Monday, March 28, 2016

Tears at Easter

I cried a lot yesterday—tears of both joy and grief. I'm not sure why, exactly, but maybe it was just one of those days when the Spirit of God broke through the shell I usually and unthinkingly wear.
Christ the Lord is risen today
Sons of men and angels say
Raise your joys and triumphs high!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply,
For some reason that carol (or is it a hymn?) shook me up. How many hundreds of times have I sung it? Or maybe it wasn't this song, but another one near the start of yesterday's 11:00 service at PCC that got to me.

In one of his Lake Wobegon monologues, Garrison Keillor mentioned a certain "Uncle Mike" who, when asked to pray at Thanksgiving, started by thanking God for forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ, and then, in talking about how that forgiveness was purchased—viz., through Christ's dying for us on the cross—broke down and started weeping, and there was this awkward interval where hungry people were waiting for him to finish so they could dig in.

Perhaps Uncle Mike wasn't the best choice to pray for everybody, but Mike was more conscious of that spiritual reality than others at the table. They were eager to enjoy God's material and sensual blessings—which are good things—but Mike was focused on God's greatest gift.

Anyway, yesterday would not have been a good day for me to pray in front of a crowd; I was trying not to cry too much during the opening song or songs.

Then came this line in the sermon

I was visiting my parents, who both have Alzheimer's. They're living in a care facility, and I was there holding my father's hand, thinking "What am I doing here? Why did I drive 4 hours…"

Dad can't talk any more, and I remember thinking that I'd give anything just to hear my father talk to me again.

And I said, quietly, "So would I, Gary; so would I." I'm tearing up even now as I recall the moment. (Pastor Gary went on to say that his Heavenly Father came to him at that point and encouraged him about the world to come, but I was for a moment stuck on missing Dad.)

Back in the '80s, Carol and I went to a Crabb/Allender seminar about counseling, where we heard Crabb talk about the ache we have while here on earth. Contrary to the "name it and claim it" talk of the so-called "prosperity gospel," Crabb echoed the message of pain found in Romans 8:

22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Romans 8:22f [NIV 1984]
Ain't that the truth! Yes, the Apostle Paul also told us to "Be joyful always" and "Rejoice in the Lord always", but there's this other part, which is also true.


And several folks got baptized yesterday. As the first one came out of the water, my face wasn't quite as wet as his was. I was remembering my friend Ali, who was baptized two years ago. He had come from a country racked by sectarian violence. He told me that he would be called an infidel back home, because he wasn't ready to kill someone in the name of God.

He heard that Jesus is kind, and visited our church, where he heard more about Jesus and decided to follow him. The church office put Ali in touch with me and another man, and we met him a few times and talked about his questions (he had many) and Ali asked how he could become baptized.

Ali was baptized in Pastor Frank's office. He told me about it a week or two after the fact. I told him, "We are brothers!" As indeed we are. Forever.

I also remembered my own baptism, in Half Moon Bay, maybe 37 years ago. I waded into the water, and Pastor Ron asked me, "What's your name?" I answered, and he said, "Collin, based-on-your-profession-of-faith-in-the-Lord-Jesus-Christ, I baptize you in-the-name-of-the-Father-and-the-Son-and-the-Holy-Spirit" as he dunked me into the water. He pulled me out a half-second later and the next person waded toward him.

I was shivering all over, but my heart was warmed by the love of God and the fellowship of my brothers and sisters. That too was a day of great joy. As is today.

This is the day the Lord has made
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24 (approximately)

1 comment:

millersbran said...

Thanks for sharing. Good thoughts, good to reflect, good to know that the ache of separation isn't forever for those who belong to Jesus...