It happened. In spite of COVID-19. In spite of social distancing. In spite of Shelter in Place. In spite of closed sanctuaries. Easter happened! It had to be one of the most surreal and yet memorable Easters of my entire life. I will always remember where I was and what I was doing during the Easter of COVID-19! I bet you will be the same.
As I have taken a couple of days to rest I have a few observations from the past week. Much like the Grinch who tried to steal Christmas and failed, the Coronavirus that tried to “steal” Easter also failed. While our traditions might have been disrupted and our travel plans turned upside down, the tomb was still empty on Easter morning and Jesus still raised from the dead! And there were a multitude of voices shouting “Hallelujah, He is Risen!” across the world on Sunday. The reason that is true is because Easter is all about what God did, and zero about what we do or did. Easter doesn’t happen because we sing a certain song (although Easter fills like Easter when I get to sing Christ the Lord has Risen Today!), or a prayer we pray or a dress or tie we wear or a meal we eat or even a basket of eggs or chocolate we receive. Easter happens because 3 days after Jesus was crucified on a cross, God overcame death by raising Jesus from the dead. Hallelujah! And in spite of the great distress and loss that Coronavirus has caused, it cannot take that truth away from us.
I will also admit that I have been surprised by how connected I have felt to people through livestream worship. I served a church previously where we started a livestream ministry and we did it every single Sunday morning. But I never really felt connected to the people on the other side of the camera. It was more like they were eavesdropping in on our worship service. This has been different. With no one in the sanctuary, Vern and I have made a concerted effort in our minds to preach to the people on the other side of the camera. It helps to be able to see comments from our worshipping community while we worship together to know we are all giving out hearts and attention to God together in this moment in time. I have loved seeing your pictures of your worship time at home and your communion elements gathered before you as we celebrate together through livestream. But I give thanks to God that we have found a way to connect with one another while we connect to God when we can’t gather together in our usual worship space. The Holy Spirit is a powerful force and I personally think that is what is moving among us Sunday mornings, no matter where we are watching.
Another observation I have had is seeing the best in humanity. I have seen it among people in the few times I have been in public to the store or the Post Office. (People are being polite and and patient with one another sharing the aisle in the grocery store.) I have seen it in news stories like the interview I heard today on the news of someone who had the virus and was over it and was now donating plasma in order to help 2-4 other people fight the virus by receiving her antibodies. I have seen it among posts on social media when folks are encouraging those who are down or who are missing out on important life experiences like a senior year in high school or celebrating a birthday Coronavirus style. I have seen it in the leadership of our church as we have made decisions and adapted to new opportunities. I have especially seen it in this amazing staff and how we have come together to do whatever it takes. It’s almost like the worship team has become my second family. I care as much about staying healthy for their sake as I do for my own family because that is how important they have become to me. And outside of Greg, this staff are the only folks I am interacting with in person and they help keep me sane when we Zoom or see each other on Sundays to help lead worship or occasionally passing each other in the church building.
But thankfully, after a long string of years of seeing the worst side of people getting divided over anything and everything and assuming the worst of one another, I am so grateful to be able to see the best in one another. To appreciate deeply those heroes in our community who are working in our hospitals and clinics to care for the sick knowing they could be exposed at any minute. Those first responder heroes who walk towards the risks instead of away from them. People taking care of neighbors. My observation is seeing the best of people shine through the real struggles of this new life we are living reveals that the Imago Dei (image of God) within us has not been damaged beyond repair by negativity and division. We are capable of unifying. My prayer is that it continues long after COVID-19 becomes a historical memory.
Be encouraged my friends. We still have unchartered territory ahead of us for a while. We are starting to figure this out. And hopefully we will develop all that we need to beat this pandemic in the form of vaccines, quick tests available for everyone, new social practices that keep us healthy, and stop gaps for those who have suffered financially.
Be encouraged friends because in spite of all that we are still enduring, that tomb is still empty. Jesus Christ is raised from the dead. God fulfills God’s promises. And nothing can take that truth away from us!
Grace and Peace,
PS. We start a new sermon series this week called Stronger Through the Struggles. We look forward to seeing what Scripture has to say to help us thrive in the midst of this great disruption and how not to get down. How we can use it to make us stronger. Join us for worship Sunday mornings at 11:00 – go to our website to find all the ways you can watch.