Last year, at The Cove, we had the privilege of attending a Military Marriage Seminar with Pastor Tommy Nelson from Denton Bible Church in Texas. You might have heard of this great man of God—he is the one who has taught lessons from the Song of Solomon to many young people (and us older folks, too!). When the weekend together was drawing to a close, Pastor Nelson ended with ten admonitions to the 125 military couples gathered. The points were, in part, a summary of the seminar, but also a strong closing challenge for all of us.
That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. — Philippians 3:10,11
I opened my eyes. The first sounds I heard were those of a muezzin, high in the minaret, calling the people to prayer. Although foreign to my ears, the chanting seemed right for the moment. . . .as I was in Turkey, amongst the Muslim people.
In the midst of the chanting I heard two short whistle blows. Then in the distance two more in answer. Not alarming or irritating sounds, they were simple sounds of “all’s well”, the policeman’s way of communication. There were no police cars or radios. It all seemed to fit.
My husband was still sleeping as I got up and went to the window. He was serving a remote tour to Turkey in 1985, and I was visiting—away from our five boys at home. There was a small balcony off our room and I wanted to see the village at dawn. The quiet was mesmerizing. No traffic—even though we were near the center of the village.
After we both were up and dressed we went down to breakfast—lots of bread, hot tea, black olives, goat cheese and some wonderful honey or marmalade. A very healthy breakfast if not unusual to my taste! But I was in a new country and I savored their ways.
We decided to walk around the village. It was still early. I was peacefully overwhelmed by all the differences and wanted to see and do and feel and remember all that I possibly could. The streets were very hilly as this was a village in a mountainous area. The streets were cobbled and very rough, whether riding or walking. The buildings were made of stone with wooden doors that were very old and weathered. As we walked the only sound we heard was a wagon pulled by a horse. A peasant family was in the wagon, with the father driving. We passed an occasional villager, my husband mumbling a Turkish greeting and getting a return greeting and slight nod. We came upon a woman on a burro led by a young boy. There were heavy bundles on the small animal, but he silently and steadily plodded up the hill. Later in the square we realized that these villagers were all heading for the center of the village to get fresh bread and water from a central well for the day.
As we walked, not saying much, I thought about the fact that it was Easter. I wasn’t getting dressed up to go to church. No choral hallelujahs or trumpets. No Easter lilies or white vestments. No brunch at a restaurant or big dinner with the family. No sunrise service or double standing-room-only services. No Easter baskets. I didn’t miss it—it just seemed strange.
As I was thinking, a wonderful rush of inspiration and excitement flooded me. I said to my husband, “I think that this is closer to what Easter is all about than any other Easter I’ve ever had in my life.” Being in such an ancient setting was much as I imagined Jerusalem to be like. The narrow old streets, the stone buildings with old wooden doors—it must have looked the same in the time of Jesus, I thought.
The first Easter morning, life went on as usual. No one knew what had happened. People who were early risers were up, but most were still in their homes. Only a few people were aware that morning that Jesus of Nazareth had risen. They were at the tomb. The rest of the world didn’t know yet.
As I stood on that cobblestone street I felt that I had been swept away in time. For the moment I was experiencing that first morning. Peasants were going about their lives unaware that God had redeemed them, that a miracle had happened. Forever I could be with God, as He had sent His Son to die in my place, the redemption for my sin.
That first Easter morning, only a few of those who loved Jesus and had followed Him were made aware that He had risen. Those few praised God and believed, even though they didn’t understand. And though they were few, God blessed them with hope and joy.
Through His Holy Spirit I felt that joy over the barrier of the years. My husband and I, as those in Jerusalem that day, knew that Jesus had risen. We have the knowledge written out for us by God in the Bible, that those on that first morning did not have. But they believed.
The miracle. Jesus died and rose again. The belief and acceptance that He did it for me. The joy that God fulfilled a promise. Hope for all eternity. That is what Easter is. In that small Turkish village, God blessed me with a reminder that Easter is a personal experience. In a moment, He pulled away all the Easter trappings and drew me to Him.
God loves me. He sent His Son to die for me because He wants me to spend eternity with Him. That has always been God’s message to each of us and I have always believed it. But in that quiet moment in Turkey He wanted to share that truth with one of His children who was listening.
Perhaps so she would share it with others whom He loves.
Questions to share:
1. This Easter, because of your time apart from each other, is God speaking to you in a special way about the meaning of the resurrection?
2. Share with each other, if possible, a particularly memorable Easter from your past.