“They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’”
In my early toddler years, I was adopted by a Mennonite family living in Elkhart, Indiana. Thus, from an early age I learned to value the traditions from my home church and other Mennonite congregations in focusing on Lent and the special days of Holy Week: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. I came to cherish the individual journey through Lent and found the communal activities meaningful. Reading scripture, sharing in a seder meal [a Jewish commemoration of the exodus from Egypt and the setting for Jesus’ last supper with his disciples before his crucifixion] foot washing, communion and sitting in silence together took place each year. It was a time of remembering and growing deeper in my faith with my congregation.
In my mid-thirties, I moved to Costa Rica and lived there for seven and a half years working in ministry, teaching, and getting to know the culture of my birth country. Since Catholicism is the national religion, I experienced a new set of traditions for Lent and Holy Week.
Each year the full community came together for the festivities of Semana Santa, or Holy Week. This included various processions on Palm Sunday, Christ’s journey to the cross and ended with the celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday. Colorful processions and re-enactments in which people dressed in roles and carried the statues of Mary and Jesus were some of the activities during this time.
These traditions in Costa Rica were very different than the Mennonite traditions with which I had grown up. However, being a part of this experience made it easy to imagine what it would have been like to be in the crowd during Jesus’ time. It also gave me a perspective of my faith in relation to my broader community.
I’m now in my fifties, and when I reflect on these different experiences, I realize that both my American and Costa Rican Easter experiences have taught me about faith, each in their own way. The small close-knit community in Mennonite congregations taught me to appreciate the ways in which we can learn, share and grow in our spiritual formation in an intimate way.
The Easter celebrations in Costa Rica involved the entire town and reminded me of the larger community and how we share a common faith with others beyond our church walls. Whether in small groups or large communities, we are all siblings in Christ. And, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we too can and do experience our hearts burning within us as Christ walks with us along the way.
This Easter, I encourage you to join me in being alert to the numerous ways in which God’s children around the world encounter Christ in our individual and collective journeys. While we celebrate Christ’s resurrection in our own traditions, let us also be open to new ways that God is working in the world, helping us deepen and expand our understanding of faith, and bind us together across the globe.