A celebration to remember with joy

I came out of a glorious Easter celebration last Sunday, feeling exhilarated. Remarkably, I felt blessed, and I like to think that I was not the only one. Never before did I hear so much applause during a church service, as I did that Sunday. A liveliness immersed in a sacred aura prevailed. Aggregate spontaneous appreciation was generously bestowed, and it was quite infectious, like a forceful wave that flowed – from the clapping hands to the smiling faces and to the hearts, and to the spirit. I couldn’t resist it. I clapped, and smiled, and teared up, and rejoiced.

The opening slide projected on the sanctuary wall proclaimed the theme of the message – Infinite Joy. I am enthused to share about this service that was so special. I shall start from the end going backwards. Why? Because it was the feature at the end that drove home the significance of a divine commission fulfilled. A portable pool stood on one end of the sanctuary, readied for the baptism of two. An adult female spoke about her decision to receive Christ in her life before she was ushered to the symbolic dunking – the baptism of water and the Spirit. A young girl followed, proclaimed her acceptance of Jesus, and was baptized as well. The water must have been cold. Both emerged from the pool dripping wet, with slight shivers. But their hearts must have been warm with joy clearly manifested on their radiant faces. The congregation’s applause and cheers rang loud and long. The walls seemed to reverberate, though actually, it was the sonorous clapping that persisted for minutes. A vigorous public celebration of “new life”, I thought.

Before baptism was a personal testimony of a man who admitted having grown up in a home where he received teachings that mirrored the beliefs of Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking. Immersed for so long in their philosophies, his name could easily have been Dawkins Hawking, he said. All through his adulthood, he stressed over his fear of death. From his early orientation, he was taught that death was the end of one’s existence; no spirit to live on. The idea so disturbed him and crippled his perception of life. However, with the help of persevering friends who encouraged him, and prayed for him, his outlook changed. Light started to appear; at first, a flicker, a faint glimmer, and then, a bursting brightness. The fear that festered from his five years of age to adulthood was gone. Life’s journey for him now is with meaning, a purpose, a promise that he hangs on to tenaciously with hope. He found God. I think God found him first, and waited patiently for him. His name has ceased to be Dawkins Hawking, he said. The old self died to the birth of “new life.” His testimony elicited long sustained and enthusiastic applause.

Zesty and moving music graced the service. Songs of praise and thanksgiving stirred emotion, reflection and devotion. The musicians did a great job of leading. Like everyone else, I clapped loudly and long after every hymn, but stopped just to wipe a few tears that escaped my eyes. The song that goes “You are my joy, my joy, my savior, my King … I am your joy, your joy, the apple of your sovereign eye” never fails to grip me. If there is a “cloud nine”, I am there whenever I sing it, feeling jubilant and humble at the same time. This worship experience was compelling and soul-provoking.

The pastor conveyed a spiritually stimulating and enriching sermon revolved about “infinite joy” from Jesus’ resurrection. His teaching, based on scripture, touched on finding Jesus, the one who sacrificed His life and faced torture, humiliation and death on the cross for the redemption of humanity. Mary Magdalene and another Mary went to look for Jesus in the tomb. But the tomb was empty, because Jesus had risen. He conquered death, for He resurrected three days after. The two Mary’s saw Him on the path, and when He met them, he declared, “Greetings!”. The pastor posed a thought-provoking question – when we go to church or go for worship, what are we looking for? For some of us, we have found Jesus. Others may still be looking for Him, and still others, may not have yet decided to look. Yet all are welcome. He patiently waits, just like God waited for the man who gave his testimony at the Easter service.

Two friends accepted my invitation to worship at Easter Sunday – one, an atheist, and the other, a Buddhist. I saw their faces; they were awed. They, too, rejoiced and applauded like everyone else during that service. They mentioned, they liked being there. I do not know what comes after that in their hearts. But God knows.

Infinite joy awaits – our hearts just have to be ready to welcome and hear the “Greetings of Joy”. God waits … and He waits …

Linda P. Jacob