The Light of Christ
Thanks be to God
And with the lighting of the fire, my Easter had began as I attended my first Easter Vigil in an Episcopal church near my house. It was still dark outside as we processed to the sanctuary reciting the words above. We then held candles which was our only source of light for the first 40 minutes of the service. Passages were read, hymns sang and prayers offered until the light of the building was lit just as the first gleams of sunlight appeared outside.
I did not grow up in a liturgical tradition and it has been only in the past years that I have fully immersed into the Anglican/Episcopal tribe. This was a new experience that re-affirmed my connection to God through structured liturgy. Yet, I sensed something amiss.
Later in the morning, we went as family to our Anglican-Vineyard home church to celebrate the Easter service. The contemporary worship drew us into reflection on the great event of the day. The message was poignantly relevant connecting the text to our context. The Eucharist nourished our spirits so we could once again face the world with humble courage
Yet, something was missing.
Afterwards, when de-briefing with my wife who had also grown up in the same church environment I had, we were able to point out the missing piece.
As some of you know, my faith journey started in the Pentecostal/ Charismatic branch of Christianity. At its best, this tribe is known for its vibrant worship and a belief that nothing is impossible. While I cherished this part of my home tribe, with time I started sensing the call towards liturgical worship. That led me into mainline denominations and eventually into Canterbury. This was not an over-night shift but long process of searching, prayer and much conversation. I am confident I am where God wants me and my family to be at this point. Yet, this Sunday I missed my Pentecostal/Charismatic roots.
The grandiosity of the Son of God’s resurrection can only aptly be celebrated with a loud exuberant party. In my liturgical Sunday, where order and reflection prevailed, my confined spirit wanted to jump out and break into dance.
I missed some pandemonium, loud disorderly expressions of
revivals past. I missed the out-of-sync tambourines, the sweaty movement of bodies, the loud cries of Hallelujahs and the persistent banging of African drums. I even missed the unashamed worshiper, the one who is so fearless in lavish worship that makes all the “proper” worshipers around them uncomfortable. I cannot see resurrection without these holy noises, and without them its reality seem to ring less true.
Obviously, this is not to say that I am now ready to return to my original tribe. Part of the reason why I have left was the lack of space for reflection and intellectual engagement that our loud service could not accommodate. My past years have taught me the wonderful rhythms of the church and I cherish them. It is not one being better than the other but about my longing for more integration.
To me this realization makes me yearn for church unity. We have diminished the glory of God by keeping ourselves apart from each other.
Why we need church unity? We are missing out when we stay in one place. The body of Christ is richer and fuller when we celebrate what each tradition does best. In this Easter season, I hope take a cue from Pentecostals and declare the kingdom here reality of God. This is the time to believe in miracles, to live like heaven was in earth again and declare that the coming kingdom is already here.
When Lent and Advent comes again, I’ll take a cue from mainliners, learn to suffer the path of the cross and sit in quiet. It is only when we fully enter into these two that we get a genuine taste of the body of Christ.
The good news is that the church calendar does not limit the reality of Easter to one Sunday. Instead, it extends it for 50 days so there is still time to worship God in exuberance, not just in our Sunday services but also with our lives. Our pastor encouraged us to take on new habits, sing a little louder, dance a little more unhindered and enjoy the fruits of the resurrection. It is time to live out now what we hope to come in the future.
I pray for the day when we can gather with our different tribes and learn to live these different seasons with each other. That is the beginning of living out the oneness we are called to be.
Oh, what beautiful sight would that day be! Yearning is the voice of heaven calling us to itself.