What did you do to celebrate Easter this weekend?
I went to Oklahoma.
When I found out I wasn’t preaching this Easter (which of course made me sad but is just a par for the course in a free-range pastor life), I knew I needed to do help our family plan something special. I wanted to be with people we loved. I wanted to act out Easter.
When a friend asked me last week about our plans, I joked that we were making a “resurrection pilgrimage.” At first it sounded like dorky preacher talk but the more the words settled in, I knew I spoke right. That this was indeed what we were doing.
Spending Easter in Oklahoma was a resurrection pilgrimage.
If any day defines who we are as Christian people, it’s Easter. Easter tells us that hope springs eternal. And new life is always possible. (Which is no small thing, people!).
As a pastor, I’m known to say to congregations I serve that resurrection is a verb. It’s a living action that Jesus took. It’s action that changes our living lives. It’s an action that we take in response to what Jesus has done for us. It’s action that keeps going and going. And resurrection is always personal.
We all have resurrection stories to tell. Here’s one of mine:
There was a day when I thought I might not pastor anymore. The 2012-2105 years in Oklahoma beat me down. It had taken away my courage. And it made me feel like I didn’t have a lot to offer the world when congregations kept saying to me, “You’ll never work in the state as a lady pastor.” So much in my life felt dead. Maybe the pastor part of my life was done and over?
Then I met the Federated Church in the middle of Western Oklahoma. They asked me to be their interim pastor.
And this church called out my gifts again and kept telling me how happy they were that I used them. And this church loved through my tears. And this church continued to be in my life (and the life of my family) in very significant ways even after I left my official role. I wrote about my experience of being “Breathless with Gratitude” because of them back in April of 2015.
My life was changed because of knowing this church– a statement I don’t make lightly.
So much so that my daughter’s middle name comes from one of the families in the congregation. As she was a resurrection gift in our lives, she needed a name, we felt that equally came from a place of resurrection.
So, as I sat in the pew on Sunday morning, listening to their new pastor (who is wonderful, by the way) share his own resurrection story, a story that had everything to do with his experience of the same love I knew in that place, I couldn’t help but think this is the best of what church can be.
Together, in community, we come together to experience new life. And we then share it with one another. We really are never the same!
Resurrection looks like pastors finding their vocation again through congregations that see them as they are.
Resurrection looks like people being joined together in family relationships, though no birth certificate demands it.
Resurrection looks like congregations singing, “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” not in memory of some event that happened 2,000 years ago, but as a statement of fact about the present.
So hopefully next year, I’ll be preaching on Easter– for I have so much to say– but if I’m not, I’ll be sure to plan another resurrection pilgrimage.
Because what better way to celebrate Easter than with God’s gift of Spirit-given family? I couldn’t be more thankful for mine in Oklahoma.
And I know that more resurrection gifts in my life (and yours too) are still yet to be!