by Emily Gibson
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Our farm's long tradition of Easter Sunrise Services at 7 AM on our pasture hilltop is cherished by our neighborhood folk, some of whom have attended for almost 30 years, so nothing will stop this service from taking place--not rain, not darkness from early daylight savings time, not northeasterly winds, or even a snow flurry.
I woke at 3 AM Sunday to the sounds of wind and rain beating against our bedroom window--this after a dazzling Saturday of bright sun and temperatures in the 50's. From the sounds of it, instead of being up on the hillside at 7 AM, the service must take place in the big red hay barn, which 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 only two people had arrived and it was still dark, rainy and stormy outside. We looked at each other doubtfully, thinking this would be a very lonely service with just a handful of us attending, followed by 70 servings of hot chocolate with unlimited whipped cream, 32 cups of coffee and 7 dozen fresh baked warm cinnamon rolls. We'd be positively diabetic if more people didn't arrive.
By 7:02 AM, there were 40 people seated on the bales, huddled together for warmth, and by 7:10 there were over 70. Somehow they materialized out of the dark wrapped in sleeping bags and blankets, stocking caps and mittens, barn boots and wellingtons. We needed flash lights for the readings initially until the morning light started to creep in the barn windows. Slowly the morning broke around us, a bit too dim, a bit too damp, but a new day had dawned nonetheless.
My husband introduced this year's theme, noting how God has walked with his creation, 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 the town of Emmaus, being 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 remarkable group of shivering people with croaky singing voices in a cold and drafty hay barn on a too wintry and wet 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 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 challenge to be faced with what courage I can muster every day, not just on Sunday. It is not for the faint of heart to feel it "burn" when hearing the word of God. What He asks can drive me to my knees, gasping for breath, begging for the strength to go on. What He gives restores me in my weakness, picks me up and in the case of the torrential rain on this Easter morning, dries me off, ready for a new day.
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. Even when I want to hide from Him, even when my eyes are closed when He is walking beside me, I realize am not alone. It was a gift to be in the company of 70 other people to celebrate that fact.
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Your title is perfect for this! I enjoyed this devotion with all your rural descriptions. Your wording on this made me smile, "and 7 dozen fresh baked warm cinnamon rolls. We'd be positively diabetic if more people didn't arrive." Barns are wonderful places with their kitties and even with their dust. I could see everything you described! Nice writing!