It was the early evening of Maundy Thursday. I had come home from the office, picked up my kids from their caregivers and stopped at the grocery store for the ingredients to bake a batch of paska. I parked the car, and we got out to sort the grocery bags in the trunk. Each child received a bag to carry to our apartment on the fourth floor.
I rushed to make the yeast dough. While it rose, I put away the groceries and made simple sandwiches for the girls to eat. I took out the biggest pot I had to boil 3 dozen of eggs for coloring later on. 30 minutes later I looked at my dough, it had barely risen. I decided to give it a few more minutes. The eggs started to boil, I put the timer on for hard boiled eggs.
The water boiled in the kettle for egg coloring. The kids were chatting at the dining table, I was rushing back and forth, answering their questions, listening to their chatter. Then I remembered my paska dough. Still not much progress. I decided it needed the heat of the oven to rise properly. I said a little prayer and divided the dough among the baking forms. They went into the oven; I set the timer.
The eggs were hard boiled, the kettle had boiled water. I took out the jars, put the “color sheets” in each, a few table spoons of vinegar, and topped it off with boiling water. The kids watched , they were ready, eager with anticipation.
We had a great time coloring eggs. The kids used their imagination to decorate the colored eggs. We chatted away and were all happy in our colorful world. That is, until my oldest made the suggestion they would each have a slice of paska before they went to bed.
“Mom, can you make the paska topping for it? Please?” asked one of the kids.
“Ugh, I don’t know. Can’t we wait with that until tomorrow?” I glanced at the oven, feeling uneasy.
“Please, mom, paska without the topping just doesn’t taste good.”
“The timer is almost up, let me check on what’s going on in the oven first.”
I moved to the oven. I stood there and hesitated to open it. The uneasiness would not leave me. The timer went off and startled me. I put on my oven mitts and opened the door to face the truth.
The paska looked done. The loaves were still the same size as I had put them in. They had not risen after all. I took the loaves out and put them on the cooling rack. I prayed for at least one loaf to be edible.
“Mami, Mami, Mami, Mami, Maaaaamiiiiiii!”
I just stared at the paska.
“Mom, what’s wrong?” My oldest daughter stood next to me, pulling my arm.
“I don’t know, Schatz, this might not be a good idea, you know, to have a slice of paska before bed.”
“Don’t worry, mom, your paska is always delicious,” she sounded excited in anticipation.
“I don’t know about this one,” I mumbled quietly.
I looked up at the clock over the kitchen door and saw that it was approaching ten pm. The kids were past their bedtime, we would need to get up early on Friday morning for the church service.
My oldest started a chant about having some paska, the other two joined in. Finally I grabbed one of the loaves, still warm, but it felt unusually heavy. It slipped out of my hand and fell to the floor like a rock, bounced a few times and finally just lay there.
“Wow, look!” One of my kids pointed to the floor. “There’s a dent in the floor!”
“Why is there a dent in the floor?” another kid asked.
My oldest got it. She looked up at me, then at her sisters and explained, “The paska is so hard, it made a dent in the floor.”
“Can we even eat it if it’s so hard? We want paska before bed!” And the arguments started. We all talked at once. One of the kids started crying, the others followed. I made the executive decision they had to go to bed immediately. The paska and the dent in the floor had popped the balloon of excitement.
It was 10:45 pm when I was back in the kitchen, looking at the dirty dishes, the jars of egg paint, sandwich leftovers on the table, the paska still on the floor. I slid onto a chair and cried, for about ten minutes. Then I got up, looked up, said a silent prayer for strength and a favourible outcome for another batch of paska. The second batch turned out beautifully. The loaves were fluffy and moist and the paska spread so deliciously sweet. But my kids had to put up with a grumpy mother all Friday long.
Someone in my family always reminds me of this “Easter story” each year. Everyone joins in the laugh.
But this is not the Easter story. So often the Easter story of the Bible is in the background while we busy ourselves with the customs and family activities each year.
To be honest, I didn’t make much of the Easter holiday until I read N.T. Wright’s book, “Surprised by Hope.”
Now reading that opened my eyes to the importance of Easter. I never thought about Easter as that significant. Yes, Jesus was nailed to the cross. Yes, Jesus rose again. Yes, that’s why I have eternal life. But it didn’t quite sink in, it was something I had known all my life.
Wright asks, “So how can we learn to live as wide-awake people, as Easter people?”
“Live as Easter people?” How does that apply to my everyday life?
I admit, I rather relate to Thomas, Jesus’ disciple. He wasn’t there when Jesus appeared to his disciples. His friends told him, “We have seen the Lord!” He was not convinced. “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side,” he said.
For most of my life I wanted to see. How many times have I mimicked Thomas and said, “I believe it when I see it?”
Thomas did get to put his finger on Jesus’ wounded hand, and he did put his hand into the wound in his side. Jesus said to Thomas, “Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” Thomas exclaims, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” (Emphasis mine. Scriptures quoted from the Gospel of John 20 NLT)
Believe! That’s what it’s all about.
The apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians (3:8-10):
8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have put aside all else, counting it worth less than nothing, in order that I can have Christ, 9 and become one with him, no longer counting on being saved by being good enough or by obeying God’s laws, but by trusting Christ to save me; for God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith—counting on Christ alone. 10 Now I have given up everything else—I have found it to be the only way to really know Christ and to experience the mighty power that brought him back to life again, and to find out what it means to suffer and to die with him. (The Living Bible)
And in second letter to the Corinthians he writes (4:7):
“We now have this light shining in our heart, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” (New Living Translation)
Jesus was a real person in history. The resurrection did take place. The apostle Paul talkes about the resurrection power a number of times. God displayed power when He resurrected His son to life.
This “great power from God” is available to us who believe, who confess Jesus as their Lord and Savior. A power from God to overcome our struggles, to hope when odds are against us, to live daily as Easter people.
And that hard, heavy paska reminds me how not to live. Not to hurt others and leave permanent dents in my interaction with people I meet every day. Rather extend grace and be compassionate and loving and display the joy and hope I experience because of Easter, because of the resurrection of Jesus.
Have a Blessed and Happy Easter! Go ahead and live as Easter people!