My sunrise service on Easter Sunday took place at The Seattle School. With more impending due dates than I could keep track of, I chose to write papers instead of attending a morning church service. Let’s not judge here.
The decision to do homework on Easter wasn’t exactly an arduous one, anyway. I have been in the midst of a difficult season of life and was not yet past the “silence of Saturday.” Celebrating Christ’s resurrection felt like a far cry from where I stood. If you need me, you can find me in Holy Saturday; the grief, the questions, the waiting, the confusion, the silence and the mourning of a Christ who was no longer with us — or no longer with me, anyway. Lately, it has felt like I am living in one really long Holy Saturday. I’ve heard that joy comes in the morning, but I’m just not sure which morning? For me, I felt the joyful celebration of the resurrection on behalf of all of humanity but, in my own little world of Mallory, I still felt lonely and despairing. Lucky for me, loneliness and despair are the perfect combination for paper-writing. This was going to be one forgettable Easter.
With access to the closed building, because of my job at the school, I let myself in just after sunrise and set up shop at a desk on the top floor. The school was silent and dark, occupied only by me. These were favorable study conditions, but also an appropriate representation of how my relationship with God has felt lately. With my full attention focused on assignments, I began plugging away, admittedly impressed with my own productivity. A couple of hours had passed and I was making some serious progress when, suddenly, I was jolted out of my intense concentration.
Bong. Bong. Bong. The time is 9 am.
Three chimes ring throughout every level of the school on the hours of 3, 6, 9 and 12, day and night. They are intended to serve as a reminder to our community, in the midst of our day, that God is present with us in all that we do. They are a holy interruption. “Nine.Noon.Three” as the practice is often referred to at the school, has been a part of my life for nearly two years now but it was still jarring to hear those bells in that empty building on that weekend morning.
But they rang, loud and clear, at exactly 9:00 am.
My heart started racing when I heard the first bell, startled by its loud and unannounced presence. Initially, I was annoyed by the interruption; I had been making so much progress and the bells were disturbing my flow. However, as quickly as the bells sounded, they were finished, soon allowing me to return to my paper. But, by the grace of God, I couldn’t just get back to work. Truth be told, I was angry that they had rang, frustrated that they never miss a beat, even if it’s early or it’s a weekend or nobody is even there to hear them. They are faithful reminders of God’s presence and, that morning, they sounded deep into the places of my soul that wanted to stay in the darkness of Saturday. I pushed myself away from the desk, rested my head on the back of the chair, closed my eyes and exhaled deeply. Those bells are relentless. They’re often unexpected, always interrupting and they never forget to ring, even when I forget about them.
This God is relentless. She’s unexpected, full of interruptions and just keeps showing up, right when I’ve forgotten about Her or decided She must be taking the weekend off.
That morning, the bells served a greater purpose for me. They were, indeed, holy reminders of God’s presence, even in the midst of silence, loneliness and despair. Those three chimes, which continued to ring faithfully every three hours, moved me towards the joy, celebration and awe of Easter Sunday. What a sweet gift, to be reminded that as deep into the darkness of Holy Saturday I may feel, the bells still chime, and Sunday comes.
Photo credit: Vladimer Shioshvili, Creative Commons.