There are some timeless moments in the Christian year, and Easter is one of them. At our church, certain moments have become tradition - the bustling pre-service work of lacing homegrown flowers through the rough lattice of the wooden cross, the joyful sting that hits my eyes when we sing the first line of "Christ the Lord is risen today," standing up to declare "He is risen indeed!" after the children prompt us. But my absolute favorite may be the singing of Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus."
I don't remember the first time I went up to the front to sing with what felt like the entire congregation (how can so many be left out in the pews, I always think, when so many of us are up here?!). I was probably a giddy preteen who didn't know alto from soprano. Once I sang it in college, I figured out the alto harmony, so now I always head to the very back, near the flowers and the timpani, and Amy almost always finds me, and there's Ellie and Dawn and Cheryl and Katie when she's in town and we keep backing up as more people stream towards us, all crushed together.
Everyone is crushed together, actually, and I love how everyone clearly loves it. It's not this staid and perfect performance - how could it be? This is God's kingdom pure and simple, reveling in community. The rustling of sheet music, the bursts of laughter, the waves of recognition between old friends... it never changes, even though in the 52 weeks since we last sang together, so much has changed. For us individually, collectively, for the world. And yet, when Timothy launches into the familiar intro on the organ, it's as if no time has passed.
I learned several years ago now - maybe when I went away for college and would return for Easter Sunday - to not simply stare at Steve, our director, every second of the nearly five minute piece. (Don't tell Steve!) Instead my eyes start to wander, even as my voice keeps on (mostly on the correct notes). I even turn my head back and forth. I want to see everyone around me. What dear face will I glimpse next? Too many to count, new and old.
Yesterday I loved looking to my left and seeing my brother, along with several others our age, John and George and more - we grew up together, I've known them since birth, and now they are men. And in front of them, I loved seeing the current youth boys, Henry, Nate, Sam, Ian, carrying on the tradition, and then some even younger, the Washburn boys and more. It's the same on the women's side, the blending of generations, Kate and Mom and Carol and Ginny Blair and the sense that somehow, we are all intertwined. Would my Glenn experience have been the same without Amy before me, would Ellie's have been the same without me before her?
It's not even that one person has a direct impact on the other - though of course that is often part of it - but that simply by being present, by showing up, by creating a community that we want to be part of, good things happen, and continue to happen.
Positive reinforcement. Lifted voices. Courage in returning to the same-yet-different timeless moments of faith year after year, no matter what is happening in our lives or the world outside this magnificent sanctuary. The moment captures all of this and more, the cross draped in petals, the congregation standing and soaking in the sound, the trumpets and timpani and organ blending with hundreds of human voices that, together, create something worth saving and renewing, forever and ever, forever and ever, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.