Sunday, March 23, 2008

HE HAS RISEN!

Oh, he has risen indeed! Today at church we greeted each other with this traditional phrase and it drove it home all the more that this is the day to be celebrated. Without this day that Christ rose from the dead all that we do in life would be worthless and mean nothing. He has risen! I can't think of a time when this day meant more to me then this Easter Sunday. I don't know what the difference was. Maybe it started early in the week as our family gathered together to decorat our eggs in traditional Lithuanian style. With live plants and boiling them in water with red onion skins as dye. They turned out looking pretty incredible for our first try.

Or perhaps it started by attending the prayer time Thursday night. I entered a very small banquet room lit only by the open mouth fireplace and the candles that were generously placed on the tables which were thoughtfully laid out in the shape of a large cross with only a small plate at each chair, enough to seat about 30. Just the amount of people that showed up.

We entered the room in meditative silence. After we all hung our coats and greeted each other warmly we sat ourselves around the cross shaped tables and prayed silently continuing to embrace the quiet atmosphere. I kneeled at my chair and sobbed. A much needed release and connection with our heavenly father. It was a safe place to meet the Lord and unload my burdens into his care. We sat in prayer for a very long time. It was fantastic.

The Pastor sat at the head of the cross, his wife at his left and I sat next to her so that she could translate to me all that would be said. I so appreciated that they would accommodate me being that I was the only one there who didn't speak the language and her talking would add a bit of noisiness to the quiet, reverent atmosphere and keep her from absorbing the evening herself.

The Pastor began by sharing about the Israelites passover meal before they fled Egypt. He also shared that we would partake in the traditional passover (Sadar) meal. We passed the lamb and passed it again until it was gone and not a morsel was left. No utensils were used. It was interesting to look around and see that a few of the Lithuanians in the room had obviously never eaten lamb before and by the looks on their faces they didn't seem so crazy about it's strong flavor, but they ate it anyway. I had no problem taking up the slack here when the serving plate arrived to me the third time and still had a little meat on it. I almost felt like I was doing them a favor by eating what was left and not passing it on again:) You could feel the sigh of relief by some that they would not be asked to take anymore.

In between the elements of the supper, we heard scripture from various areas of the room and the pastor's wife and I lead acapella singing. It was a wonderful time of remembering our heritage in quiet reflective thought and wrapping up by sharing communion together, then greeting each other with,"Peace to you" at the close. The quiet reverence and low voices continued as we cleaned up the place, distinguished the fire and candle lights, locked the doors and headed home for the night.

On Saturday the church set up an elaborate prayer walk that took up half the University Gymnasium. It was the journey of the cross with 9 stations. It was simply amazing and most impressive. I have never seen anything quit like it. Several stations led in a half circle then up some steps and up some more steps to the foot of the cross at the center of the room and several meters high. I couldn't help but sob when I reached the foot of the cross as I considered how my sin had taken our beloved Lord and placed him there. It took time to pray and consider if I could let go of the burden of sin I carry with me so diligently and nail it to the wooden cross before me with the hammer, nails and paper provided. As I wept and wept I eventually conceded my burden to the foot of the cross. The trouble to nail it on echoed throughout the gym. And as each person did this it was a reminder to everyone there that God is big enough to carry all of our burdens. At the end of the journey I felt so overjoyed that our savior was not bound by death and I rejoiced in his resurrection from the grave! A new joy filled my soul as I left the room and headed home in the chilly night air.

Easter morning greeted both Garrett and I with delightful squeals from kids who found their Easter baskets and new church outfits (thanks Grandparents). Everyone dressed in their best and of course group photos were a must. All the way to church we talked about why we celebrate Easter and what that means. We were pleased to hear that the kids knew all about it and were more than willing to share their knowledge with us.

Once at church there seemed to be a spirit of pure joy in the air. People had come today with eager anticipation of our gathering. Our service opened with a young trio. Two of the students go to the Rainbow School where our kids go and I had asked them to share a song with us. They did a fantastic job and were received with enthusiastic clapping and cheers from the congregation when they were done. I can't wait to have then back again.

Worship on stage wasn't any different then usual except of course the song selection was focused on Christ's death and resurrection. Garrett and I were reflecting later that worship seemed more amazing because the attitude of the congregation had come ready to participate and it really was a whole experience and we could hear so many more people singing then we normally can. That is what made it great.

Saul preached a heartfelt sermon and we closed the service with a duet. I sang with a missionary's daughter who was out for a visit and has a magnificent voice! "My Redeemer Lives" by Mullens (?). We sang in English while the words were translated on the overhead. Elise and my voice mingled as if they were one. It was a good vocal match with power behind it. The congregation seemed to absorb the message and I could see so many swiping at their eyes. When we were done the congregation was stunned into silence and then erupted into applause in a way I have never heard from them before. It was so unexpected I didn't know what to do and we bobbled uncomfortably on stage for a few minutes waiting for what was supposed to happen next. Saul finally came back on stage, said a few words and then asked us to sing the song again (at least I think that's what he said:). So as people were invited to leave we sang the song one more time. More than half the congregation stayed for the reprise.

After church several young missionaries/staff at the University and a few study abroad students piled into our car and came to our house for a big burrito meal and fellowship in our living room. I can't think of a better way to have spent the afternoon after a fantastic week of celebrating Christ's death and resurrection.

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Placa de VĂ­deo said...
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