During the last several weeks I have had occasion to reach over and shut off the radio or TV because the constant update of bad news has become too much to listen to. The numbers of infected and dead climb daily and, at some point, one cannot absorb the meaning behind all those numbers. And yet, we know that behind every one of those numbers there is a human story of suffering and loss. And yet, the other part of the story is that, behind every person who has survived infection and is restored to health, there is hope. There is a very real form of resurrection for those who have been seriously ill and close to death.
Holy week brings us face to face each year with a similar story. We begin with the joy and enthusiasm of Palm Sunday where the crowds follow Jesus into the city shouting their Hosannas and hailing him their new King and Messiah. And, in a very real sense, many of them expect a bright and wonderful future in a new Kingdom of God.
But the story quickly darkens. Waiting in the shadows, like viruses, the enemies of Jesus gather and plot and gradually the crowds go silent and fade away because they sense that bad things are going to happen. And the disease of hatred and fear begins to infect many of them, so much so that that same crowd that hailed him their Messiah on Palm Sunday now call for his death. The dark time has come and the world goes silent and empty as they lay his lifeless body in a tomb. And his followers wait in fear and isolation because there may be more deaths to come.
But wait, the story does not end here. God often comes into our world and appears in a completely unexpected and marvellous way. And Mary Magdalene announces to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord. He lives”. And with those words, their whole lives are transformed for ever.
Many of you have said in phone conversations with me in the last while that you believe that we will come out of this present time changed. We will not be as we were. And I believe that is true. Many of us have been reminded of our mortality, our vulnerability and that has made us more aware of the vulnerability of others around us, others whom we can help safely in many different ways. We may come out of this transformed, one hopes, for the better. Just as the early church discovered that they needed community and support in each other, so are we re-discovering that same truth. Perhaps we will be a more thoughtful people, more mindful of our relationships and the things that really matter in life.
Many of our churches are reaching out with various forms of communications technology and some are finding that on-line liturgies are attracting greater crowds than normal times. Others are re-discovering that a simple phone call is a form of ministry and comfort to many. We are finding new ways to be the church without buildings. We are being reminded of the things that are really important.
St. Paul, speaking to the church in Corinth during a difficult time, says this: “Listen, I tell you a mystery. We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye…….Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because in the Lord you know that your labour is not in vain.”
My Easter hope for all of us is that we remain healthy and safe and that we all come out the other side of this transformed in some way that will serve us well as the people of God in this place and at this time. I look forward to us all being physically together at some point so that, together, we can bear witness to the transforming power of God.
Alleluia, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.