring allrecipes.com to try and figure out how to cook my very first ham and what the heck it means to candy a carrot. Annie has a cute, pastel-colored dress hanging in the closet and we will be decorating eggs and going on an epic egg hunt. Today I will conquer Target and every ever-lovin' aisle of spring time happiness.
But God forbid that's what it looks like for my family and I to get 'ready for Easter'.
Because that is not Easter at all. That is a celebration of spring time and American holiday traditions. Traditions which I will be the first to celebrate and uphold as magical childhood rites' of passage. Because honestly, you can hardly finish the school year and head into a summer of honeysuckle and forts, if you have not first scoured the earth for eggs and eaten your momma's ham!
Still- these are spring celebrations, not Easter celebrations.
Easter celebrations are harder. Most years I walk away sad. I know I have missed the point and not fully wrapped my heart around the journey to the cross. Many times I long for the person on the radio to tell me how to get ready for Easter because I simply don't know how to myself.
Maybe they don't either. Maybe we all don't. Maybe sometimes the best we have to offer is candied carrots.
So I decided to go to a Maundy Thursday service last night.
I was raised in a denomination that did not fully celebrate Lent or Holy Week. By "did not fully" I mean I had NO idea what Ash Wednesday or Maundy Thursday was until I was deep into college! So attending a Maundy Thursday service- or- celebrating Easter for an entire season for that matter, is still slightly foreign to my novice, liturgical soul.
I picked the service I attended last night based on the sign I've driven by all week that said: Join us Maundy Thursday.
OK. I will.
I really had no idea what to expect, but this year more than any, I am searching for the fullness of Easter. So I walked into a church I've never stepped foot into, surrounded by strangers, looking for something bigger than ham and pastels.
If I could script out heaven, it would look like what I walked into last night. People of every race. YES!!! Lots of old white people, of which I will join the ranks one day, but they were just a tiny fragment. Every color. Every ethnicity. Every socio-economic level. Quite honestly- the weirdest, most strange collection of people I have ever encountered in a single room. Weird and strange namely because they all sat in one room together with smiles on their faces and love in their hearts for one another. They prayed, sang, clapped, hugged, wept, hoped, loved, washed one another's feet and offered each other communion.
The dynamic difference in these people so apparent, yet so palpably inconsequential, blew me away.
It felt like heaven.
We sang hymns. And songs I didn't know. The choir sounded like an army of angels. Robust and loud and soulful. I literally just listened as they led us into worship with over 10 different songs and I felt like perhaps Jesus himself was wooing me into Easter. And, in a moment of me scripting out my own little piece of heaven, we sang Whitney Houston's track 'I Love the Lord' from the Preacher's Wife soundtrack. What-what?!?! And to think, I had just texted Ryan when the choir (full of mostly middle-aged white people) came out in their green choir robes and simply said, "Uh-oh, green choir robes. Boo."
So many prejudices, dispositions, expectations and baggage- I label what I am so unqualified to label. Forgive me for my narrow-minded blindness Lord.
So there I was- with a diverse room in every sense of the word- and they were there for Holy Week. The service was over an hour and a half. And it wasn't yet done when I left. The priest sang. People prayed and offered words to the congregation. Momma Carter told us Jesus loved us. We sang the Lord's prayer and prayed the prayer of contrition and spoke the Nicene Creed and then- did a little Whitney Houston gospel- and I'm telling you- I've never heard music like that.
Often- I don't know exactly what it is I'm looking for- but I know what I'm not looking for. Cue candied carrots.
Every Easter I find myself looking for Jesus. Looking for my own journey to His cross that I might come away changed. Often I walk away sad. Too often I have walked away with only Easter eggs and a ham.
But last night I walked away with a glimpse of heaven. A resounding voice from Jesus. The unfolding of the Passover. The blood on my door that told the Lord he could move on to the next house. The act of eating. Remembering. Serving. Serving. Serving. The voice that said to Peter and says to me, "Jenny- I have to wash your feet for you to belong to me. I want to wash your feet. Sit still daughter. Remember my love for you."
As the moments ticked away for Jesus on earth- as He made his journey to the cross- He Himself taught us the way to get ready for Easter.
So whatever your weekend Spring traditions may hold- candied carrots or an Easter egg hunt at the zoo with 40,000 eggs (yes, we are attempting this)... enjoy the traditions of spring.
Celebrate Easter. The life- death- and resurrection of Jesus Christ-
Who washed our feet as He made His way to the cross and said