This year, as you might expect, Lent held none of the same ritual celebrations that it often holds for me. The week of Ash Wednesday I was sent a very nice facebook message from Jeanne Rempel noting my absence from the Ash Wednesday service that, for the past five years, we have planned together. I missed her, and that service, too. I would never have thought that I would miss it – another evening commitment among so many. I even missed cleaning my fire-place and burning the previous year’s palms as I’ve done the past few years. Those events have been a marker for me. And then I missed the regular way in which worship calls our attention to the Lenten journey. This past Sunday, I longed for the palm (or bamboo) procession, the joy of the hosanna hymns and the turning with Jesus toward the passion and the cross.
This year, my Lenten experience has been all about the waiting for and coming of spring. It has been agonizing. Spring comes too early in Seattle for Easter and the year’s first blooms to coincide. Here in Korea, where is was genuinely, bone-chillingly cold during the winter, I ached for spring, for sunshine, for warmth on my skin. I kept hearing about how beautiful spring in Korea is, but all around through March and into April, spring seemed to have no intention of showing itself. Every morning, when I walked Naomi to school I would examine the branches of the hedge outside our building. Was that a hint of a shoot breaking through the grey thicket? Never. And when, finally, some tiny buds began to appear, again every day I would look for signs of them opening into leaves or blossoms. The magnolias seemed to take months, the cherry blossoms weeks upon weeks. I have never waited with such eagerness for the blossoming of spring, even in the Canadian winters of my childhood and youth.
By now the magnolias and the cherry blossoms are both beginning to shower their petals on the sidewalks, but there are still azaleas to wait for. And the grass and trees have yet to really come into true green. There is more to wait for, but this year, for me Easter comes slowly, achingly, joyfully and - most remarkably - very, very gradually.
The last time an article of mine appeared in the SMC newsletter, I said that I was ‘on the upward trajectory.’ Indeed it continues to be so. And that too has been and is a gradual but undoubtedly satisfactory journey. I have been quilting and sewing everything I take a notion to make (and to have the time and space to engage in this creative endeavor is something and cannot be more grateful for), reading for pleasure and challenge, (most recently Rob Bell’s Love Wins which I strongly recommend) and most recently re-engaging my pastorly/teacherly mind through leading a bi-monthly Bible study at our English worship service and teaching a class on Anabaptist worship to a small group of young adults exploring Anabaptism for the first time. This last is at the Korea Anabaptist Center.
New life hardly ever happens all at once. There is a moment when the baby is born, when the shoot bursts through the ground, when the flower petals break from the bud. But life has been working all along. This is surely the case for me: God of Life, Creating Spirit, Risen Christ, working in me all through the waiting and longing of Lent.
This Easter I hope to spend celebrating resurrection – each gradual moment of it – with fellow Mennonites at Grace and Peace Mennonite Church. We will sing, and pray, share Communion and communion, and I will give thanks. I miss you all and look forward to seeing you all again. Peace of the risen Christ to you this Easter.