As we move through these days of Lent, with Holy Week and Easter drawing ever nearer, I am constantly reminded that this time last year I was on sabbatical and that, as a family, we were fortunate enough to be in the United States of America. But then, ever since my first sabbatical in 2011, which saw us cross the pond for the first time, the run up to Easter has always seen my mind wander back to moments spent with House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado.
What's odd is that, thus far, there hasn't been a time over Easter when I've been able to say, 'Exactly a year/so many years ago today we were doing x or y with House...' because, as yet, the dates haven't lined up. In 2011, Easter Day was on 24th April. In 2018 it was 1st April. This year it is on 21st April. On at least two occasions in recent years Easter Day has fallen as early as the end of March. Easter Day keeps moving!
Whenever someone asks the question, 'When is Easter this year?' I am immediately reminded of a fabulous one-time Anglican colleague, the Revd Frank Mercurio, who, when pondering the answer to this question in a meeting and hearing someone comment that it was going to be 'late this year' (or 'early' - I can't remember), quickly retorted, 'It's always early or late! I'm waiting for the day when someone opens their diary and says, 'Easter's exactly where it should be this year!'' It never happens. It doesn't, of course, because the Council of Nicea in 325AD set the date for the celebration of Easter as the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox - which means that the date will change each year and can fall anywhere from 22nd March to 25th April.
Of course, the wonderful thing about Easter is that it's much bigger than the day that it falls on and, in reality, it doesn't matter when it happens. It is an invitation to remember and enter into the events of that first Easter when Jesus shared a final meal with his friends, was betrayed, falsely tried, abused, executed and buried and, on the third day, rose again declaring, 'Love wins!'. For three days each year I am still transported back to Denver because House for All Sinners and Saints allowed me to enter into an Easter that I hadn't experienced before.
House... identifies the Easter Triduum (“three days”) as being the most important period in the Church year and, importantly, marks and celebrates it as such. With Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and an Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday being seen as three parts of a whole, the church is full on all three days as the whole community gathers for the Foot Washing and Dinner Party, for the Adoration of the Cross and Procession and for the Easter Vigil, Eucharist and Resurrection Dance Party. It is genuinely the high point in the year and one that no one wants to miss.
Our situation is different, of course, and it isn't possible for us all to be in the same place over Easter. This doesn't mean, however, that we can't each look to make this the centre point for our year too. There are a number of services taking place here and in other local churches on three days - each offering us opportunities to come together with other members of the body of Christ, each enabling us to remember the events of that first Easter, each reminding us that journeying with Jesus is a costly, painful business but that, ultimately, love wins. The world needs to hear this message of hope as much as it ever has. The time is right for us to gather with others to proclaim it.
Wishing you a blessed Easter.