Sunday, April 16, 2017

My Easter, 2017

The last strands of light linger outside on this long Easter Day. I am now alone with my thoughts. They are everywhere, all over the place, competing for my attention. So much to remember.

The day began earlier than most. The church I currently attend, but am not yet a member of, had rented out the Altria Theatre for their Easter services. There would be two of them instead of the usual 5. We would be attending the 9 am service, so we scrambled to get out the door in time for the longer drive and the ordeal of parking downtown. Our children were away, in other states and time zones. It was just us, just my wife and me. You would think that I would have grown used to this by now, being apart from them on the large, important days, but it still stings a little, a feeling of melancholy still lingers in the background when they aren't here with us. It isn't spoken of. No complaints are made. Still...it lingers.

I didn't know quite how I felt about having Easter in the same building where I had just seen the Book of Mormon a month ago. Pam had just seen Cinderella there recently. I half wondered if the band might find a missing shoe backstage. Sure, we Christians have been taught all of our lives that the church is the people, not the building. But, most of us find it difficult to imagine meeting for services in a strip club, or a casino. Of course, the Altria Theatre is neither of those places, but it still felt weird, until I saw three thousand people filling the place and heard the thrilling proclamation of my savior's resurrection ringing off it's walls. The service was beautifully and artfully crafted together into a living thing. A woman I had never seen before stood and recited a touching monologue about how the risen Christ had turned her into a Spring person. The incalculably talented Nicole Unice then presented a spirited defense of the physical resurrection of Christ with an eye towards the skeptic in each of us. Then the music came. It's normally the part of the Hope Church experience that I simply endure, not because the musicians aren't talented and not even because the songs aren't my style, but rather because I don't know them well, and I can't hear my fellow congregants singing the words. But, today was different somehow. Maybe it was the larger stage, the heightened excitement of the event, the majesty of the theological moment, but they were amazing. It was the thunderous exclamation point of the service, and each player seemed to sense it and their role in pointing the way to the transcendence of the risen Christ.

There was a video which was beautifully produced about one of the band members, his back story. I've seen him play lead guitar many times. He's older, carries himself in that unhurried Clapton manner, very much a slow hand sort of guy. I had no idea what the man had gone through to get to the stage, no idea of his tragic back story. Yet, there he is every Sunday, laying down soft licks in the background. I was choked up the entire time it took to tell his story.

Then David Dwight walked onto center stage carrying a stool in his hand and no notes. He spoke for maybe twenty minutes. He hardly raised his voice above standard conversational tones. Given the occasion and the topic, he would have been excused a bit of over exuberance, a little Pentecostal flair. But, this is David Dwight. He doesn't do flair. It was as if he knew that something special was going on in the room, and he didn't want to be a distraction, didn't want to screw it up. Instead, he talked to us, like he does every Sunday...from his mind and heart...."Who are we and why are we here, and why do we feel compelled to even ask these sorts of questions? Because Jesus Christ is the author of life and he has placed eternity in the hearts of man." Every word he spoke to us was designed to point us towards the ultimate meaning of this day, that because Christ loved us so much that he was willing to endure the cross, overcoming death, we are free to have a relationship with him. The meaning that we are all longing for can be found with the very author of our story.

When we walked out into the blinding sunlight of Monroe Park, it didn't matter to me that I had been overdressed. I wasn't annoyed at the traffic or the parking deck. I even took the scenic route home, driving through the back streets of the Fan, then turning on to the Boulevard by the museums, then the Diamond. I was actually trying to soak it all in, and I needed some time before the soul crush which is 95 North.

Once home, it was time to prepare for hosting my wife's family for Easter lunch. Everything was beautiful and the food was delicious. I still missed my kids, but knowing that they were both, hours away just getting out of their churches where they both heard the same story, told in different ways, made me miss them a little less.

Happy Easter.