Communion

Two weeks ago, on a damp and drizzly weekday, I went for an angry walk. My heart pounded and I walked quickly to convince myself that my rapid pulse was from the physical exertion and not my temper. I knew that the actual situation that had triggered my fury, which I can usually keep in check, would be resolved. But I also knew there was a lot of “feeling” I had been avoiding actually “feeling”.  My emotions had been piling up; I needed to get away from my house and take some time to process and pray. 

Three weeks had passed since the World Health Organization had declared a global pandemic and I had whiplash from how quickly life was changing, sometimes hour to hour. Three weeks in and I felt unseen. I felt unheard. And if I am honest, I felt like God was screwing with us all. As my plans in the short and long term seemed to be quickly slipping away in the wake of COVID-19, I wondered what else I would be giving up in what felt like the most whack Lent of my life. My house was in week two of a self-imposed quarantine but I knew that even at that end of our 14 day period, not much would change. Social distancing and self-isolation would not (and will not) be ending anytime soon. And I felt real damn angry about it. I felt exiled. More than ever before I could relate to the Israelites, wandering in the desert when the promised land had seemed so close. A little dramatic but hey, what else is new? 

That afternoon, I soaked my socks walking in mud puddles along the river bank, yelled across the water at God. I yelled and walked and prayed until my anger had burned itself off, leaving only a smokey sadness. 

As I turned towards home, it started to rain again, hard. And for some reason, I started thinking about church. I thought of how no one would be there that coming Sunday, nor Easter Sunday quickly approaching. I thought of the empty pews and darkened sanctuary, of the elderly folks struggling to figure out live streams with crackly internet connections. Most of all, I thought of how much I have come to cherish taking communion each week; I am often brought to tears by the honour of confessing and repenting, of accepting and resting in grace, of coming to the Father’s table with my community each week. I thought of how cared for I feel when the pastor gives the absolution to the congregation. Of how my mind, body, soul and spirit are being formed each week in the kneeling and the sipping and the chewing and the praying. Of how I can no longer drink red wine without remembering Jesus. Of how that moment of breaking bread is sometimes sorrowful and sometimes joyful and always communal. And as the rain came down so hard it hurt when it hit my skin, I started to cry. Not cute tears running down my cheeks but true sobs with my head thrown back, making me look like a cartoon character. Can you picture it? The pouring rain and then me, walking down the street audibly and evidently crying without even trying to hide it. Did I mention I can be dramatic? To be fair, I figured anyone who saw me would understand that these days, you sometimes need a good cry.

I couldn’t help but deeply feel the sorrow of being kept from gathering with other members of the Body. And while I knew deep in my soul that the Church is living and moving and united by the Holy Spirit, the more I learn about faith, the more I have become convinced that it is not a solitary activity. As I walked through my neighbourhood, I tried to get it together but every-time I thought I had done it, I would think of not being able to take communion with my church on Resurrection Sunday and start crying all over again. This year I have been learning that there is power in the liturgy: in the gathering and the singing, in the reading of the Word in public, in of the Prayers of the People and in the passing of the peace. I mourned losing that and I cried all the way home. On and off over the last couple weeks I have cried about the Body of Christ being scattered and separated, even as I studied the Bible on Zoom with friends, worshiped in my living room with a piano and a beat tapped out on the door frame, took communion with peach juice and rice cakes. There is so much grace in this season but I missed my church. 

But today, gathering or no gathering we celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus. Our Jesus is victorious. He reigns and is King over all. He is not contained by the grave and he is not restrained by social distancing. He is in the liturgy and in the prayers I can’t put words too, in the many walks around the block, in the tears and the loss and in the work from home. Today was Easter Sunday. And while it did not look as I had hoped, this weekend was one of the most beautiful I have lived in recent memory. Over the last couple of days I have prayed with members of my Bible study over Zoom. I have danced and sung in the lineup to go into the grocery store. I have baked 16 loaves of bread with my housemates (flour and sugar and eggs multiplying, loaned and passed on from neighbours). I have walked through my neighbourhood with my housemates delivering the bread to people we love; friends and family in Christ, our community, our Church. 

This morning, I got up and read the gospel accounts of Jesus’ glorious resurrection, on my rooftop as the sun rose. The birds were in full chorus, a woodpecker providing a beat behind the melody. I stood with my socks damp again, this time from the dew, and rolled my eyes, laughing at John calling himself the one who Jesus loved. He makes a point of saying that he ran faster than Peter to get to the tomb first. I’m not sure why that is important but hey, how bold and beautiful that John is so secure in his relationship with His Lord that he declares that himself the one that Jesus loved. May I be such dear friends with Jesus that I do not doubt his love for me.

After sunrise I crawled into bed, fell back asleep while still rereading the gospel of John, smiling and remembering Monday night Bible studies spent digging deeply into the disciple’s words and his thesis that Jesus is the light of the world, come to bring us into relationship with the Father. Later, my housemates and I feasted on strawberries and banana pancakes, strong brewed coffee and the sight of pink tulips in full bloom. I doodled lavender and greenery on cards for our friends as we watched the livestream service from my Pentecostal church in Barrie. So different from my Anglican church in Ottawa, today it felt like a hug from home and a reminder of the beautiful and diverse expressions of the Church. 

In the afternoon, we went door to door giving out the bread we had baked and braided and tied with blue ribbon, chatting with our friends from the sidewalk. When we got home my mom had sent us huge platters of shawarma and our house got to eat together for the second time in one day, a rare occasion. We talked and ate and praised the Lord. After dinner, I laughed for two hours straight on a Zoom call with my mom and sister, aunts and uncles and cousins. We drank wine, watched the aunties try to figure out the app and talked over each other so no one knew what anyone was saying. It was just like a real Kelly party and it made my soul sing with gratitude. As the sun was setting, my roommates and I went for one last walk, singing in the streets as we took cupcakes to our friend Aidan and my cousins Ben and Luke. 

We ended the day in our living room. And we raised our voices in worship to the King of Kings. We praised the name of Jesus because there is nothing else to do on a day like today, so full of joy and community, even from a distance. We drank wine and ate fresh bread and reminded each other that He is risen,  taking communion, in community. And while there was still a part of me that mourned not being in church and walking out the liturgy, the Lord was so generous in the joy of this Easter. It was one I want to remember the feeling of for years to come. 

The Church is alive and well friends.The Church is laughing and crying and coming together, meeting on Zoom and eating shawarma sitting on the living room floor in sweatpants and Easter dresses. She is yelling love across the street and in Instagram stories. The Church is dancing today as She remembers that Jesus is alive. On this Easter I am reminded that death and loss get their sting but hope and resurrection get the final word. Isolation and scattering may feel like long stretches of Good Fridays and Silent Saturdays but we are Resurrection people; hope wins. And wow, what a party it will be when this season ends and we can hug our loved ones and worship together again! 

Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Jesus is risen. He is working in this crazy season in ways I do not claim to understand. But I know that all is well and all will be well. Because Jesus is risen. He is risen indeed. 

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:3-8 

We’ve Been To The Mountain Top (AKA Waterloo)

1-thessalonians-3_12 You know those “You had to be there” moments that are just about impossible to describe no matter how amazing they are? That’s what this entire weekend was like, but here it goes trying to explain it anyway because it was just too great to go not talked about.

 

This weekend I went to Overflow which is basically a conference for Christian youth. We come from all over Ontario, over 2500 of us to meet and praise God and learn from each other and hear amazing speakers and just have fun. This year was my 3rd at Oflo and somehow, it just keeps getting better every year. My difficulty comes when I try to describe it to friends and do it justice. I mean I kid you not, I just texted a friend describing it as ” Like we were just praising Jesus and there was a mosh pit and a guy had a chain saw and there were bouncy castles and God really spoke to me and I got to hang out with all my favourite people and see cool bands and it was basically a rave but about God with no drugs” Sorry what? I’m super eloquent about these things, I know. I’ll see if I can do a little better for ya’ll

A view of the stage during worship *not my photo*
A view of the stage during worship *not my photo*

Overflow is a really good representation of what I believe church should be about. Fun, fellowship and honest discussions about God and what a relationship with Him means. There’s no strict rules about how you should act or what you have to do to be Christian because we all realize a relationship with Jesus is a personal thing. The pastors talk about the Bible in ways you can seriously understand and make jokes we can relate to. It’s engaging, funny and real. It was a place you actually wanted to be.

Theme for the weekend
Theme for the weekend

Outside of the services, you get to hang out with your friends and encourage and build each other up which is refreshing after the gossip and backstabbing that characterises the hallways of a high school. And I was serious about the bouncy castles, not to mention hockey and basketball tournaments, a bunch of cool bands (including my new favourite, Juno award winning The City Harmonic. Seriously go check them out) and some serious dance-offs. It’s honestly nothing like what most people my age think “church” or “religion” looks like. One of my favourite quotes from this weekend was said by Mike Miller during Friday night’s session. In referring to the a-typical church services he said Seriousness is not a fruit of the Spirit! It’s okay for church to be FUN!”

And while Overflow is a ton of fun and you end the weekend filled with laughter, memories and inside jokes, you also leave having had a real encounter with God. I already knew and loved Jesus before this weekend. Tons of people at my school have heard me talk about God or my youth group so I’m known as a “Christian kid” (ironic since I go to a Catholic school haha) However I’m still learning and growing and trying to understand this crazy thing called grace, which in short is God’s love for us. As I grow closer to Him, He teaches me how to love the people around me, helps me to overcome everyday struggles and reveals His plans for my life. It’s crazy for me to think that there really is a God who love me unconditionally, knows the number of hairs on my head and my future. But I believe because He’s proven it to me time and time again. This weekend was no different. This weekend He showed up and did amazing things in the lives of all of us who were there. He taught me how to be still in the craziness of life (or the craziness of a conference room with 2500+ people) and just be in His presence. And it totally refreshed me to go back into my everyday life knowing I’m not in it alone.video So, if you’re still reading this and think I’m absolutely nuts, sorry! Well actually I’m not sorry ’cause this is my blog and I’m going to post what I want but I do know this is the first non travel related post and may not have been what you were expecting. So hopefully, you have somewhat of an idea of what my weekend was like. I can tell you it was absolutely amazing! Feel free to ask any questions about God or whatever as I’ve never really shared my faith to this extent on social media!

Some of the best moments happen on bus rides
Some of the best moments happen on bus rides

Finally thanks to our AMAZING team of leaders, TSL (my youth group) couldn’t be more blessed to have them, the Overflow team and worship band for putting on an INCREDIBLE weekend and to my lovely friends for loving me despite my constant chatter, confusion and loudness, they ROCK. This weekend will be one I will look back on with a smile for years to come as life-changing and laughter inducing!

“Take your problems to Facebook for attention, take them to Jesus for answers” 

Also, this is the song I’m referencing in the title of this post

‘Till next time everyone, I hope you have a wonderful day 🙂

P.S. I was a bad blogger this weekend and took a limited number of photos so the entire first gallery and a few other of these pictures were taken from the album on my youth groups Facebook page, credit goes to them if it’s captioned as not being mine 🙂