Did you ever wonder what Easter is like in the Middle East where Jesus lived? I did. And then one Easter season, I traveled there. Here's what happened:
Worshiping at Easter-time in Egypt:
We walked from our hotel along the Nile to a large church building near downtown Cairo. The place was packed. People crowded the lobby yet parted quickly to allow the fifty blue-robed choir members to march in, waving palm branches. We couldn’t understand the Arabic words, but we read the English version in the guest-bulletin. They sang, “I love you, Lord. Come and be with us.” Tears leaked from my eyelids—this from a woman who rarely cries.
Giving at Easter-time in Egypt:
The inspiring experiences didn’t stop at the end of the worship service. We met with the articulate pastor afterward. He said, “We all have something to give, whether Western or Eastern Christians. If we learn how to share and attempt to understand one another, then people will know that the giver cares and sees the receiver as a fellow human being and brother.” He explained that was why he appreciated the Christian relief and development program I worked with at the time. We partnered to offer food, training, jobs and transportation to deeply disadvantaged parents and children.
Resting at Easter-time in Egypt:
During our conversation, the pastor’s adult daughter said, “As a child I continually wondered when someone would come take my dad away.”
“Yes,” admitted the pastor. “I’ve been in danger of being jailed almost every day of my life.”
I chatted with the daughter (who currently practices medicine in a large city in the U.S.) about topics like over-working, exhaustion, transition and burnout. “You know what it’s like to race inside, don’t you?” I asked.
“Oh, yes,” she admitted. “It’s like a treadmill—if I try to get off without first turning off the machine, I will fall.” Then she recounted stories about how two of her patients did fall off the treadmill during testing, because they didn’t heed the instructions to be careful. We chuckled at the analogy. And yet we both knew the sober reality: over-doing and running around without heeding wise directives and taking time to rest and replenish can lead to a burnout crash.
Worshipping, Giving, and Resting at Easter-time during the Coronavirus Pandemic:
Although this Easter-in-Egypt happened several years ago, I think of it today as I celebrate the current Easter season during this sad and challenging coronavirus pandemic with all the restrictions and uncertainties. We all face an unknown, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable future whether that future means tomorrow or one year from now.
We wish it could be predictable and controllable with results just like we think they should be. But the truth is: things aren’t perfect. Some things aren’t fair. And many things are hurtful and wrong…whether we live in Egypt or in a big city or rural town in the United States…or somewhere else in the world.
Jesus and You at this Easter-time:
It wasn’t perfect for Jesus when He lived here, either. He left His flawlessly supportive surroundings in heaven to live in this fickle, chaotic, disappointing world. One week He was adored, praised and openly honored with parades and palm branches. The next week He was mocked and killed.
Yet, Jesus came for a purpose–the ultimate purpose!–to sacrifice His life so that all of us can be re-united with our loving Creator God. All of us, the burned-out doctor, threatened pastor, penniless parent, caring giver, and each restricted “stay at home” observer.
No matter where you live or what’s happening in your life, Jesus says (to you about himself), “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish [spiritually] but have eternal life.”
It’s a personal invitation to you and me from God. Even amid our "social distancing" challenges, changes and losses, let’s remember that we are loved by the God who will always care about us and be involved with us, regardless of our circumstances. If like I have, you’ve accepted God’s generous offer to believe and follow Jesus and discover a forever-hope, what does this year’s unconventional and imperfect Easter season look like for you? If you’d like to leave a comment, I would love to hear from you.
Note: To protect the people involved, I changed some details of my actual experience, left out names and exact places, and chose not to post actual photos.
4/12/2020 01:37:26 pm
I love this! Yes! ALL of us ❤️
4/12/2020 01:55:09 pm
Hi Anne! Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. Yes, indeed. For you. For me. For our kids. For our spouses. For our families. For our friends. For all of us! :-) Individual and engaged love, patience, and salvation for each of us. I love this, also!
4/13/2020 05:04:12 pm
Love the blog, Joan.
Joan C Webb
4/15/2020 10:40:19 am
Indeed. And I hear the words and melody to that song playing in my head and heart right now! :-)
4/13/2020 06:36:47 pm
Love your blog and so happy to see your writing!❤️
Joan C Webb
4/15/2020 10:41:45 am
Thank you, Robin!
4/13/2020 07:22:56 pm
After being disappointed when our governor said no drive-in services, we ended up abundantly blessed, an Easter Sunday unlike any in past years. We listened to/watched 4 sermons. (Nevada, Oklahoma, NY, and OK). And we were able to see and hear our brother-in-law sing to an empty church building. This past week was especially poignant in spite of, or maybe because of our isolation.
Joan C Webb
4/15/2020 10:44:03 am
Hi Sue! Thank you for sharing what this Easter-time has looked like for you during these "social-distancing" times. I love that you're noticing the blessing in the midst of the changes/losses/disappointments of the coronavirus "isolation".
4/14/2020 07:11:49 am
Easter has been the one bright light in this last 6 weeks of lock down. Whenever I found myself feeling overwhelmed & at times outraged with all the information & restrictions I would pause and think of the one thing ...the only thing that hasn't changed...God, Jesus & the Holy Spirit. My heart would feel His peace when I remembered God is still in control and will provide for us one day at a time. Even in the madness He calms my storm and reminds me of my future......with Him. Easter was good. Quiet and meaningful!
Joan C Webb
4/15/2020 10:50:37 am
Hi Lisa! Thank you for sharing your experiences and what Easter has been like for you during this "lockdown" experience.
4/14/2020 08:28:23 am
Joan, Thank you for sharing your story of the impact of Easter in Egypt on you. I read it as a beautiful illustration of the both/and principle that has been an important landing place for many of us in these uncertain days. As you described the pomp and ceremony of the blue-robed choir rejoicing with music and palm branches, hope and joy resounded. Yet, in the same moment, the possibility of the pastor being taken from his daughter and congregation loomed under the surface, a constant reminder of our need to know (experience) the presence of our resurrected Savior.
Joan C Webb
4/15/2020 10:55:14 am
Hi Jean. You're welcome. :-) And thank you for reading and sharing your comments, also.
4/14/2020 09:54:46 am
This ‘stay at home’ Easter has brought uncertainty yet more than that, it has afforded time for deep reflection, unobstructed by the former unrelenting busyness that so easily invaded my time. I too, have reflected on how Jesus “was adored, praised and openly honored” one week and “mocked and killed” the next. Yet what struck me this year was the realization that Jesus knew all along that this was how His life on earth would end…and He still said “Thy will, not mine.” So often I wrestle with the desire for God to reveal His full plan for my life. Yet this Easter, He’s helped me realize that it is out of His love for me that He instead, reveals wonderfully exciting God-snippets that are just the right size for me to grasp hold of. Then my faith is strengthened as I give thanks for the present and pray “Thy will, not mine” for the future.
Joan C Webb
4/15/2020 10:59:10 am
Oh, Sherry. Thank you for sharing your Easter experiences and thoughts. I can't help but smile when I think of what you write: Our loving Triune God "reveals wonderfully exciting God-snippets that are just the right size for (you and me) to grasp" in the moment. And that's enough for now.
4/14/2020 10:39:36 am
Joan this was so rich! You crafted your experience beautifully and integrated it with our reality in the pandemic! I was reminded that Jesus loves me and all the frightened, stir crazy people of this world with his furious unconditional supernatural love! His love is always coming towards us. Our great need is to stop, look, and listen to receive it . Only then can we pass it on to our hurting world!
Joan C Webb
4/15/2020 11:01:56 am
Thank you for your rich words, Helen! Yes, during this sometimes "frightening" and uncertain days, God in love is "always coming towards us." And we get to "stop, look and listen to receive it." :-)
4/18/2020 07:05:12 am
Thanks Joan. Loved your story and the discussion with the pastor and daughter. That “racing inside” analogy is so true for me and so many and can be still going on even during a shelter in place. Thanks so much for the reminder of Easter and that we can live in peace within because of what Jesus did for us. Hugs.
Joan C Webb
4/22/2020 03:12:05 pm
Hi Cinda! Thank you for stopping by and for reading and for taking the time to "comment." Yes. It's true...the "racing inside" can still be a "thing" during the COVID-19 restrictions and "stay at home" directives. It would be fun to sit and chat together.
4/18/2020 03:54:23 pm
How like you to connect threads stretching back to Egypt with threads attached to the Coronavirus. Your mind captures all the pieces pointing us to a Savior who loves and cares about each one of us...wherever we are. You invite me to feel more connected to fellow-strugglers, and to Christ. Thank you, insightful Joan!
Joan C Webb
4/22/2020 03:13:18 pm
Thank you for your affirming words, Julie. They mean a lot.
4/22/2020 11:19:31 am
I've always thought what it would be like going there. Thank you for the article.
Joan C Webb
4/22/2020 03:14:23 pm
Thanks for reading and checking in, Lisa. I can imagine that you would love going there. You are an adventurous soul! :-)
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Joan C. Webb
Writing, teaching, coaching to empower and set free.