by: Emily Meeks
It may seem incongruent but in this season of Easter, I have been thinking about one particular snowshoe excursion from this past December.
We arrived at the trailhead excited about time in the woods in a location away from the more-trafficked snow parks. However, we didn’t anticipate the level of fresh snow that had fallen the night before and only packed our microspikes instead of snowshoes. Our slow going pace in sinking snow made it clear we would not make it to our destination of the alpine lake. We decided instead to abbreviate our route as we considered the daylight remaining.
At the turnaround point, I stopped in my tracks quite literally as I heard the music stream through the trees. “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today” echoed as if someone had a musical choir staged in the backcountry.
I felt so confused both literally and liturgically – how the season of Advent felt like it had been merged with Easter and the journey of Lent on a trail freshly laden with snow. I realized then it was coming from my coat pocket held in place by layers of warm clothing. My large mittens had somehow set off my Spotify app, which then cued the start of a newly released “2022 Wrapped series,” a collection of my top played songs and music genres from the year.
Normally it would have been challenging for me to turn around because I didn’t reach my “goal,” but there was a lovely grace woven in fresh powder, light streaming through the trees, hot chocolate in thermoses, and the wafting of a favorite Easter hymn.
Months later, on Easter Sunday, part of me was not ready to release the work of Lent. I wanted the somber rawness of Holy Week to continue just a bit longer before I allowed myself to experience joy and celebration, as if it was the only time that sadness and grief could be contained. I could sense that wayward turnaround on the snowy trail that at first felt unfinished.
What I have been reminded from others, and my Spotify Wrapped, is that Easter is not a one day celebration but many, fifty days – fifty days of joy in celebrating new life but always with the view of resurrection, which could not happen without the Crucifixion, without those trail segments of Lent and Holy Week; they each inform our steps and our part in calibrating the journey.
We receive much of this continued story from the early church in the Lectionary’s selections from Acts during this season. I have read these words before but this year it has felt different. I have been both encouraged and rattled by the extension of the story continuing.
In the book of Acts the word witness appears 13 times. In Acts 1:8, Jesus says:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
What I find so fascinating about the Greek word for witness, martys, is that its origin comes from “an uncertain affinity.” Placing this in my context, I consider how I see, hear, and know the love of Christ through the movement of the Holy Spirit – these observations that can be embodied and experienced as a form of living witness.
After I processed the puzzlement of hearing an Easter hymn while crunching steps in the snow, I felt a sense of affinity through the uncertainty of experiencing Lent, Easter and Advent together. I could feel in my body, in the woods, under the sun beams, the opportunity to step into and sing the joy of the Resurrection outside of a timestamp or logical reason.
The invitation for Easter is not to reach a pinnacle point, a trailhead destination, and consider it all figured out. Easter is a continual opening and orientation. We can track God’s desires for the world through our witness of transformation of our earthly realities.
“We shake with joy, we shake with grief,” writes Mary Oliver. “What a time they have, these two housed as they are in the same body.”
Her wise words remind me that even if I cannot make sense of it, I can bear witness to both joy and grief, attuning my body to make space for both.
Emily Meeks loves finding adventure and connection outside, especially while running, biking, hiking and kayaking. She attends and serves at Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle.