The story and the season continue...
April 16, 2020
While we think of Easter as a one-day holiday – in the world of the church, it is a 7-week season leading us toward the next festival on the calendar – the Day of Pentecost.
This year, especially, we need to embrace Easter as a season – one that coincides with what is quickly turning into the season of COVID-19. While the season of COVID-19 continues to demand isolation and stir uncertainty about when and how things will go back to “normal” – the season of Easter calls us to seek an altogether new normal. Christ is alive, and we have received the promise of resurrection.
It may be helpful to remember that the first disciples were not immediately inspired or emboldened by news of the empty tomb. Continue in the 20th chapter of John beyond the resurrection account we shared in worship on Easter Sunday, you will hear how the story continues later that same day…
“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’” -John 20:19-21
The disciples had retreated into quarantine as well – not caused by virus but by fear. Locked doors could not keep the risen Jesus away from them. Neither can our time of physical separation keep us from encountering the risen Christ!
Jesus shows them his wounds – reminding them that he endured suffering, but now had new life. Jesus knows, understands and identifies with us in our fear, anxiety, suffering and uncertainty. He has endured the cross so that we can always know that God is not somehow removed from human suffering, but knows it all too well.
It is a word of peace, spoken twice to drive it home, that is at the center of Jesus’ first visit to his friends after life-conquered death. Jesus does not come with words of correction or condemnation. He does not question why they are fearful. He does not tell them that he is disappointed that they deserted and denied him. He does not remind them that he had promised he would be back in some kind of “I told you so!” tone. Instead, Jesus offers peace and he offers the same to us…in our fear, our uncertainty, and our struggle to grasp the deep meaning of an empty tomb.
To be honest…standing on this side of Easter...I am tired. Pastors are always tired after Easter – it is the biggest day capping off the biggest week of the church year! However, this tired is different. I am tired of isolation and computer screens. I am tired of disruption and cancellations. My mind, body and spirit are weary from trying to find a new normal for our family, our congregation, our community and myself. Yet, here we are and Jesus is with us - offering peace.
This resurrection word of peace is an echo of what Jesus had spoken earlier:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” -John 14:27
As we face uncertainty in these days, as we lament what we are missing – let us embrace what is certain and what we have – a risen Lord who speaks peace to us.
Everyone is wondering what a new normal will be, and when we will achieve it. I dare say that followers of Jesus define their new normal with peace and promise, made real by an empty tomb and a Savior who speaks peace to each one of us. Let us all receive Christ’s peace, and allow it to be the first and last thing that shapes our days.
Peace be with you – in the name of the risen Christ,