I've had an Easter hymn stuck in my head the last few days. I know, it's still Lent, what am I thinking?
But it's one I remember from childhood, an old anglican chestnut called "Jesus lives!" The tune I remember is St. Albinus, one of those huge Victorian things that just demands a big pipe organ cranked to the max. The language is a little dated now, but I remember every word: the first verse goes "Jesus lives! thy terrors now / can no longer, death, appall us; / Jesus lives! by this we know / thou, O grave, canst not enthrall us. / Alleluia!"
As a choirboy, I was never really sure what it was all about, but it sure stuck with me. Even when I "hear" it now, I hear the great organ, a cathedral full of people just belting it out. I can feel the excitement that it's Easter morning, just as if I was back there in the '70s. I think I can even catch a faint whiff of incense and lilies. That's Easter.
It's like I'm there.
Experience is a powerful connector. So lack of it can surely be a powerful disconnector, don't you think? Or at least an opportunity to create distance.
I wonder if that isn't why so many people challenge the relevancy of the Bible and the stories in it. Sure we can talk about the context of the story and explain what's happening and why. We can talk about meaning and we can relate it to our present circumstance and marvel at the currency of what's "true." But it's also really tempting to say "that's just something that happened in a far away place a long time ago. It's not my culture, it's not my time, it's not my place."
Take the Holy Week story, for example. Each year on Palm Sunday, we try to do something intergenerational in our worship, something experiential that helps tell the story of Holy Week in a way that's meaningful to all ages. Something that maybe connects us more closely to the meaning and purpose of those last few days. We've done dramas and interactive plays; we've given video cameras to small groups and had them act out a piece of the story, presenting the videos together; we've setup "stations" of the different pieces of the story, with a passport to be stamped on the way; we've made a video with the children talking about experiences they'd had similar to the Palm Sunday parade and the Last Supper.
This year, we're looking at "place" in the Holy Week story. Not a lot of us have been to first century Jerusalem. Some haven't even been out of this country. So, how do we make the story a little more real and a little more "in our own backyard?" How about we consider how the story would appear if it were here, today. How would things look, how would they unfold if Jesus walked the streets of our town of Bashaw? Which "temple" would he go to? Where would he and his followers eat? Where would they pray? Where would he be held when arrested? Where would he meet his end?
Can we even imagine it here? Here in unoccupied Canada where we are all free? Where there is freedom of speech and no death penalty? How would this story even play out now? We'll be thinking about that.
So I have a question for you: how do you bring the Easter story home to your heart?