Today we walked into church.

Let me rephrase:  Today, after being yanked out of bed at 6:29 by a super excited 9-year old and some sleepy and slightly grumpy older boys to do a mad egg-finding dash and eat as much of the chocolate rabbit as possible before shoving blueberry bread in their mouths and then scrambling to make everyone “Easter-presentable” and curling my hair and tucking in shirts and tying dress shoes and sashes while preventing dogs from eating too many chocolate eggs and dodging raindrops to somehow haul the 5 of us into church almost on time….we walked into church.

Like many families there, we were flushed, slightly flustered, and searching frantically for a big enough stretch of seats to fit all of us.  We managed to squeeze ourselves into the second from the top row of the auditorium. The lights were already dimmed and the worship team was singing Because He Lives.

As I tucked our raincoats under our chairs I stopped to appreciate the view.

From our vantage point I could watch the streams of people coming in the entrances to find seats. Families corralling cute matching bow-tied children, couples shrugging out of raincoats, individuals dressed in everything from sweatpants to suits filing into the rows and filing empty spaces with themselves.

As more people came in the singing grew louder and louder.
God sent his son; they called him Jesus,
The music swelled,
He came to love, heal and forgive.
and it reached up to our seats in the rafters
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
And completely overwhelmed me.
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.

Literally hundreds of people singing their hearts out on this Sunday morning. Hundreds of voices joined in praising God and declaring the truth of the resurrection.

You know what went through my mind and as I soaked in the scene? It was LOUD! People were laughing and crying and hugging with voices and hands raised to heaven.  It was beautiful chaos, and I felt tearfully blessed to be a part of it. That’s what went through my mind.

–How it’s so easy to forget what a privilege it is to be able to worship Jesus.
–How in so many places around our world people are celebrating christianity’s most important event by smiling secretly to themselves and praying silently.
–How some of our brothers and sisters can’t say His name out loud—much less sing it at the top of their lungs–without risking literally everything.

It’s easy for me to say I would be willing to die for the gospel, because the truth is I probably won’t ever be put in that position. I hope if I was…I would stand strong. But what about those people who DO have to make that choice? What about those people who risk death (or the death of those they love most) just to sneak out of their homes at night and meet with others who know God and are willing to quietly join their voices in praise together? The everyday reality of that idea overwhelms me.  I think it would be so hard to keep going…living on edge constantly and wondering which of your fellow “believers” would be the one to give you the proverbial kiss on the cheek? But they keep going. They believe and they have faith and they praise and somehow, they win others to Jesus.  Despite what I would consider a constant overlying lethal threat….they persevere. How?

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives.

When the biggest fear and threat being faced is death, and you follow a Lord who literally mocked it (“O death, where is thy victory? Where is thy sting?”) and had total and complete victory over it….then that thing that you’re so afraid of…..suddenly isn’t so scary anymore.

You see…Jesus beat death. It didn’t and couldn’t hold Him down. He promises us that in Him, we are also victors. Please let that sink in. Death…even WHEN it comes…isn’t the end. It’s a gateway. A door to a new awesome unbelieable life. I have that surety, and all those people being persecuted today have that same surety.  That’s how they get through it.  That’s how WE get through our troubles.  When we know that the scariest ending isn’t really an ending??? That knowledge makes things more doable, doesn’t it?

One of our pastors played this video clip today.  Although I teared up when watching it, I still get a big smile on my face when I think of it. Death is a chauffeur that takes us to a big ‘ol party where we sit next to Jesus and experience a life better than we can even dream about.

What’s the reason I know that to be true?  Well….the stone is rolled away.  I can see into that tomb and it’s empty, my friend. He is not there. He is risen.

And then one day I’ll cross the river,
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain.
And then, as death gives way to vict’ry,
I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He reigns.

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