Lent took me by surprise. Not because the date snuck up on me – Ash Wednesday was duly noted – but there wasn’t a worship service to attend within a two hour drive so no ashes on my forehead this year. For the last 30 years, Lent was the most hectic season of the year. There was at least one and sometimes two extra worship services every week. I would spend weeks trying to put together Holy Week services that were special and meaningful. And forget about talking to me or asking me to do anything extra during Holy Week – it was an 80 hour work week culminated by seven worship services spread over four days.
But the payoff on Easter was glorious. Entering the dark church filled with Easter lilies at the Sunrise service. Listening to the swelling organ play and the full congregation sing “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.” Eating just a bite at breakfast and then a bit more at brunch. Relaxing into the wonderful band playing at the last service in the long lineup. Sharing a meal with family and friends after everything was done. A perfect day – every year – that only came around once each year.
I don’t miss the 80 hour work week or the fretting over whether the sermon for Easter would be good enough. But starting with Ash Wednesday, and getting stronger every week through Lent, I have found myself yearning for Easter in my church. How can it be Easter without the lilies? How can it be Easter without little girls in beautiful new dresses? How can it be Easter without the glorious hymns and songs? How can it be Easter so far away from the people I love?
The yearning, the tears, the grieving have all surprised me this Lent. I got through Christmas without any of these emotions overtaking me. Why am I struggling now?
I had been asking this question over and over during my prayer time, asking God to ease some of my sorrow. Then the answer came to me – a whisper of Jesus’ voice in my ear.
Easter has always been the most holy day of the year to me. It is a touch of heaven on earth. The clothes, the flowers, the music on Easter morning are all as close to heaven as we are likely to get while we are on this earth. And just as I am yearning to be at my church this year on Easter, I am supposed to be yearning even more strongly to be in my heavenly home where the clothes, the flowers, the music will outshine anything here on earth.
Celebrating Easter as I always have is a way of touching heaven for a day. Yearning for heaven is something we are supposed to be doing every day. This world is not our home, no matter how much we love it or love the people in it. Heaven is the true home to our hearts – the only place the yearning will ever be fully satisfied.
I know I will have a wonderful Easter wherever I am. I will catch those glimpses of heaven in the faces of the people worshiping around me. And I pray I will not forget this yearning for home – for my church – is really a yearning for heaven that will not be eased until I see Jesus face to face.
Holy risen Lord, help us always to yearn for our heavenly home. And may Easter be a touch of heaven to each of us who celebrate, no matter where we are. Amen.