Not long ago I was wearing an Arab Catholic Scout uniform and marching all over Jerusalem with the Palestinian Christian community to celebrate Palm Sunday.
Between Easter and then I traveled home, contracted a cold virus, spent too many hours awake, and made pilgrimage to Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, for my Easter break traditions with my bestfriend (hi, Hannah, I love you).
I struggle with knowing how to talk about two places that are so diametrically opposed.
I don't know how to be happy in each place when my heart just really wishes a tectonic shift would make Chicago and Bethlehem neighbors. (It would have saved me a couple bucks, too.)
Honestly, coming home often feels really empty.
So on Easter, as I put on lipstick and wedges and sang hymns that my Grandma loved; I was also thinking a lot about those I love who celebrate Easter by playing bagpipes and celebrating holy fire miracles and making special cookies.
Coming home often feels really empty.
But on Easter (as I felt the emptiness of Western adapted traditions, as I wished that I was in a place where Easter was a day which celebrated identity as much as salvation), the pastor opened an empty egg. "What's in here?" she asked a crowd of sleepy-eyed children. Nothing. There is nothing in the egg. One sassy kid said "air," and, of course, the polite midwestern crowd laughed at how scientifically witty this small child was. But really. There was nothing in the egg.
And this Easter (as I sat in church thinking about how I have no idea what I can do next year, and feeling stressed that I needed to send a resume to the alumni relations office, and feeling overwhelmed that I have no idea how diversity and modernity interact for my upcoming sociology comprehensive exam), the pastor proclaimed that the egg was "FULL OF POSSIBILITIES". To someone who considers herself an academic, this seemed ridiculous.
I'm used to Easter sermons that dive deep into the Greek translation of resurrection, which emphasize our rebirth in Christ. And here we are, getting all giddy and motivational about empty plastic eggs.
and besides that...
Coming home feels really empty. (And that emptiness is not all full of possibilities.)
Then, transitioning to a more adult-directed sermon, she talked about how the tomb of Jesus was also empty. And because it was empty and Jesus was resurrected, the possibilities of what Jesus can do through us are endless. After all, he used women and Peter to spread the word of his resurrection. Because the tomb was left empty, our faith is made possible and beyond that--God's ability to work in and through us is made possible. And then I had to stop being such a skeptic because it made sense, and its simplicity was pretty refreshing (and honestly, all that I could handle).
The emptiness that I have felt coming home from Palestine after three weeks is nothing compared to what it was last July. And, it's nothing compared to what I know is coming in May when I am released from the burdens of an undergraduate degree.
Instead, this time, the emptiness has felt warm. Maybe even full of possibilities.
This Easter, I was reminded that when Jesus left the tomb empty, he went and did a great thing.
And if I am feeling empty, what an opportunity for Jesus to do a great thing in and through me as well. Of course, I still wish that I had been in Jerusalem. To celebrate with Palestinian Christians and to celebrate identity and connection to the Land. This Easter, Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, felt just as sanctified as the Churches of East Jerusalem, and that has made coming home a lot less empty.
Used with permission. Original found here.