Home. It’s a loaded word. It pulls images of the familiar, safe things of life. It is where we let our guard down. It is where we find rest. It is where we are loved. It is where you want to go when you are hurting. We all want to be home.
This Easter my family had the opportunity to spend Holy Week overseas. No, not in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, but in Paris, France. At the time the trip was planned a year ago, I was not aware that it fell during Easter. To say I was upset and disappointed when I realized that fact is an understatement. My first thought was of Embrace. I wanted to celebrate and honor Holy Week with my people, my family at my church, my familiar place. I did not want to anywhere different but my home.
Before we left a friend made the comment, “You know, Betsy. God is in Paris too.” A simple observation but one that stuck. With a recommendation of a church in the city from another friend, I decided to attend a sunrise service to ring in Easter morning. To be honest, I am not sure if my motivations were pure. I think there was a part of me that still believed that Easter would not be real unless I was at a church. Like my action was that important.
So with my husband by my side, I walked early on that Sunday morning to the small greenspace on the banks of the River Seine. I am not sure what I expected but whatever it was, was quickly blown away. Huddled in the cold with 60 some-odd other followers, I got to witness one of the biggest time laps of the Christian faith I have even been privy to. After a few words of welcome and responsive call to worship, the service began with the Charles Wesley hymn “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” a song I cannot hear without being 12 years old standing between my parents along a weathered pew at Methodist church in which I grew up.
This was my familiar Easter of old.
After the first reading of scripture, Romans 6:3-11, it was time for another song, “No Longer Slaves,” a modern classic that we have sung many times at Embrace. I stood there in wonder, hearing the familiar words of a song that have spoken to me so many times surrounded by my friends at my church, but now surrounded by strangers.
This is my current familiar.
The sermon that followed was also unexpected. The minister read an Easter sermon written around 400 AD by John Chrysostom, one of the fathers of the Early Church. These ancient words, timeless in their intent, go straight to my heart. Yes, even over 1,600 years ago, we as followers needed to hear “Let no one mourn their transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free….Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is risen, and life reigns! Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb.”
This is His unbroken presence.
On this Easter morning there were baptisms, baptisms that were like watching a new child being born. A woman named Nadia who with the support of a couple in the church made the decision to give her life to Christ. With the sun coming up from behind, there was water poured, tears shed and affirmations given.
This is His living presence.
The second and third baptisms were of two young children of a South Sudan couple. In their native tongue, the father read from Ephesians 4:4-6 (NIV), while we, all of different cultures and background, looked on.
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
There were tears shed and so many smiles.
This is His kingdom here on earth.
On the banks of that old river, amongst not one familiar face, despite my skepticism and longing to be somewhere else, God showed me that He can make anywhere feel like home. I am home if I am with Him.