It’s my favorite holiday of the year – Easter! Why would I, in this time of COVID-19 and social isolation, say it’s an unremarkable Easter? Some of you are already balking at me because, as a Christian pastor’s wife, I should be celebrating the triumph of the cross, the endless glories of resurrection, and the saving balm of grace. I do celebrate all those gospel truths – every day! But I am not going to deny that Easter is different this year.
I have always resisted a mechanical outplay of duty or people who try to “should” me into submission. Joy is the essence of why I became a Christian, and joy remains it.
I didn’t grow up believing in Jesus or even going to church. As a child and young adult, I had no idea why Easter was a special holiday except for a vague recollection of hunting multicolored eggs at a neighbor’s house. No one explained this mysterious Holy Week. Truly, it seemed very strange to me that the mysteries of death and resurrection were often reduced to a bunny rabbit and dying eggs for an average non-believer looking in. So until the age of 26, I simply ignored the holiday.
Easter is different this year. Why? Because we cannot gather in groups. I watched a TV special documenting how different religions are navigating social distancing with Passover, Ramadan, and Easter fast approaching. Drive-by confessionals for the Catholic Church, Zoom small groups, & YouTube prayer services were a few innovative techniques. Strikingly, one man shared how his solitary practice of meditation as spiritual renewal has continued unabated.
I can’t truly celebrate Easter alone or just with my family. As image bearers of God, we are built for connection. Even in our visage and countenance, we look like the one we are to be drawn to. It’s unremarkable to sit at home and watch an online worship service on Easter. I miss the Easter baptisms, the joy of clapping together as we watch a new soul rise up from the spiritual waters of death to new life. I miss seeing everyone in their Easter best outfits, showing the value and worth of our bodies that too will be resurrected one day after death. I even miss our Easter Egg Hunt and Picnic where we can gather & check in over a meal, leisurely find out about how a marriage is doing, how work is going, and what to pray for while our children revel in old fashioned fun.
Being in the deep South of the United States, I have seen the excesses of celebrating Easter without Jesus at the center – the race for the perfect front door decor, the most elegant Easter table setting, the steep price tag for Easter best outfits, the decision to skip church because a family can afford to go to the beach for Easter. But I can tolerate those excesses if we still can gather as a community.
Unlike the gentleman who continued his solitary spiritual practice, Christianity is not a solitary religion. For the theologically minded, even our Father God delights and thrives in community- the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The great break, the great divide in the Trinity took place on Good Friday – today. Good Friday is the most heart wrenching, somber moment in Christian history. The son Jesus is abandoned by the Father to take on the sins of every soul. Isolation or social abandonment enters the Trinity for the first and last time (Mark 15:34).
As Christians, we grieve on Good Friday. Isolation, abandonment, and death. Such familiar themes in the days of COVID-19. As Christians, we count the cost of our free gift of grace. We get everything with Jesus’ death when we deserve nothing because of our selfishness. Yet this Easter will be different because we cannot gather together on Resurrection Sunday to joyously proclaim the good news. For me, I am an Easter Christian always. Easter is my favorite holiday after my conversion at age 28. I love the drama of Holy Week and the joy of Resurrection Sunday. I want to proclaim the good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to everyone. But this Easter, I am limited and it is painful.
Yes, I know God is at work even in social distancing, but I am re-learning and searing the importance of gathering and connecting into my heart. We crave connection. Facebook and social media outlets are having trouble keeping pace with our demand for social interaction even with COVID-19. We haven’t all hide away as hermits.
A remarkable Easter is when we are gathered in groups, inviting the stranger, looking after the vulnerable, raising melodious voices in worshipful unison, bowing our heads as a humble collective, hugging the loved one, and laughing and kissing the lost one who has come home. This Easter, we can only do that in a haphazard fashion. What power we have in unity and connection that we take for granted daily.
Perhaps, the only way to see differently this Easter season is to meditate on the words of a church member’s 86 year old grandmother who is currently diagnosed with COVID-19. “To me hope means a knowing in my heart that whatever God does or allows in my life is right. Therefore I can trust Him completely” (Pat Bertucci).
For me to see the beauty of Easter this year, I am no different than this 86 year old grandmother. I too am isolated. I too have no resource, but prayer and trust when it comes to COVID-19. I too have to believe that whatever God allows is right. I too have to remember, as she does distinctly, that our final destination – being in the presence of the Lord – is a place of connection.
To be an Easter Christian this year, I must have greater faith in what I cannot see. This year, the only way I can truly celebrate my favorite holiday, to celebrate it in the glory it was intended, is to rest in this certitude: social isolation cannot triumph over eternity. Instead of seeing gospel triumph in action with social gatherings and beloved baptisms and shared meals and social service and caring for loved ones and inviting strangers, I have to cling to the truth that connection and community is real on a higher, eternal plane. It is different. It is hard. It is possible. I hope you have a remarkable Easter.
ARE YOU STILL MOVING? YES…
Yes, we are still planning on moving to Paris to start an international English speaking church. Yes, we hope to move this summer 2020. We have only 1 known about our departure date: We cannot leave until we raise 80% of our support. We are committed to this mission, regardless of a pandemic or other deterrents. If you are interested in partnering, please join us in our journey today.
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Below is a compilation video of our Instagram Stories (March 20-27, 2020). We will regularly add compilation videos to the blog for those not on social media.
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