(Pardon these rambles, please. I'm not really interested in polished essays. My whole objective is to barf my thoughts out of my head and onto this blog before they disappear forever.)
Cheerwine: Born in the South. Raised in a glass.
Yesterday was Easter. Resurrection Sunday. In a fit of seasonal mirth, I tweeted:
THE TOMB IS EMPTY! So today we go from darkness to light; from mourning to laughing; from fasting to feasting! Jesus lifted the curse!
Never have I felt more involved and engaged in the celebration of Resurrection as I did this year.
We spent the morning celebrating with Ecclesia at Jones Plaza in downtown Houston. It was a huge celebration where people filled the air with their voices, shared amazing food, listened to teaching, made art for worship, and celebrated communion and baptism together. Like families do. All at an outdoor pavilion under a partly cloudy sky and an amazing breeze. It was one of the best Easter Sunday experiences of my life. But I don't think it was the reason I understood Easter better this year.
I think the real reason is Lent.
This year for Lent Abby and I gave up drinking anything but water and brewed coffee. I wanted to give up something that would hurt. Since I really hate drinking water, but know I need more of it, I decided that eliminating all my other choices would be both beneficial and sacrificial for me. The coffee thing was because - COME ON! (It's not like it's a competitor with water. You want them at separate times to accomplish separate things.)
If you're unfamiliar with Lent, it's the 40 day season of fasting that Begins on Ash Wednesday and leads up to Resurrection Sunday. Christians give up doing or eating something they love.You're smart if you realize that between Ash Wednesday and Easter there were (are) actually about 46 days. That's because Sundays (technically speaking, Sabbath days) are considered celebration days, feast days, or mini-Easters. You break your fast on those days. (By the way -if you're the type of person who brags about how they don't observe the celebration days during Lent, then I don't want to know you. You are clearly missing the point, and probably the thing you're giving up clearly doesn't hurt badly enough.)
In the past, I had always played fast and loose with celebration days. I would make bargains like, "Well, I have a friend in from out of town on Friday and we're going out to eat. So I'll make Friday my Sabbath, and use my "celebration day" to have a Dr. Pepper at Chili's/ Sweet Tea at Cracker Barrel/ Bellini Peach Tea at Olive Garden. Then I will fast on Sunday while everyone else is celebrating."
What a loser thing to do. It's completely self-serving, and is probably worse than not celebrating the feast days at all. So this year - I decided to actually employ some self-discipline and sacrifice (a novel idea) and play by the rules. And THAT has made all the difference.
Drinking water at a restaurant SUCKS. Not because their water is bad, but because Dr. Pepper and Sweet Tea are SO GOOD. If they weren't, free refills wouldn't be so expensive. Some things you eat are just meant to be paired with something specific to drink. My wife says that for me, this is all-too-often chocolate milk. (My inappropriate use of chocolate milk is another blog post altogether.) But this year, there were days when I would sit drinking a nice tall glass of water and think - "Man, Jesus, I love you so much!" with a really sour, crappy look on my face. Which, I guess is kind of the point - to allow me to participate with Christ in suffering and death, so that I can more fully participate in his resurrection!
But what struck me yesterday was this:
For 40 days I lived under a law. A (if you ask me) needlessly oppressive law. A law that I was pretty sure was actually good for me to follow. A law that I was sure would draw me closer to God. Well, guess what? Life under the law SUCKED. Meals became mundane. Thirsty was a feeling I actually came to dread because of the resulting anti-climax. But I kept telling myself that I was pleasing God because of all the things I didn't do. But I felt like I was under a curse. I was suffering. And suffering for righteousness is good, right? It builds character. Makes you a better person than you were before. Right? RIGHT?
I don't know, but I do know this: Suffering is the mother of hope. What suffering did for me was cause me to look forward to Sundays in a way I never ever ever had before (Yes, I realize I am a Christian, a minister, a pastor. Just never a very good one.) I couldn't wait for those little glimpses of freedom that rolled around every 144 hours (but who's counting?) Not only that - it created an ABSOLUTE LONGING for the day when I was rid of the law once and for all. When yesterday finally arrived, and the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ threw open the doors to a freedom I had been hoping for and expecting - I got absolutely staggering, stumble around, take my car-keys drunk on NOT-WATER.
(Disclaimer: No, I didn't actually get drunk on anything that could get you drunk. Seriously - you have GOT to know me better than that. Also, it kind of pisses me off a little that I have to write something like that, or that I think I have to write something like that. NEUROSES!)
In 46 days I lived a little microcosm of all of human history. I lived a life that was under a curse (that I, directly or indirectly, was responsible for), and bound by a law because of it. I longed for someone who could come and take it away. I saw occasional glimpses of an impending hope that it would one day be removed. And finally, miraculously, gloriously, through no work of my own -one day the law no longer applied, and I went from accursed to completely free forever.
The final, interesting thought about it is how I instinctively responded to this freedom. In addition to drinking freely from it in huge, choking draughts, I felt compelled to share it. For the Ecclesia Easter Celebration, Abby and I loaded a cooler full of all kinds of soft drinks and gave them away to anybody that walked by. Now that we were free to drink all the soda we wanted, we resolved that nobody who crossed our path would ever have to be deprived of it either. And now every time I drink it - It's a celebration, and a remembrance of exactly what it took to win that freedom for me.
And that, my friends, will preach.