This third Easter is a charm

Many of my childhood Easter memories revolve around chocolate eggs and holidaying with my surrogate family in a lovely english coastal town called Beer. A single-parent, my Mum arranged for us to get away in the school holidays with neighbours. It worked out well for all: as the eldest I was able to keep an eye on their younger offspring and my Mum got some much needed adult time.

It was an annual tradition. Waking up early on Easter morning to discover chocolate eggs at the end of the bed. My neighbour’s youngest son devouring a Yorkie Trucker’s Egg before 8am. Me tracing my fingers over the correctly-spelt Philippa on the hand-made Thornton’s egg.

I don’t recall us attending church on Easter day. Then as I grew up and away from C of E schooling into agnostic new-ageism, Easter simply signified an handy long weekend. I’d roll my eyes at Big T wanting to only eat fish on Good Friday, but for me it simply was about the chance to drink wine with friends, maybe get away camping, and chocolate.

Nowadays I’d categorise my most recent Easters as akin to ‘Grumpy’ ‘Weepy’ and ‘Smiley’

Grumpy Easter

This was the ‘wake me up at 3am with song lyrics and shove bibles at me’ Easter. I was not impressed. I couldn’t take a step on the beach without a sailboat thrusting Christian logos at me. What? Are you talking to me? For goodness sake, leave me alone.

Weepy Easter

A year down the track and I’d done plenty of cage-fights with God by the time my second Easter rolled around. It was a pensive, reflective time. I’d moth-dived towards the light, spent some time in the gospels and had got stuck in the Groundhog Day nature of how humanity had crucified an undeserving man. Reflecting back, the enormity of the suffering outweighed my joy in the resurrection.

I spent Weepy Easter uncertain that I could do it again the following year because, not only was I in sorrow due to the enormity of what Jesus sacrificed, I was weighed down by how little humanity has learnt since. I found myself wishing that something would change. That, somehow, there would be a different ending. That we’d learn.

grass_egg_smiley_smile_humor_macro_54212_300x300.jpgSmiley Easter

I write this at the start of my third, Smiley Easter. And I cannot wait. Whether it’s because I prayed earlier this week for God to show me how to embrace the Holy Spirit within, or because – miracle of miracles – Big T and I have almost managed a week of daily ‘his n her’ prayer, but I am behaving in a decidedly unAnglican manner.

The poor check-out chick who wished me a dour happy easter at the shopping centre earlier is now probably shaking her head over the nutbag happy-clappy Christian who jumped behind the counter, washed her feet and tried to anoint her head with oil. Luckily the SAP was willing to take the call when I asked for bail to be posted…

But you know what? Deal with it.  As Brussels shudders in shock, we need something more substantial to put our hope in than ourselves. Our selves are the problem. And anyone who honestly thinks we’re doing OK as a DIY society is delusional.

Easter is a chance to reflect on what we could all learn from Jesus, his crucifixion and resurrection: This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12).

Easter reminds us that Jesus offered the selfless laying down of his life for our eternal gift. Compare that to the selfish blowing up of life we saw in Brussels two days ago. If you haven’t yet thought about what Jesus offers in comparison to such worldly horror, there’s no better time than Easter to do it. 

Choking at Communion

Until relatively recently, I kept choking at communion. Not as in getting the bread wedged in my larynx, but more because I was petrified of participating. The lines would form and I’d start choking like the Australian Cricket team in Nottingham.

It started close to a year ago. I’d been easing my way slowly into church and, at a thanksgiving service, the Senior Pastor asked if anyone wanted to share a story of gratitude.

This was the 8am service (where I’d been sneaking as it was quieter and gave me a place to reflect, surrounded by an older demographic of Christians whom I could spend ages observing) and, my heart in my mouth, I offered to briefly share my thankfulness around my journey to date. imagesAfterwards a lovely older lady invited me to the front to take communion with her.

I declined. My first response internally (based on memories from school): “But I can’t, I didn’t go to the lessons!”

Swiftly followed by: “What if the Senior Pastor sends me back for, I dunno…. giving a wrong answer…. some invisible ink writing on my forehead that says, NO, she’s not done the classes?!”

Yet such a sense of being ‘called’ to do it. Overridden by a stronger feeling that I didn’t want to be ‘on show’ (so writes the extrovert with the introvert soul).

I subsequently discovered that, unlike my experience at school, Communion classes weren’t necessary. It had all changed a bit since I was a child. Which left me feeling relieved. But also teetering.

There were just too many feelings. None of them bad. Simply those feelings that make your eyes leak because they are miraculous and precious. Which was the crux, because each time I physically imagined myself taking communion, all those glorious tears would start up and, hell (oops), how’s a gal going to get through her first communion if she’s a blubbering heap?! With everyone watching! I knew they wouldn’t be watching me at all, really, it was me battling a strange and unusual self-consciousness.

There was such solemnity in my heart around it.  I was conscious of a ‘no going back if you do’ feeling too. But the real fear I had to work through was all mine. Communion became an intensely personal moment. So intensely personal I was frozen by it.

I thought I’d run these fears past the SAP, feverishly banging out one of my questing emails.

His reply?

There. Wasn’t. One.

Writing this post over a year later, I even went back and checked. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

The SAP can be tricky like this. Most times he delivers guidance if he perceives a real struggle. But others, when he suspects God is up to something in your heart, he goes silent to let you both figure it out.

Looks like it was just me and God then.

Communion is a reminder of The Last Supper. Jesus, on the Passover, shared bread and wine with his disciples. It is recorded in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Jesus gave the disciples bread, saying, “This is my body” (Matt. 26:26). Then he gave them a cup, saying, “This is my blood of the covenant” (Matt. 26:28). Luke tells us Jesus instructed his disciples to follow the pattern he gave them: “Do this in remembrance of me” (22:19). Just as Passover was intended to commemorate God’s deliverance over and over again, so was the Lord’s Supper. The meal reminds us that Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again.

The SAP says he prays that God keeps him out the way to allow God to do the work. As I mentally shied away from walking to the front of a church to accept wine and wafer, and with the SAP leaving me with only prayer and reflection, God was working in other mysterious ways.

The next Communion, at a busier 10am service, the Connections pastor announced, “they were doing something new this week.” No-one was required to walk up to the front. Instead the bread and grape juice was served along the rows. Still solemn, still important. But, for me, without an individual spotlight, a gentler easing into a ritual that I had been too overwhelmed to contemplate prior.

So, have I managed to walk up the front and take Communion from another?


The first, hours away from home, visiting a new church on Easter Sunday. On that day, of all days, how could I ignore the call to communion? I gave myself a stern talking to, put my heart in my eyes and my hands out to a stranger. And that’s when I truly understood it.

The Lord’s Supper is an invitation: to identify with Christ’s death and resurrection in the power of the Spirit. And we come to the table together, to have communion with Christ and with one another. I could not do this in isolation, as a private act. Communion signifies unity. It demanded more of me. To cease sitting apart and observing. To participate. To be vulnerable.

I bless whomever made that initial internal church decision to try ‘communion by rows’, I really do. Otherwise I may well be typing this having only ever observed communion distantly.

But stepping up, stepping out, stepping in? That has been the greatest part of communion for me. It reminds me that while I can still sit in a row and accept the communion bread and wine as it passes in front of me, there is something in the action of being upstanding. Looking another directly in the eye as they offer you bread and wine, you accept their service, their blessing, the Lord’s grace. There is intimacy there, a closeness that echoes the relationship God seeks with us:

“I found it at the eternal and material core of Christianity: body, blood, bread, wine poured out freely, shared by all. I discovered a religion rooted in the most ordinary yet subversive practice: a dinner table where everyone is welcome, where the poor, the despised and the outcasts are honoured.’ – Sara Miles, Take This Bread.