Sunday, April 8, 2012

Passing Over Into Easter

As we drove down to Maple Grove Methodist, the church where Warren always plays the Easter service, Warren said, "Look at the moon!"

There was a split in the early morning clouds and the moon, a day past full, hung large in the blue-gray sky. It caught the light of the sun and radiated big and bright before sinking into the bank of clouds in the west. By the time we reached the church, the morning was bright and the sun was risen.

Today, of course, is Easter. As I write these words out longhand, the bell choir is practicing one more time before the musicians and vocal choir run through the program. Warren has finished tuning his timpani. The congregation will start filling the pews behind me shortly.

This has been our Easter ritual for the last six years. Of all the churches I have attended accompanying Warren when he is hired to play, Maple Grove is the one in which I am most comfortable. Since Bill Croy retired in late 2010, a new minister has been installed and I am looking forward to hearing him today.

But my thoughts as we drove were not on Easter, but instead on Passover, which began Friday night with the sunset. In earlier years, a lifetime ago in so many ways, I converted to Judaism and observed many of the holidays, most especially Passover.

During Passover, you participate in a Seder, an evening meal laced with ritual and and readings that tell of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. It has been a quarter century since I attended one; Ben was very young then and exasperated the hosts by running (literally) around the dining room table chanting loudly. But if I sort through my memories, I can evoke a tapestry of Seder moments, richly woven with songs and laughter and chantings. There are the four questions, introduced with the overarching question: Why is this night different from all other nights? There is the sharp taste of maror and the sweetness of charoset. There is the reciting of the ten plagues. There is the discovery of the afikomen and the singing of "Dayenu." There is the evening meal in the middle of the Seder, during which the people sitting around the table share in the communion of one another.

I left Judaism for not as good a reason, perhaps, as I entered it. At times, I miss it strongly. I still hold many of its tenets close to my heart. It is not surprising that I drifted spiritually for a long time after leaving it. It was my dear friend, Katrina, who finally shoved me back into the sea of belief. It was the writers Frederick Buechner and Kathleen Norris who helped me into a boat in that wide sea. And it is this church, in no small part, that encourages me to keep sailing. 

It is Easter morning. Hallelujah.


Terri said...

I had not known this about your past. That is very interesting. I returned to my Protestant faith late in my 20s and a Kathleen Norris' book was part of that return.

see you there! said...

I can picture you sitting in a pew thinking back about Seder meals and the spiritual journey you are on. I enjoy the writing of Norris, with have to check out Buechner.