So many of our traditions are being shattered during this Great Time Out. There’s been no first day of baseball season. March Madness took on a whole new meaning. And I’m sure somewhere, in a lab near Augusta, scientists are feverishly working on how to make dogwoods and azaleas bloom in November.
For Christians, Easter has it’s own traditions. Attending Church – in person – is at the root of it. At the heart, however, is congregating together. Worship, by our training, is a shared experience.
A lot of folks are having difficulty understanding why church goers won’t just stay home. The sermons can be easily be livestreamed, taped, or even read. And, after all, God is everywhere, right?
Church is so much more than a sermon – even the best ones. It’s singing hymns with others. It’s the hugs from fellow members of the congregation. It’s visiting with friends and neighbors. It’s being in a crowd, but having a sense of belonging. It is being with family.
Sitting at home, though the right thing to do, just doesn’t feel right.
For those having that struggle this morning, I’ll type the verse of a song that I learned as a little kid at Bethany United Methodist Church in rural Fayette County Georgia:
“The Church is not a building, The Church is not a steeple,The Church is not a resting place,The Church is a people.”
I didn’t so much as miss being at the traditional sunrise service this morning as the people whose faces light up when they see me, give me the biggest of hugs, and make me feel welcome and having been missed whenever I walk in the door. Many are family by birth. All are family in practice.
Today, a lot of us are missing our families.
Like most families, our church’s traditions revolve around food. When we gather together to ask the Lord’s blessings, we eat. It’s what you do after a blessing.
Our church may have taken this to an extreme in past years, because our fellowship hall is not only contains a fully equipped kitchen, but has a “stew room” for making Brunswick stew for BBQ’s, and Perlieu Stew as an annual UMW fundraiser. Beyond the stew room? A permanent covered BBQ pit about 15′ long.
On Easter Sunday, the tradition is to have an Easter Sunrise breakfast immediately following Sunrise services. Many a Pastor-Parish Relations Committee meeting has been held regarding a preacher that felt he needed to give a full 11am sermon at 6:30am, when there was freshly cooked food waiting next door.
Easter is a season of feasting, after the Lenten season of self-denial and fasting. That meal – the first to celebrate triumph over death, light defeating darkness – is incredibly informal. It’s a come-as-you-are, we’re happy to have you laid back celebration. The table is set for everyone.
I miss the church, as they are my people. I didn’t skip the celebration.
May you and yours find a way to connect with each other on this most unusual of Easter Sundays. Happy Easter!