This Easter will be unlike any we have experienced in our lifetimes. I’m struck by the number of Easters when I’ve walked into the church—watched all of you flood through the doors, and how I never saw that as part of the miracle of Easter. Many of us have been privileged to come to Easters past from lives of safety and comfort, with easy cries of “Alleluia” on our lips, this year, we are not so privileged. It is true that individually, or in groups, we may have come to Easter with grief or pain foremost in our hearts, and our Alleluias have been more of a whisper than a shout, but this year, we are all in places of loss, anxiety, sadness, grief, and uncertainty.
This year is just different.
And without in any way attempting to gloss over our pain, grief, and loss, I have been reflecting on the fact that this year, perhaps our Easter will feel more like it did to the disciples when they discovered the empty tomb and fled, filled with fear and confusion. Perhaps it will feel more like the early church, when people celebrated the Great Feast of Easter in small groups and in their homes. When there were no beautiful church buildings for them to gather in, no specific building identified as sacred, and so they set up places in their homes—places set apart, yet in the midst of their lives. Perhaps this enabled them to know in a way that we might not, that the Living God, the Risen One, is in the midst of all of life and that all the world is an altar.
This year, our Easter celebration at St. Peter’s will be a little different. We will focus on the Sacrament of the Word, on hearing the great story of God’s salvation, of how God has worked in and through all life from the beginning, and how ultimately and decisively God entered the world as a human and conquered all of our fears and our deaths. And, through the miracle of technology, we will “gather” to loudly proclaim “Alleluia, He is Risen” that great cry that has echoed through 2000 years of history. (Click here to read instructions on how to send a video of you and whomever you live with proclaiming that Christ is Risen.)
While this Easter will be different, and we may grieve that this is so, what will get us through is to remember that the promise of God is a promise that meets us in our humanity, in our grief, our uncertainty. The promise of God does not give us answers to the suffering and pain that are part and parcel of life, even huge overwhelming questions related to this pandemic. The promise is presence. The promise is that we have Christ to accompany us through our Good Fridays—however long they are—to Easter. The promise is that Easter always comes. That love, life, God, has the last word. That God has put the holy thumb on the scales of the Universe and tilted it towards life, and that, in Christ, we are raised to new life both now and in the life to come.
So I encourage you to bring your whole beloved self; questions, pain, anxiety, with you to church, to each other as we gather in our online community, and join us for the services of Holy Week. Join us to walk through the last days of Jesus’ life. And then I invite you to join Sarah and me on Easter morning as we whisper, say, shout—whatever we can manage, the unshakeable unchangeable truth that is at the heart of our faith: the tomb is empty, he is not there. Alleluia, Christ is risen!