A deeper way to experience communion from home this Easter
By Denise Badger, Content Manager for The Apopka Voice
Centuries before Jesus, people celebrated the Sumerian legend of Tammuz and Ishtar in the springtime, particularly their resurrection from death seen in the return of the Sun, and celebrating the cycle of life after the death of winter.
Centuries before Jesus, people celebrated the Passover, or the “passing over” of sure death for the Israelites, and their rescue from slavery to surer life to come. Again, in the spring.
Centuries before Jesus, the celebration of the death to life and darkness to light cycles were already in play. And wouldn’t you know, he died and was resurrected as well… in the spring.
I believe the timing of Jesus was intentional. Not to do away with the ancient stories of hope and renewal. Nor to end the celebrations of rebirth with egg symbols of Egypt and Persia. I believe he came to live it so we could know it even better that, as human beings like him who have struggled in the dark, to know that there is hope. Not just back then for him, but now for us. To know, no matter how dark things get, there is light and life that will come again.
In these dark days of the coronavirus, I think this Easter hope is especially needed today.
John 8:12 in the Christian scriptures says, “Then Jesus… spoke… saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.”
And in John 1:4-5, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” (NIV). Or in the Message translation, “The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.”
We come to Easter for so much more than to celebrate the historic events of Jesus. We come because we need to hear, to remember, and believe again that just as it was then, it can be today again… that out of the darkness of our situations, out of the darkness of our lives… light can and will come again.
Jesus spoke these words in Matthew that speak to me again and again, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out…? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live… freely and lightly.” (11:28-30, MSG)
Watch how I do it
We watch Jesus in the Easter story. We watch the “unforced rhythms of grace” unfold before us, transforming the darkness to light, and the tomb of death into a womb…a room… for new life.
And we say in our hearts, Do it again. Here. Now. In this time. In my life.
Several times during Jesus’ last week and on his way to Jerusalem, he makes it clear that he knows darkness awaits him. But instead of fighting it he chooses to step into it.
He willingly said “yes” to stepping into the darkness because he knew — he trusted and fully believed — that the darkness would not destroy him, could not destroy him, because God was in him and with him.
As we read his words there is a sense that he is at peace even, somehow knowing that the darkness he enters will, in the end, net more life, and that what waits on the other side of the grave, on the other side of the tomb, on the other side of the darkness, is way more transforming and powerful than the pain he will go through.
Jesus lets go to God. Not my will, but Yours be done, he prays in the garden. Not in defeat, but fearlessly, calmly, confidently, embracing the darkness before him.
This spring, under the arm of one of my patio chairs, I watched a caterpillar teach me the same lesson. He willingly entered into his own darkness. He stopped and entered into his cocoon. There comes a point when this little creature ceases to force his life forward, and instead let’s go to the greater “unforced rhythms of grace”. And because of this willingness to enter into the darkness, instead of a tomb the dark chrysalis becomes a womb… a room… for new life… for greater more beautiful life… to emerge.
From caterpillar to butterfly. Incredible transformation.
Out of darkness… life.
“Watch how I do it” Jesus invites.
“Learn the unforced rhythms of grace…and you will learn to live, freely… ”
How do we do this?
How do we watch and learn from Jesus this Easter? How can we, like him, turn our dark places, our dark situations, into life-creating, life-transforming seasons and spaces?
(1) Be willing to enter the dark.
There are challenges we all face:
- hard conversations that need to be had
- painful places of the past
- unanswered questions of the present
- conflicting desires in our souls
- struggles with our inabilities and insecurities
- rough circumstances that look like dead ends
- challenges so difficult we die a little every day because of them
These are the dark places and tomb spaces that, in our own power, our own thinking, we would just as soon avoid. Ignore. Deny. Cover up and move on without facing at all.
But clearly, as we see in the Easter story, God can use all our seasons and situations to bring life, including the darkest places that feel like death. Because with God, the dark, like a cocoon…like a seed in the ground…like a baby in the womb…the dark is where new life can be incubated.
Be willing to enter your dark places and seasons knowing you do not enter them alone.
(2) Once you say your courageous yes, then be still and know… that God is God.
Be still and wait on him.
Like Jesus in the tomb.
Like the caterpillar in the chrysalis.
The first thing a caterpillar does when entering a chrysalis is attach itself to something strong, something firm, something that serves as a solid foundation to hold him securely, safely, as the transforming work takes place.
Through storm and gale the cocoon is held fast, the caterpillar is still, and waits. And in the darkness new life is formed.
It can be the same for you and I.
Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
2 Corinthians 3:18, “As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more.”
It is not about us gritting our teeth and saying “I will, I will” to force solutions, or growth, or change, but rather it is through giving ourselves to God, to let his Spirit work in us and produce the fruit… the life… in us, as we wait on and in him.
“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength…” (Isaiah 40:31)
Sue Monk Kidd, one of my favorite inspirational authors, writes that, “The most significant events of Jesus’ life took place in darkness: his birth, his arrest, his death, his resurrection.”
Being willing to wait on God in our darkness can, like what he did with Jesus, yield extraordinary results.
This Easter in your dark places, attach yourself to God and wait on him so that the “unforced rhythms of grace” can bring new life in you too.
Attaching ourselves to God can look different for each person. For some connecting with and waiting on him happens best when reading the Bible or other sacred and inspirational writings, or by listening to music, taking a walk in nature, meditating on positive sayings and verses, in prayer, journalling, through fellowship with others, or in a variety of sacred rituals that remind us of who God is, what he’s done, and what he wants to do for, in and with us today. Sacred rituals like celebrating Easter. And in partaking of sacred symbols like Jesus did at the last supper, what we now call “communion”.
An invitation to “commune” this Easter
It’s fascinating that in the midst of Jesus’ darkest period he set aside time to commune with God and with his closest followers. Jesus and his disciples shared a meal together, breaking bread and drinking wine. He spent the time he had left with them, together, and he used ordinary objects as symbols to deepen the connection they shared.
The scriptures share that he took the bread saying, “This is my body, broken for you”. He took the wine and said, “This is my blood shed for you”. Everything that symbolized life – his life— he said I give for you. He gave everything so they, and you, can have life. He invited them to take him — symbolically through the bread and drink — to take him into their hearts and minds, in word and action. To connect themselves with him so no matter the darkness that came, they would know that he was and would be with them, that he would be their light, and bring life once again. Stronger life. Transformed life. More beautiful life. Life that began here and goes on into eternity.
He invites you and I to do the same.
In our time of COVID-19 it may seem that “communion” is out of the question. Maybe. Maybe not.
Perhaps more than ever this time of isolation can open doors to “communing” and connecting with God in a way that you never have quite before.
Jesus said “Do this in remembrance of me.” He didn’t specify how or when or who — he just invited us in.
If ever there was an Easter to say yes to his invitation, I think maybe this could be the one.
Whether you’re a life-long Christian, or a new follower of God. Whether you’ve been baptized by water, or His Spirit, or both, or neither. Whether you believe you are saved, or fear that you’re not. Whether you’re mature in the faith and pretty sure you have most of the answers, or feel more like a child pretty sure you don’t…. Jesus invites you.
“Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace… Keep company with me and you will learn to live… freely.”
Your Easter “Yes”
I want to invite you to experience this communion and say yes to the invite. You alone, or you and your spouse, your roommate, your family… to take a moment this Easter to commune with God. To remember his life — his resurrected life – the life that made it through the darkness so that you can remember and know that you can too. You will too. With God in you, with you, for you.
If you want to commune with God in a symbolic way as he did with his first disciples, I invite you to pause and gather a few items together before reading further: a slice of bread and juice. Or water. It could be a biscuit and soda. Or a cracker and wine. Doesn’t matter. Whatever you have on hand, bring it to God as the symbols through which you want to connect and commune with him. I guarantee you, the God who knows how to raise the dead knows how to transform the ordinary stuff of our lives into sacred portals through which he can touch and connect with our hearts.
Once you have the bread, I invite you to tear it into three pieces, and make sure you have enough drink on hand to follow each bite with a sip or two. Feel free to light a candle. Add some music. Whatever allows you to center yourself in this sacred time with you and God.
Bread piece #1: Take a moment and identify one dark place in your life that you are facing now. Before you eat your first piece of bread, say these words of trust aloud, or silently: “With God in me, I will enter and face what’s before me. I do not go alone.”
Sip #1: As you sip the symbol of Jesus’ life for you, think of his courage and strength filling you.
Bread piece #2: Before you eat your second piece of bread, say these words of commitment: “In my darkness God, I will hold onto you. I will be still and wait for and with you, for your Spirit to work in me and your good to transform me.”
Sip #2: As you take another sip of the drink, reflect on Jesus’ life given as a drink offering poured out for you, guaranteeing that your place of darkness, that feels like death, will be transformed into life with God.
Bread piece and Sip #3: As you eat your last piece of bread & drink your last sip, take in these life-giving words and let your spirit remember, believe, and be renewed:
“…The Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, and he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to you… because of his Spirit who lives in you.” (Romans. 8:11)
Whether it’s a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, or your own spirit and situation moving from death to life, we have the promise of God, “…I make all things new.” (Rev. 21:5)
“… they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings… (Isaiah 40:31)
“With God’s power working in us, God can do much, much more than anything we can ask or imagine.” ( Ephesians 3:20)
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out…? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live… freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30, MSG)
Happy Easter my friends! Happy Spring — from darkness to light, from death to life!
In both work and play, whether writing, speaking, coaching or leading, Denise Badger’s heart and focus are on inspiring change for more passionate, joy-filled, difference-making kind of living. She holds a BA in Interpersonal Communication and an MA in Religious Studies.