Last Sunday was the strangest Easter of my life. In my childhood Easter meant a basket filled will jelly beans and various forms of chocolate. Occasionally it also meant a new Easter dress and a visit with Mom to likely a Presbyterian or Methodist service. One set of grandparents claimed Methodist heritage, so when Mom wanted to attend a service it was usually one of theirs. I have zero memories of ever attending an Easter service with my whole family. Imagine their surprise when I wound up in a Lutheran seminary and became a pastor the same year I turned 40.
Being a pastor, I’ve had plenty of experiences with Holy Week and Easter services. One particularly hectic Holy Week years ago, I was involved in, or at least expected to show up for, a total of 21 services from early service Palm Sunday through the last “Go in Peace. Serve the Lord” dismissal Easter Sunday. In my retirement years I’ve usually been involved in some way; playing bells, doing a reading – something. And always gathering with family and/or friends Easter afternoon.
Surreal Holy Week and Easter 2020
Holy Week and Easter 2020 have been surreal. I attended a number of virtual services here in Houston and other places where colleagues and their staffs have gone to heroic efforts to bring church to my computer screen. It helped tremendously to see and hear them and a few familiar, favorite hymns. But still, it was surreal.
Other than husband Tom, and one lone other dog-walker in the neighborhood, I did not see another person all day. I am most grateful to have someone here with me through this bizarre bit of history. I regularly talk with friends and have video visits with family. But Easter was not the same without watching grandkids smash confetti-filled eggs over assorted heads and adults teaching toddlers how to hunt for the Easter eggs they’d hidden.
Easter Is Not Over
We are in Easter season until Pentecost at the end of May. We’re all hoping this COVID-19 pandemic is under control by then so we can resume what remnants of our former lives we can salvage. It will not be the same. We cannot go back; history does not provide a reverse gear.
The Easter story as recorded in Matthew 28:9 – 15 gives us an account of what happened to both the women and the guards who found the tomb empty. I think their experience applies to our current pandemic predicament. What if the empty tomb represented our current empty churches and streets? And the women represent scientists and public officials sharing what they’ve discovered to be true about managing pandemics? And the guards represent people willing to take bribes to hide the truth?
A Contemporary Easter Scenario
The women ran and told the others that Jesus had actually spoken to them and sent them to tell what they had seen. Some believed them. Many did not. The messages coming from our scientists don’t sound much like good news, but they tell us we can beat this COVID enemy and save lives if only we will believe them and stay apart a while longer. Some believe them. Many do not.
When the guards reported what they’d seen to authorities, the authorities, no doubt worried about their careers (think incomes), paid them off to lie and claim others stole the body. Today we are witnessing some who accuse the scientists of not telling us the truth; of over-reacting; of trying to destroy the economy for personal gain.
I’m not accusing anyone of taking money to intentionally deceive the public, but I do wonder about the motives of those who discredit the messages coming from people who have done the research and know what will mitigate the situation. The lives vs. livelihoods debates are picking up momentum as frustration and fear of the economic future mount. We face hard, painful, and unpopular decisions. Many of us find ourselves in uncharted waters.
Who Do We Trust
We spent decades denying the connection between smoking and lung cancer. It turns out the scientists were right. We’ve wasted decades denying any connection between human behavior and the deterioration of air quality. Now that we’re driving and flying less frequently, amazingly, the air is getting cleaner. It turns out the scientists have been telling us the truth.
It is Easter season again when millions celebrate what some have believed for centuries; that Jesus died and rose from the dead. Many believe this to be true. Others do not. I believe God loves believers and non-believers equally and is coming to us through the scientists and medical professionals to lead all of us through this global pandemic episode of human history. Choose carefully who you believe regarding COVID-19. Lives depend on who we believe is telling the truth.
Encouragement from Easter 2020
Since we are in Easter several more weeks, I want to express my profound gratitude to all the church staffs who have worked so hard to proclaim good news from empty sanctuaries or from their own homes. I hope these links lift your spirits and give you encouragement as we wait to see how this surreal spring plays out.
Palm Sunday 2020 at Kinsmen Lutheran in Houston Texas. April 5, 2020
Good Friday at New Hope Lutheran in Missouri City, Texas. April 10, 2020
A Good Friday meditation from my granddaughter Laura Flores and campus Pastor Heather Hanson in San Antonio. Good Friday devotion
Easter morning at Christ the Servant in Houston, TX April 12, 2020
United Methodist Choir “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” Global UMC Choir (There is an advertisement with this one; I’m not endorsing the product).
Until we are clear of this surreal and present danger, may it be well with your souls.
Where are you finding inspiration these days?