There was a time for me when church was an uneasy place, with unfamiliar black dots jumping up and down in a hymn book, everyone but me seeming to know what to do next, and wondering who God was and what church had to do with the divine.
As a young adult I sometimes wondered if I would get bored being a Christian. After all, the message is always the same. Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
I found out pretty quickly that there is no end to this simple faith. And I am never bored in church. It is a place that is bigger on the inside than on the outside.
It helps when there is beauty in a church building. When there is carved wood, beautiful art, flowers on the altar, bright vestments, elegant prayers, and complex yet joyful music. When you can focus on a candle flame and contemplate God, it's a good thing.
Easter is my favorite holiday. Why? As they say in Greek, Christos anesti; alethos anesti. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia. Life and love win, no apologies. And it's 50 days of unending feast and celebration.
The first Sunday of Easter is my favorite time of year for church. No apologies here, either: church is the place for Easter. Everyone knows Easter is Christian and if you go to church anytime in the year, it should be for Easter.
At Christmas, church is optional. There's a huge amount of secular hype around Christmas that Easter fortunately escapes. Christmas is about mistletoe, hot drinks, and caroling in the neighborhood.
Popularly, Easter is about egg hunts after church. It's about wearing a white hat and a pastel frock to church. It's about coming out into the fresh air after the church service, rejoicing in the azaleas and the irises, and thinking, "I'm glad that's over with for another year!"
Church, church, and church.
I identify with the one-time-a-year churchgoers at Easter-- especially the young fathers, men in suits, chasing their little daughters as they pound up and down the aisles to get to and from communion. The young mothers, frazzled, having tried to get themselves and their children presentable while juggling dinner, the egg hunt, in-laws-- not to mention the husband who usually is in the garage or on the golf course at this time on Sunday.
I identify with the galumphing boys with their shirttails hanging out, pushing hair out of their faces that should have been cut last week after lacrosse practice.
On Sunday, as I sat in the only traffic jam of churchgoers the entire year, a Jeep Cherokee 4x4 drove up onto the sidewalk that led to the steps of the Presbyterian Church. A 30-something man in slacks and tie, his stomach flat from working out, suitcoat off because of the 80 degree heat, leapt out of the driver's side to help a white-haired woman, bent over a walker, make her way into the car.
I can guarantee you there is no driving up on sidewalks on any other Sunday of the year. It is a unique time, and a glory.
Church is, I admit, a difficult thing. For many, it is a source of ultimate pain. It is at best a place of flawed people just trying to do some good. At worst, it's a haven for the murder of souls.
And yet, I do believe is good to be in church once a year at least. Because we can't see God, many of us think God is not there. But it is good to be in church and to be bothered, to be reminded in some capacity of the possibility that, despite appearances, there is a reality beyond, and a responsibility towards that reality.
That in fact, God is not only found in our heads, in nature, or in our relationships with others, but in a fellowship of people who worship: who intend corporately to address God, to make contact with God, to access a mystery through actions that are themselves mysterious.
People are by nature worshippers. For thousands upon thousands of years we have been worshippers. Worship feeds something in our souls that Christians believe God put there.
But even if no God did such a thing, it's human, and I like to do human things.
Next Sunday is often called Low Sunday, because that's when even regular churchgoers take a break. But I'll be there, contemplating, celebrating. And wherever you happen to be, I wish you Easter blessings.