The Paschal Candle burns at each service for the Great 50 Days of Easter and at other great feasts during the Christian year. The Candle burns during each baptism and each funeral. Its flame marks significant moments in the life of our church community.
With each moment, the Paschal Candle burns down, so when I go into the room where the Paschal Candle has been hidden during the season of Lent to place the new candle in the stand, I am well aware of just how many significant moments its flame has enlightened.
In one hand, I have the new candle, waiting its turn to light the life of our church. In the other hand, I have the one that has burned down as it lit the life of our church. The old one is not as tall as it once was. Its artistic decorations are a bit skewed and worn with use. The top part of the numbers marking the year have burned away.
Our candle from last year, the Light of Christ, burned brightly over several baptisms. Baptisms of little ones who gleefully rubbed Chrism into their hair. Baptisms of children who cried, then realized they were indeed the center of attention on this day as they walked up and down the aisle of the church waving to the fellow members of the Body of Christ. Baptisms of families who were new to the Christian faith and came to the waters of baptism together.
It also burned brightly over several funerals, reminding us that in death, our baptism is completed as we join Christ in eternal life. While we rejoice at this truth, we also mourn those who were not with us as they had been. I mourn them. Itntry, and in our world. Our faithful candle, even now in its well-used state, contains a reminder that all of those dear members who were buried from this church are still alive in Christ, still guiding us all in love.
It burned in vigil for those who were victims of violence and neglect in our community, in our country, and in our world, a reminder that as part of the Body of Christ, every death diminishes us, and every death by tragic circumstances is a call to act and serve in love, to speak truth to power, and to love all as Christ loves us, even when what we say will not be popular among those in positions of power and authority.
The Paschal Candle has watched some members leave as life choices, job changes, and even anger moved them to another place. It burned as we said farewell and God be with you as you depart from this place, even if you depart in anger. We are changed by their absences, and we are reminded that as Christians, life is changed - always changed - but not ended.
And in case we needed a clear reminder, the Light of Christ welcomed new members into our community who arrived in a new city, who returned to church after many years, or who found our community a holy place of welcome and acceptance. They added their light to ours, and we shine brighter because of their gifts, voices, and spirits.
The new Paschal Candle was lit from the New Fire at the Great Vigil of Easter. And it, too, will burn, showing us the Light of Christ in a very real way. For a quiet moment after all is said and done on Easter Sunday, I take a photo of it, as it is now. Tall, shiny, and new.
I know it will burn at each service for the Great 50 Days of Easter and at other great feasts during the Christian year. It will burn during each baptism and each funeral from now until next Holy Week. It has already burned at a baptism, and it will burn at a funeral next week. Its flame will mark significant moments in the life of our church community.
For a few moments, I wonder what these significant moments may be, whom we will welcome into our community, and whom will we offer thanks to God for giving them to us as we say goodbye. The retired Paschal Candle will live in my office, a reminder of the joys and sadness of the last year and that Christ is present in all these moments. Life in ministry (and life, period) means we will become worn, even burned a bit as we live through days and seasons. And that in all of those days and seasons, the darkness shall not overcome the Light of Christ.
In our lives and in our ministries, we stand in the Light of this marvelous and holy flame, offering thanks and praise that for all the changes and chances in this life, we rest in the eternal changelessness of God.