Kristos Anesti!

Again and again and again the song rang out: Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tomb restoring life! In English, in Church Slavonic, and in Greek. Christ is Risen from the dead! Trampling down death by death and to those in the tombs restoring life!

The voices sang loud and joyfully in a brightly lit church in the middle of the night. And there they sang for one hour and then two. Earlier in the night (at about midnight), the entire congregation held candles, lit from fire that came from the altar. The priest, subdeacon and altar boys went down the aisle, followed by the choir, and the congregants followed them out into the dark night. They sang down the walk, down another, and then through the parking lot, until the line of congregants, holding their candles, singing, nearly encircled the church. The priest, followed by the others, climbed the stairs to the front door of the church. At the door, the song is sung again and again, allowing the congregation time to gather down the stairs and at the foot of them.

Looking down from the landing, the dark night is broken by the glow of candles from a hundred candles, lighting up the singing faces. The song stops. The priest has carried the gospels, beautifully illuminated and bound in a gold cover. He reads the gospel reading. telling of the finding of the empty tomb. The priest hands the gospels to the subdeacon, who kisses it and holds the book reverently. The priest holds a large metal cross and bangs it on the door of the church.. “Lift up your heads, o gates! and be exalted that the king of glory may enter in!”

From behind the door comes the challenge: Who is the King of Glory? The priest calls out, The Lord of Hosts. He is the King of Glory! Again this repeats. The priest bangs on the door of the church in the shape of the cross, with the cross. The challenge is given and answered. And again.

The doors open and the priest leads the way inside, singing, “Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and to those in the tomb restoring life!” The congregants are handed brass bells and for the rest of the service, they will ring them, during the songs proclaiming Christ is risen from the dead! Hristos Voskrese ex mertvih!, Kristos anesti ek nekron!

While the procession has taken place, the church has been transformed. It is now filled with lights and flowers. It is a delight to behold, and filled with the singing of the refrain, with the bells, with shouts of “Christ is risen!” and the response “Indeed, He is Risen!” it is easy to forget that it is now 1:00 am and then it is 2:00 am. The choir’s feet are aching, small children are sleeping on their parent’s shoulders, to be awakened by the bells (sometimes) and then for the Holy Eucharist. One service has seamlessly merged into another, with most of the participants unaware that there are two services. Matins has ended and the Paschal Liturgy has become.

For forty days we will greet each other with “Christ is Risen!” “Indeed, He is Risen!” The Russians, Serbians and Ukrainians will be greeted and respond in Church Slavonic and the Greeks and Macedonians will do the same greeting in Greek. There are a few Arabic-speaking people and that greeting will be made in their language as well. I will note that no one says this in Swedish. Sadly, that includes me.

Kristus är uppstånden! I själva verket är han uppstigen!


A Wild God

In the past when I have reflected on the wildness of God, I have been chastised by some, some who, perhaps, misunderstand the word and it’s usage, or who have a very different understanding of God than I do. Who wants a tame God? We call an animal tame when it is under the discipline and control of humans. Do you want a God who is under your control? Who comes when you call and does your bidding? Do you want a God who sits on his pillow until called because you have decided it is time for petting? One who perhaps performs tricks on command?

God is not tame. He is not contained by my whims, my desires, my commands, does not bow to my wishes, nor perform tricks at my instruction. We are the ones who should be tamed, to respond to God’s commands, to walk as he wishes, to seek our Master’s face in everything and grateful for his glorious and generous provision. It is me who should delight in all the signs of his presence, and be still and quiet in his presence, at peace because he is with me.

Far too often I fear we have an idea that we can understand God, that we can define him, that we can predict what he will do, and that we can have expectations of him that align with our desires. But, while God is consistent within himself, he can be none other than who he is, he is not contained by my thoughts. I too often expect him to answer to my demands (voiced as prayers, of course) and give me my desires. But he is untameable. Not because he is some out-of-control, psychotic kind of essence, but because he is not controlled by ME. And that is what we want sometimes, isn’t it? We want a nice, predictable God who comes when he is called.

Instead, I am called to come TO HIM. I am called to BE STILL and know. I am to exercise discipline and self-restraint. I am to conform myself to Him and His desires, To His thoughts, His plans. My plans for me included worldwide acclaim as a jazz/blues singer. My plans for me included non-stop international travel, world-wide acclaim. And do you know what I see in that? Me. Me. Me. I do not see God in those plans. I don’t see knowing Him, growing in Him, walking with Him…

God’s plans for me are so very different from what I had for myself. Because He is not tame. I am attracted to, drawn to, compelled by His wildness. In His glorious wildness I see so much power, so much glory, so much goodness, so much mercy, so much fierceness, oh, mere words cannot describe it.

Try to contain the lightening. Try to command a whirlwind. Try to master an earthquake, or to train a volcano, or to capture a cloud. Try to stop time, or to hold the stars in your hand. Can you do it? God flung the stars into place, he knows the snowflakes and whether there are or ever have been two that are identical. We have spent the entirety of human existence trying to work out the math, the physical laws of the universe which He spoke into existence. He knows if space is stringy or loopy (a physics joke for you). The rules by which the universe governs itself were designed by Him. And since I cannot even govern my own tongue, why would I want Him to submit to me?

I’m wild about that God. Glory to Him!