Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Intentional Act of Eastering Together

Easter Sunday, like every other Sunday, our pastor passed the microphone around our small sanctuary to anyone who'd like to share. She asked us, "What difference did God make in your life last week?" We're often slow to get started, but it only takes that one brave soul to go first. Sometimes I nudge Cory to get things started. Now and then I raise my hand first.

Last week, it was Charles. He told us about a letter he had finally written to his Grandma, how he had stuffed a few Polaroids of himself into the envelope, and then promptly lost it somewhere between his home and the post office. "Two days later, she called to tell me how much she loved the letter I sent her, said it was exactly what she's been needing to hear from me, and she really liked the pictures." He paused. "So, God made a difference by allowing some kind soul to find my letter lying on the ground and drop it into the mail box for me."


Sunday afternoon as I washed up the last dishes from our Easter lunch, the sheer level of my gratitude hit me straight in the tear ducts. There have been Easters where I held every symbol close to my chest, suddenly absorbing meaning from stories that were worn down over the years through uncertain repetition. I have wept through each consecutive church service during Lent. I've surrendered sweets and staying up late. I have prayed for understanding and felt the quiet thrum of awe when those prayers were answered. There had never been an Easter bunny for me, but there had also never been a smudge of ash on my skin or a liturgy of lament. There had never been a congregation so frail that even trying to pretend otherwise would be utterly pointless.

It shouldn't surprise me that my soul is at home in this bruised and beaten body. We could pass the mic and never stop passing it, each one taking our turn, peeling back the story like petals on a rose. We are bitter, angry, grieved, addicted, lonely, stubborn, weary, and often cynical. But we have our reasons. We know what it means to search for hope as though our actual life depends on it. Through this sharing, we are somehow fortified, God's trick math showing up once again, abundance arriving at the back door of surrender.

I spent a good chunk of Easter weekend in the kitchen. We had taken a spontaneous turn with the mic the previous week and offered anyone without a place to go on Easter Sunday a seat at our table. I thought we would have our usual gang. I wasn't prepared for hands to fly up across the sanctuary. And I wasn't prepared for one of the many grandmas to draw in inches from my face after service and press a twenty dollar bill into my palm. "I can't do the things you're doing anymore, but I wanted to help." (I cannot type her words today without tears.)

We changed the venue. Ruby helped mix an industrial-sized pan of hash brown potatoes and I conquered my first (and second) ham. I baked pies and knew it didn't matter when one of the crusts fell in under its own weight.

Late Saturday night, I contemplated the dress hanging in my closet since October with the tags still attached. If there was ever a day that warrants a special dress, it might be Easter. But I thought of my friends from the Work Release center two streets over who would slide into the pew a few minutes late wearing the same jeans they wear to their factory jobs and knew I'd be there waiting in my own Easter jeans.

I'm guessing God has the kind of spiritual X-ray vision that sees past our attempts to polish ourselves up or pretend we're harder than we are. I delighted in seeing Ruby twirling in her dress and in Silas, decked out for the most important day of the church calendar in athletic shorts with five lanyards draped around his neck. It's safe to assume God doesn't have big opinions on this. But kinship is an interesting friend. It draws us together and changes our lens. God keeps showing me His goodness in the faces of my neighbors and the ways they mean it when they say they love me just as I am. It makes me want to keep offering the same back to them. It makes me want to sit in solidarity with them, to really be with them, not out of pity or some off-brand of Christian service, but because I recognize how badly I need them to be with me.

Lunch was as weird and wonderful as I had hoped, a hodge podge of twenty-five loners and lovers, the drifters and the deeply misunderstood. Lisa helped me glaze the ham. Josh asked for the recipe for the potatoes. Becca put Stephanie at ease. Jesse swung the kids around by their arms until one of them legitimately thought he might puke. Cory held the brand new baby. And as Brian zipped out the door to meet his work release curfew, he locked eyes with me, kissing the tips of his fingers like an Italian chef. No big surprise, we all love pie. 

 

I'm becoming more convinced that this is how God moves among us. This is how His kingdom comes down to meet us, not so much through the grand gesture but in quietly compelling our hearts toward togetherness. We chop broccoli. We look each other in the eye. We hold out our breaking hearts with shaking hands, choosing hope over history.

We keep our eyes fixed at ground level, paying attention to what might have been lost along the way, and carrying it home.



 

13 comments:

  1. I do love all of this. Couple of things- thank you for keeping Easter real with big feelings but not too big, just normal feelings when you want to do big and fancy but you do you instead and God provides. Here's the thing- despite our "feelings" God did Him. It's what the day is all about. And second to the kids in the athletic clothes on the fanciest dress day of the calendar and God's thoughts on that. Got a little amen and chuckle out of me.

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  3. I sure would have loved to raise my hand to join you on Easter day. Yet my husband and I were busy leading a 4 day retreat in a very simple and remote place 4 hours away from our flat in France. More than 30 people came thirsty for hope and answers and His love... He delivered and it was just incredible to be on the front row to watch Him bring this crowd together and minister in tailor made love to each one, so moving to hear, during the one to one times, of how He shows up and speaks of "sea of hope" in the midst of suffering. They were coming from all over the country and Switzerland and Belgium. Feeling blessed to have been able to convey something of His life... Yet realizing it is easier to give to people I won't see every day. Your input, your sharing are of immense value to me and I want to keep learning from the uniqueness that is Him in you and through you. And who knows if some day I'd be close enough to raise my hand at your invitation and eat potatoes, ham and pie (yum... yes :-)) and be part of your wide circle (in Him I am already... but eating real crumbling pie...). Blessing to you sister. A bientôt !

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  4. Shannan, I love reading about your Easter done shepherd style....caring, nurturing, all inclusive. I'm reading The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb and you write the perfect example of what this books describes. Power that comes only through weakness. We've had a few Easter lunches in the past decade similar to this and they are hands down favorites for us all. I think I'll choose Easter jeans next year....what a mighty fine idea.

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  5. Your words always make me appropriately uncomfortable...like a gentle nudge to be more honest and stop sweating the small stuff. Less polishing and more truth is what I'm craving out of my own life. Thanks for showing us what it can look like. And I bet the pies were delicious!

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  6. Love hearing how your "Easter basket" was overflowing with mismatched community, shared brokenness, busy hands, and yummy pie! When you're feeling all the feels in the wee hours, know that those around you are impacted by you being simply you. I just know it. -di

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  8. Sometimes when I think about where I would move if I chose to move, I'm pretty sure it's right down the street from you. I know your Hard and Real, but I love your Community. Thank you for reminding me it's not about who or what we have, but what we give. Much love, friend. And, yes, I had to delete and repost my comment because spelling errors. Blogs need an edit option. :)

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  9. That feels like a loaves and fishes story. You go among the people and God provides enough love to go around. Thanks for sharing--with your community and with us.

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  10. You are brave, a mighty warrior, just what God wants us to be. Kudos to you and your family for taking it all on, I felt the tears with that $20 bill. Your emotion so real and raw. Thank you for sharing what we all should be doing, and I know that's not what you're looking for or why you tell the story. It makes us all look deep, where we often don't want to go. Thank you! You celebrated what Easter should be and is.

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  11. Lovey, loved reading ALL of this! Such a wonderful Easter! Thanks for sharing

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  12. I barely have words for this, Shannan. You are painting such a beautiful story with your life and it's so incredibly inspiring. I'm taking bits and pieces every time I read one of your posts. Please keep sharing. I'm such a fan of you and the way your Jesus light shines. Much love to you!

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