Dear Friends and Members of First Reformed Church of Bethlehem:
If you happened to be in attendance at our Palm Sunday and Easter service, you experienced, along with the rest of us, a festive service and an abundance of people. Even the Sunrise service was well attended, with Keith Jordan starting the fire and Shirley Nasner encouraging us to sing as we occupied the graveyard. The sun rose as predicted, the weather was rather gentle, and we held in our hands the frail lights of small candles, reminders of the powers that emerged from the tomb. Some of us carried the light to the graves where loved ones rest.
It is that special graveyard light we bring back to light the Christ Candle. Just as there are subtle changes in the color of the sun from season to season, so there is a special quality to Easter light. It is the “light that shines out of the darkness.” In fact, every Sunday morning I bring the salutation using these words: “May God, who commanded the light to shine out of the darkness, shine into your hearts, to bring you the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The enormity of the resurrection is that all that appears dead is not without hope. In funeral services, we commend the loved one into God’s care and God’s kingdom. In our lives being lived at this moment, there is the possibility of renewal, of making dead and dying things come to life; things such as our relationships with one another being reborn, seeing new ways to honor God’s gift of the earth itself. Wendell Berry calls this “Practicing Resurrection!”
So, after all this excitement and triumphal celebration, we came to the second Sunday in Easter. It is said that this second Sunday has the lowest number of attendees in church for the entire year. I liken it to the experience families have at the death of a beloved one. For a week or two everyone shows up, funerals are planned, people come for the visitation and the funeral. But two weeks later, many experience a shift. Friends don’t want to upset us, so they talk about the weather and sports or anything, but are fearful of hurting the bereaved. It seems daunting to “practice resurrection,” and much safer to change the subject.
So I wonder … what possibilities for new life exist for us as a church family? How does the “Christ is risen!” confession we profess in worship translate into life-giving experiences now. How might we bring the Easter light more specifically into our lives, our church, and our community?
---Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel of the Year: Celtic and Christian Seasonal Prayers
Christ is Risen!
He is Risen Indeed!
Pastor Harlan Ratmeyer