I went to the house church that the Kornegays and the rest of the crew from Team Expansion put on. It was a small congenial affair, with lots of kids, laughter, and honest worship of a living Lord. There were nine adults, including teenagers, two of which were Japanese. Yuko, a Christian for two years now, had brought her friend Hitomi (I think that is how you spell it) to church this week, making it her second time to ever go to a church.
I think I enjoyed this gathering on Easter more than I have any other in my life. Why? Not because the sermon was awesome (there wasn't one), not because the music was inspiring (it was quite simple), nor because I spent it with my family and did all the traditional things (I didn't). I enjoyed it for the simple fact that this Easter, I was privileged to sit and listen as a curious non-believer said “I don't quite understand-- can you explain what Easter is and why it matters?” Listening as Phil explained the simple message of the gospel, and as Yuko shared in Japanese what the cross and the empty tomb are all about was splendid. I couldn't even understand most of what they were saying. It didn't matter. I could see the earnestness in Yuko as she drew from her still growing knowledge of the faith to share how in Jesus there is Hope.
After church, we ate lunch and then went to a nearby park. Everyone had invited families and kids that they knew to come to the park for crafts and games and an Easter egg hunt. About 20 or so kids showed up, with their parents in tow. We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful afternoon. As Yuko read the kids the story of Easter, the field was aglow with the smiling spring sun. Flowers and buds were popping out from ground and branch as little kids played and laughed and ran and hunted for that ever so precious candy. It was all incredibly simple. I think that's why it was so good.
At night Phil, Christian, Kayla, and I went to a Japanese bathhouse. It was something I wanted to do as both a last hurrah! of Japanese cultural experience, and as a last chance to fully and completely chill before traveling again. Though I guess “chill” is not exactly the right word since the bath house is full of saunas, spas, hot mineral baths, and warm air. For those of you who have never experienced a public bath, heres the basic rundown: you go to your respective side of the bath house (men's or women's), get a locker, strip down buck naked, put everything except a wash cloth in the locker, go to a big open line of faucets and shower heads, sit down with a whole bunch of other people (also naked), clean yourself up and scrub yourself down and rinse yourself off, and then go sit and simmer in a variety of bubbly hot pools with the other naked people. That's a whole lot of naked.
But once you get past the shy little school boy feeling, its pretty stinkin awesome. I could stay there for hours and hours. My favorite pool was the “half-bath” in which you can lie down in this marble enclosure that has hot water for about half your body. You can lie there and look at the stars (its on the roof). As I was there I thought about my day. I thought about my time in Japan. I thought about Easter.
And I thought how Rest is such a glorious thing. I don't use the world “glorious” superfluously. I think that the Resurrection is about bringing Rest, the real and life-giving kind, to this world. It is about God starting his great work of new creation, of which we are the forerunners. Easter is about God bringing his Kingdom--full of glory, light, and life—into the world, and rescuing it from war and violence and grief and agony and despair and conflict. Easter is about God saving us from the exhausting battle to be kings of our own lives and entering into the beautiful rest of his Reign.
All of that means so much more in Japan. My God, has there ever been a message the Japanese people needed more right now?
Yuko basically had a single conclusion to the meaning of Easter, as she explained it. Hope. That monumental simple and solitary thing that seems at times unattainable, but at others seems to burst upon you in waves of joy inexpressible, filling all the incomprehensibilities and chasms of this life with meaning beyond their ken. Easter is Hope. That truth means so much more coming from a Japanese believer. Particularly a Japanese believer explaining Christianity to a curious non-believer.
I think again of playing in the fields with the kids. It feels so poignant now, filled with meaning. After all that has happened in Japan, after the death and struggle and anguish, in the midst of a country still reeling and trying to recover from the inconceivable weight of extinguished humanity-- here we are in the field. Its a field full of light and lark and laughter. Little Japanese kids run and play and laugh and smile. There's life. Right here in the field, life as joyful and precious and full as humanity has ever had stands in the midst of a nation shattered by death.
That's Easter. Easter is the bright little field of life, joyful and triumphant as it stands amidst the pain and hurt of the world. Its triumphant not because one day we will all escape the world and leave it to its own, but because one day the Life I see here in this little field, and the Life that the Resurrection brings, will fill not just one field but all of them. No longer will we be struck at how a field of children in laughter can stand side by side with the devastation of Norther Japan. Life won't stand with death anymore. It will stand alone: beautiful and glorious.