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Easter in Two Stadiums

Parties. Presents. Decorations. Months of anticipation.

Christmas gets so much hype. But for a Christian, Easter is the really big deal. Jesus was born, and Jesus died, but without his resurrection, we would have nothing to celebrate. And nothing to place our hope in.

A couple of months before Easter, our pastor delivered a sermon about how Christians should throw big parties. Basically, heaven’s gonna be a big party, we throw parties for other things here on Earth, so we should throw big parties for Jesus as foreshadowing to Heaven. Invite lots of people, have lots of good food and drink, and just celebrate. No need to preach, just be generous and party to the glory of God.

And then he announced that for Easter, Mars Hill would be throwing the biggest party a church in the Northwest has ever thrown: They were renting Qwest Field for Easter Sunday. Having been members of Mars Hill Church since 2005, and maintaining that membership during the years that we’ve searched fruitlessly for a new home church in Portland, and now eagerly anticipating the launch of a Mars Hill Church Portland campus, I knew we had to be a part of the celebration.

And I’m so thankful that we were. I could feel the energy building as we navigated the traffic surrounding the stadium, and then joined crowds of people climbing up the ramps to open seats in the third level (we were a bit later than planned, so the close-in seats were all filled, nonetheless we were happy to be under cover from the drizzle!). Once we found our seats and gazed down at the massive stage and row of baptism tanks, I felt like crying. It was overwhelming to worship God along with 17,500 others, and the scale and power of the service was truly moving. Pastor Mark belted out the message as if he’d forgotten he had a microphone. And there was no way to misinterpret the message: Jesus is God, and the only way to Heaven is to believe in him. At the end we sang as we watched hundreds of believers be baptized — some who’d been planning to for weeks, others who spontaneously borrowed sweats provided by the church and got dunked in the moment.

After the service we walked just next door to stadium #2, Safeco Field, stopping for a crowded yet delightful lunch at Pyramid Brewery with our church family.

The Mariners had offered special ticket pricing to those attending the Mars Hill Church service, and even invited Pastor Mark to throw the first pitch of the game. We used to enjoy attending baseball games when we lived in the Seattle area, so we joined in on the deal.

It was Eliana’s first major league sports event, and while she didn’t care so much about the baseball game, she thoroughly enjoyed the blue cotton candy. She also enjoyed climbing around the stadium chairs. That is, until I reached the limit of my anxiety about her falling down the cement steps and placed her in timeout at the very tip-top of the stadium. She loves timeout, so it didn’t ruin her Easter. In fact, we all enjoyed our Easter quite a lot.

Next year we plan to repeat the party theme, only this time we’ll be hosting our own party in Portland. And you’re all invited.

The Paparazzi of Notre Dame

It’s un-exotically touristy of me to say it, but I love Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. I love that it’s Ground Zero for the snail grid of Parisian neighborhoods. I love that it rests on its own tiny island, which allows for magnificent views over the water. I remember the first time I approached the church from the narrow streets behind it, turning a corner to gasp at the flying buttresses lit up in the night. I’ve climbed Quasimodo’s tower to greet the gargoyles, and I’ve marveled at the fact that a semi-truck could fit inside one of the aisles. I even showed up for class on the morning after my 21st birthday, knowing that our lesson that day would take place in front of Notre Dame.

It wasn’t until my last visit to Paris, in 2008, that I finally glimpsed the façade sans scaffolding. But it was a cold day in December, so I didn’t spend much time marveling at the outside, and instead sought the warmth of the interior.

The usual crowds were there, snapping pictures and thumbing through guidebooks. A faithful few worshiped in the center — roped off to signify that the cathedral’s purpose is greater than to look pretty.

I’ve always felt torn when admiring beautiful churches. Is it right to snap photos while others are praying? Is it unholy to relish praise on the design of the structure, rather than feel compelled to use it as a house of worship to God? I once witnessed a very old local woman kindly ask a tourist to stop taking photos during mass. I felt pity for her, realizing her desire to keep the house of God sacred, but knowing there were likely 100 other tourists taking photos at that same moment.

And of course I’ve taken interior photos too. But only probably half as many as I would have liked. I hesitate greatly.

Isn’t it wonderful, though, that places of worship can attract such crowds? I hope the faithful find solace in the hope that perhaps some of the snappy tourists also leave with a seed in their hearts for the knowledge of Christ.

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