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Cathedral Among the Bales
March 27, 2005
Our farm's long tradition of Easter Sunrise Services on our pasture hilltop is cherished by church family and neighborhood folk, some of whom have attended for almost 30 years, so nothing will stop this service from taking place--not rain, not northeasterly winds, not even sick Gibsons. We awoke early to gauge the weather around 5:30 AM--drizzling, cold and miserable with 3 out of the 4 of our family sick with colds and coughs. This means the service must take place in the big red hay barn instead of the hill, and requires some prior set up to arrange the hay bales for seating for the attendees.
By this time of year, the hay has been at least 75% removed and consumed by the farm critters, so what is left can be moved pretty easily. We set up a 3 tiered row of bales, theater style, creating a semicircle of seats ready and waiting for the intrepid faithful who come annually to celebrate Christ's resurrection. By 6:55 AM not a soul had arrived. We looked at each other fretfully, thinking this would be a very lonely service with just the four of us attending, followed by 50 servings of hot chocolate with unlimited whipped cream, 25 cups of coffee and 9 dozen cinnamon rolls. If we thought we were sick now, we'd be positively diabetic afterward.
By 7:04 AM, there were 35 people seated on the bales, huddled together for warmth, but definitely awake and present. Dan introduced this year's theme, noting how God has walked with us, not just in the beginning, in the Garden, as He "walks in the cool of the day" looking for Adam and Eve, but after the Resurrection, Jesus walks with the men to Emmaus, unrecognized until they sat down for a meal together and He broke bread for them. Because of Jesus, we go from hiding from God as He walks in the garden, shamed because of the forbidden meal we have eaten, to Emmaus where we walk alongside Him, our hearts "burning within us" as He speaks to us, and are invited to join Him as He shares with us the Bread of Life. From dread to fed.
Where two are gathered, there He is. Even if the gathering is a small group of shivering people in a cold and drafty hay barn on a too wintry Easter morning. The bales are rough and poke our backsides as we shift and squirm, the grass pollen and barn dust causing noses to run, and a few too many barn cats bounce from bale to bale in search of a happy lap to land on. This is not an ordinary worship experience. It reminds me it is best not to get too comfortable in the figurative "pews" of our faith life, snuggling once a week into the warmth and camaraderie of like-minded people who greet us cheerfully and shake our hands, sitting in the same spot in neat and tidy rows of cushioned seats, with lovely floral arrangements adorning the sanctuary, followed by the inevitable coffee/juice/cookie fellowship time.
Faith is not always this comfortable, rarely neat and tidy, and often a daily challenge to be faced with what courage we can muster every day, not just Sunday. It is not for the faint of heart when one's heart "burns" when we hear the word of God. What He asks can drive us to our knees, gasping for breath, begging for the strength to go on. What He gives restores us in our weakness, picks us up and dusts us off, readying us for our walk with Him.
It is good to be reminded where true comfort comes from --not from the "perfect" worship setting or experience, not from the celebration once a year of a holy day, and certainly not from hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls. It is that we belong, each of us, to our Lord and Savior. Even when we want to hide from Him, even when our eyes are closed when He is walking beside us, we are not our own but He owns us, body and soul. In that we can always be content.