At All Saints Church we baptized 18 babies, 5 adults, incorporated 70 new members in a joyful celebration with 1000 in attendance -- and that was Saturday's Vigils. Sunday both 9:00 and 11:15 needed overflow for our overflow ... record numbers of folks coming to celebrate Easter Day ... and a wonderful reminder that the light and life and love this fabulous church of ours has to offer is far more powerful than the voices of schism and division!
When my now-25 year old son was in Mrs. Gold's kindergarten, it was the custom to have a "Mother's Tea" in the spring. It was quite the event, with colorful placemats, flowers and nametags – and of course our brilliant children's wonderful work displayed throughout the room As we sipped our punch and toured the room one bulletin board attracted particular attention. It was the "alphabet book" board where the children worked their way through the year and through the alphabet by drawing pictures for each letter. The current letter was "E" and so the board was covered with twenty pictures of "Easter." The green hill with the three empty crosses was the dominant theme – with some variations. Some with lots of flowers, some with smiley sunshines – even some with visiting bunnies, complete with baskets of Easter eggs.
Actually, there were nineteen such drawings – all wonderfully the same but different in their own special way. And then there was the twentieth. Down in the lower right hand corner of the bulletin board. The abstract looking page with a gray lump and a brown splotch and a big yellow blurb right in the middle. The one that said "Jamie Russell" on it. And – I’ll admit it – my heart sank just a little. And so I asked my son – in words that I now realize could have been more wisely chosen – "What's this, honey? I thought you were supposed to draw a picture of Easter?"
He looked at me with the kind of disdainful superiority only a five year old can get away with and said, "It IS a picture of Easter, Mom – it's the empty tomb!" And like one of those ink-blot things that you can't see until someone explains it to you and then it's crystal clear, it suddenly made complete sense: the hillside, the rolled-away stone and the light coming out of the now empty tomb. The resurrection has been in front of me all the time – but it didn’t look the way I expected it to so I couldn't see it.
Which brings me to my favorite Easter verse – one I've shared with the All Saints community before:
The Great Easter truth
Is not that we will be born again someday
But that we are to be alive here and now
By the power of the resurrection
The Great Easter Truth we celebrate is that there's an empty tomb right here and right now sending out light and hope and promise – giving us the strength and courage to go out and do the work we have been given to do. We may not always recognize it immediately – like Mary who didn’t recognize the Risen Lord in the garden or like the kindergarten mom who didn't recognize Easter on the bulletin board – but that hope and promise are here: and once we recognize it we're never alone again.
In Anne Lammott's Traveling Mercies she writes about her best friend who got lost one day. The little girl ran up and down the streets of the big town where she lived but couldn’t find a single landmark. Finally a policeman stopped to help her. He put her in the passenger seat of his car and they drove around until she finally saw her church.
"You can let me out now!" she told the policeman. "This is my church and I can always find my way home from here!"
Whoever you are and wherever you are on your journey of faith there is a place for you here at All Saints Church this Easter Day and every day. And wherever you've come from, you can find your way home from here.