This Easter you won’t see any cutesy family photos from the Patton family. You know the sort- everybody dressed in their Sunday best Springtime attire, beautifully posed near a patch of flowers or under a tree. I love these kinds of pictures, and of course it was the plan. Had it all laid out- Henry was supposed to wear the adorable smocked play suit that my aunt made for him. (In case you’re wondering, smocking is the standard for Southern tots- boys and girls alike.) Followed by church downtown at the historic Nikolai-do Holy Resurrection Cathedral, Tokyo’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral built in 1891. No we’re not Greek Orthodox, but my favorite Easter memory of all time was when I lived in Jordan in 2009. My Arabic teacher (who happened to be Baptist) told me, “If you’re going to celebrate Easter in Jordan, you must go Greek Orthodox.” She was right. All Christian denominations seem to unite in one loud and proud service and midnight parade in the streets. Loud drums, kids running around, street vendors selling bread. It’s crazy and awesome. The priests, with their long beards and tall black hats lead the way, carrying the flame taken just miles away, from Jesus’ empty tomb in Jerusalem. It is special and deeply spiritual to celebrate with believers in a country where Christians are a minority.
Since we don’t really have a “church home” here in Tokyo we hoped to have a similar experience today. It was Travis’ idea, and he was excited about spending his actual birthday downtown. But instead, we didn’t make it out of the house. Henry was struck with the Yokota bi-annual stomach virus. My poor husband, spent his birthday morning cleaning up the bio-hazard that was the nursery. Festive!
After all the funk was cleaned and the dust replaced with disinfectant, we decided to have our own service at home. Our own special prayers and thanksgiving. We “watched church” online via Apple TV at a church we’re fond of in Phoenix. And it was every bit as spiritual and touching a parade led by the fire from Jerusalem’s empty tomb. Why? Because He is Alive. Jesus said in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” He is as real as my hand in front of my face and He met us in our living room this morning. We felt His presence and I am overwhelmed by His grace and goodness. The sermon was not the typical Easter sermon (because we live in the future and those are kind of hard to find when it’s still Saturday in the states), but was on the passage of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Yes, a miracle indeed- but the part of the story that gets me choked up is His personal involvement with this family- how He wept with them in their grief. Even though he knew he was about to resurrect Lazarus, he experienced what they were experiencing because he is personal. He knows us intimately and he is right along with us grieving over our own hurts and enslavements. This is the Jesus I know and love. Not the judgmental, hellfire-and-brimstone Jesus who is perpetually mad at us for our shortcomings. The twisted, perverted Jesus that is wrongfully represented in man’s actions. I love the Jesus who sits right along side us, weeping with us when we hurt, deeply loving us just as we are, and setting us free from our own personal tombs. The Jesus who conquered death and rose again. The Jesus who is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior and Light of the World.
This Easter, wherever you find yourself- whether it’s all gussied up in a beautiful historic cathedral, in your momma’s church in your hometown, in the Holy Land at an Orthodox parade, or sick at home in your PJs, I hope you seek Him with all your heart. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Luke 11:9
He is alive. He is near. He is risen. Our harbor and strength. A very present help in trouble. And He will meet you wherever you are.
To watch the sermon we watched online, click here.