With the Church buildings closed and everyone staying home, this Easter is going to feel very different. All the customs and traditions which we associate with this weekend, visiting family, Easter egg hunts, Churches bedecked with flowers after the long period of their absence through Lent are not going to happen this year. Despite the good weather, there are going to be no trip outs to look forward too. For many, it will feel like a time behind locked doors, separated and isolated from loved ones. And for those who are affected by the coronavirus, a time of real pain and suffering; some will pull through and others will not, and families are not going to be able to be with their loved ones at this moment of crisis. That is very hard. For others, this weekend will be a time of long shifts, whether in hospitals or in the community as everyone’s efforts are directed toward mitigating the spread of the virus.
All in all, this weekend has more the flavour of Holy Saturday – the day when nothing happened except the friends of Jesus waited to be able to go to the tomb to recover and anoint his body for burial. I imagine they too were scared – after all their teacher and friend had just been executed by the authorities, and they would not have had much hope to hang on too. It was the end of the world as they knew it.
But, the end of the world as we know it, is not the end of the world full stop. If we have followed the passion story through Holy Week, we will have rubbed up against all the failings and weaknesses, the dismal compromises and evasions and the confrontations that made up this last week of Jesus and it looked like that was where things would end. But when the women set out early in the morning they experienced something beyond their wildest imaginations- and as always when something is outside of our experience, – they were afraid, but it was a fear mixed with joy as they encountered Jesus; all was not lost and he asked them to go on to Galilee. This was not the end of the world but the breaking in of something utterly knew. The joy, the hope, the insistence of God’s kingdom revealed through Jesus’ life and teaching, a kingdom built on love and compassion, would continue in those willing hearts and hands through history who had heard the summons and responded in faith. The Easter joy – Christ is Risen!
Something is changing and needs to change in our world; the universal impact of the corona virus is one sign of a system at the point of collapse. Others include the continuing climate crisis – the floods, the fires and the famines, and the millions of refugees, whose plight is made even more dangerous with the spread of this virus, all call us to change direction, to find new ways of living together. We are seeing something of that these days –for example, a recovery of the sense of the common good, the recognition of just how entwined is the world in which we live as we learn about supply chains and how our food is produced. Our behaviour too as we voluntarily isolate ourselves for the well-being of others. And we have come to value and discover just who are the key workers in our society – those who keep things going. There can be no turning back from this resurrection of care and compassion and something new will break out. We don’t know what this will look like as we still stumble in the darkness of the early dawn, as did those first women but out of the depths of darkness and despair comes new hope as the light of Christ continues to shine in the world. The Easter joy – Christ is Risen!
Easter is about new possibilities and new hope, for ourselves as individuals and for our world, and as we fumble in the dark surrounded by uncertainty and pain for which there seems no immediate sign of an end, let us pray that we will be called by our name, as was Mary in the Garden, and like her, be ready to hear our name and our hearts filled with the light and love of the Risen Christ.
Revd Jonathan Morris