When Easter Seems Far, Far Away...

Religious holidays always creep up on me somehow.

Day after day passes.   Suddenly, it is Palm Sunday.   I am taken back in my mind to palm branches, Hosannas and air-conditioned churches.

Living in the midst of a different culture requires the temporarily setting aside of some traditions while intentionally looking for others to pick up.    I have grossly failed in the "picking up" area.

The past 5 Easters in Honduras, I have felt disconnected from Easter.   I don't mean the eggs, or peeps, or chocolate.  I've felt disconnected from the cross, the waiting, the risen Christ.

My personal relationship with God in Christ has grown and blossomed and expanded.   But, these holy days... why do they feel so hollow for me?

It happened again this year.    I wanted to read a Lenten study, then didn't.    I wanted to be intentional about preparing for Holy Week, then wasn't.  

One Friday, we were sitting in our missionary women's Bible study (which is also a place where we can bring our real selves and set them out to be accepted).    We were all homesick for the traditions of an English-speaking church.   It appeared that I was not the only one who desperately wanted to connect with the Holy day instead of letting myself pass by as merely a tired spectator.

Our friend, Dr. Marianne, worships in the Catholic church here in Puerto Lempira.  She brings a completely different perspective to our Bible study.   We openly discuss and at times ask serious questions of one another.    There is a respect and a love that has grown.     This love gives room to seriously focus on the things we believe in common, rather than making assumptions that may or may not have a foundation.

In response to all of our 'homesickness' for something Easter, Marianne shared the tradition of the Stations of the Cross.    I dug deep in the recesses of my mind to look for a shred of meaning in that phrase 'Stations of the Cross.'     I came up with nothing.

The next week, Marianne brought a devotional on the Stations of the Cross and shared the history of how the tradition began.   We walked through the events of Good Friday with Scripture, reflection, questions and prayer.    Surprisingly, I found myself connecting.

Today, Marianne invited us to an actual dramatization of the Stations of the Cross.   Nervously, I read through all of the material in advance, in Spanish.   Unsure as to what would transpire and how I would feel,  I picked up my friend, Linda, and headed to a church I had never stepped foot in.

Almost immediately, I saw one of our students dressed as a soldier and acting out the first station, "Jesus is condemned to death."     Truly, I began to get teary-eyed as I was transported back to the years of dramatization in my church.   My dad was Caiaphas one year, if I remember correctly.

Each station included a dramatization followed by Scripture reading, a reflection, a moment of prayer and song.    The crowed would then walk to the next station... 14 in total.    We covered 2 miles or so. Each station was beautifully acted out by the youth of the church.   They were serious, respectful and honoring in every moment.     I found myself connecting.

When Jesus was taken down from the cross, I looked across the crowd and saw a mother of a young man we know very well.   She was weeping.    I knew that she spoke very, very little Spanish... and yet she was present, witnessing the drama, experiencing the Gospel with her entire being.

Such an awareness arose in me of my smallness and God's grandeur.   His power, His work... and all this time, I have just existed in my little box, just sure that God was only working where my little eyes could see.   Forgive me, Lord.

The procession ended at the large catholic church in town.    The one and only time I had been in that church was for the funeral of a dear friend.     When all was said and done, I could only sit and reflect on all that I had seen and felt.    I went outside, under a huge mango tree, and let myself think.

Easter doesn't feel far from me this year.   Good Friday was real, as tangible as it has ever been before.   Yes, I look with anticipation on Sunday... I eagerly await the resurrection, where the death of Good Friday loses its sting.     My Jesus rose again, yes, but I cannot quickly gloss over the reality of Friday... He suffered horribly, was treated like an animal, and endured it all for the small people like me and my neighbors.    What kind of love is this?

Thank you, Lord, for the surprise of this Good Friday and for Your incredible love that simultaneously whispers and shouts.


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