After traveling for the week it is hard to believe that today we celebrate Easter- Christ’s rising from the dead! This season of Lent has actually been pretty meaningful for me despite new routines. Normally during the 40 days of Lent I challenge myself to give up something physical, such as restraining from eating sweets or meat. Though it seems like a petty action, it works as a reminder that Jesus gave up his life for me. This year I took a call to action rather than a restraint. With more free time that I ever, there is no reason why I shouldn’t be spending more time with God. Therefore I have been devoting more time in my day to read scripture, spend time in prayer, and reflect. Through this God has been teaching me to be strong without a community of faith immediately surrounding me. Back at home, I am blessed to be around followers of Christ almost all the time. Most of my close friends are practicing Christians, I can easily attend worship once or twice a week, and have unlimited access to individuals who will pray and support me. Here, I do not have those means of support. While many students I live with believe in Christian values, most of them are not practicing. Attending worship a lot of time and effort to find and attend. And my familiar faces of support are only available via the Internet. Therefore, these past 40 days I have learned about devotion in a different aspect. There is no one to compel me to worship and prayer- nothing but the environment in which I have been placed. I have found that it has been easy to see the blessings around me and offer thanks. I have found that it has been comforting to consistently pray about certain experiences or people and then watch how God works. I have been amazed by how God has worked at home as I have been away! But I have also realized that the hardest thing for me is to simply listen to what God is showing me! I talk and praise and pray but often find it hard to hear God’s call. When I do though, I am overcome with knowledge and His spirit. I have found that it is easier for me to see God through the environment around me- the people, nature, interactions- which have allowed me to learn more about the culture in India and reflect on aspects in my own life. The barrier comes when I try to listen to God’s call for be back home in relation to my future- summer plans, college, etc. Even after 40 days I have not been able to break down this barrier however I have been able to release much of the anxiety that comes with these thoughts.
That being said, the last week of Lent or Holy Week, was virtually meaningless for me this year, when it is usually the other way around. Since I was traveling I did not give the appropriate emphasis to the events leading up to Easter Sunday, making today feel a little abrupt. Even more so, Easter is my favorite holiday because it the most family-oriented holiday in my household. Traditionally, my mom hosts Easter brunch at her house after worship. Our house is packed with my great aunts and uncles, cousins, and any loners that my mother happens to invite! It was hard for me to wake up this morning and see pictures on Facebook of our little cousins decorating the annual bunny cake (which became a cross cake this year) and searching for Easter candy in the grass. And the homesickness began…. fortunately though, there is one good friend here who I have been able to connect with on a faith level, Katie Budd. Together we joined Becca and her family (the Mennonite family we visited 2 weeks ago) for an Easter celebration.
We were immediately served Resurrection buns that smelled of cinnamon (my substitute for caramel rolls!) Then we sang songs of praise simply sitting in their living room with a guitar: “Jesus Christ is Risen Today,” “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” “He Arose,” etc. Boy, did it feel good to raise my voice to the Lord. It was a good reminder that worship can be done in any setting! After a reading a children’s version of the Easter story we shared a time of prayer and then dismissed the kids so that we could stream a sermon online. In the sermon, the pastor focused on the words of 1 Corinthians 15. In this passage, Paul makes it clear that you cannot believe in the teachings of Christ unless you believe that he rose from the grave.
“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain…If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and your are still in your sins.”
Therefore, you cannot simply believe in the teachings of Jesus and the work that he did because it is meaningless without his death and resurrection to life! I have never separated these two entities in my mind (that is the teachings of Jesus vs his resurrection) but this concept hit me in a new way because I have had many conversations lately with people who believe in Christian values but are not convinced of Christ’s being. But here in Corinthians we hear the blunt truth- Christ’s teachings are nothing without his resurrection and we too are dead if that is what we believe. It forces us to believe the unbelievable first and then accept His teachings. This is faith, believing the unbelievable.
With a faithful message in our hearts we sat down for an Easter lunch- spicy fried chicken, fresh salad with hardboiled eggs, mashed potatoes, and cornbread. What a meal!
Then we played some silly Easter games with the kids. The most hilarious game was a egg roll relay. We split up into two teams. Each person took turns rolling a hardboiled egg across the sidewalk until every member had taken a turn. By the last roller, the shells had cracked off the hardboiled eggs, and the white had broken into pieces! What a laugh!
Words cannot describe how blessed I was to share Easter with this family of faith! My homesickness had disappeared and I was able satisfy my earning for a faithful celebration. There were no “hallelujah sticks,” no church choir, no quiches, and no bunny cake, but there was a spirit of family. What more can I be thankful for!?
(*Shout out to my family back at home celebrating Easter! Hugs to Eli, Otto, and Isla- your cross cake is beautiful! Miss you all!!)