Seek the Abiding Joy of Easter and Worship the Risen Lord
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Oh, how we long to come out of our houses, out of this season of physical distancing, and join together in the hymns and stories of Easter. After all, it's what Easter people do. But this year, we are constrained, held back. The difficulties and disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic are all around us, and even if we remain physically untouched by the virus, we all share in the effects of this sickness. We will long remember this strange, mean season, and it will cast a shadow over us for years to come.
So then, what shall we do? I think that as Christians, we do what we always do: we celebrate resurrection! Easter comes. A pandemic wreaks havoc on what we would like to be doing, but nothing stops Easter; nothing defeats resurrection.
With most of the external traditions taken away that we enjoy and that help us express our hope and our faith, let us pay more attention to the heart of the matter, and let our lives rest in the things that truly matter. I will truly miss - will grieve - the loss of the colorful, rowdy, and fanciful parts of the Easter Festival this year: egg hunts, flowers, big hats, ham, cascarones, and piñatas. I'll miss going to church, spending time with family and friends, yelling “Alleluia!,” and singing our victory songs together. I'll miss the beautiful, ordinary things we do as Christ's Body that bind us together. But I will not miss Easter. Or maybe more accurately, Easter as it rolls over the whole creation will not miss me. Or you. Easter comes, and Christ is risen.
The resurrection is God's seal of victory over sin and death at the crucifixion. It proclaims that God loves us - not in general, but actually, uniquely, personally, and bodily. And God loves you, loves each and every one of you, with the same love with which he loves his only-begotten Son. He loves all of us as if each of us was the only one. Columnist and author David Brooks tells of a friend's discovery, that after the birth of her first child she “loved her baby more than evolution required.” That's akin to the love of God for us, revealed in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
We believe in a resurrection in which we will not be disembodied spirits adrift in the cosmos, but will know and be known by one another. We will be, finally and truly, our selves at last. As St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, “We don't yet know exactly what we shall be like, except we shall be made like Christ,” and while before, we saw “as through a mirror dimly,” in Christ, we shall see “face to face.” And we will delight and rejoice in what we see.
Resurrection proclaims that bodies matter, and that our spiritual lives, religious practices and the life of the Church are not theoretical and bloodless, but lived out in the very daily-ness of life. Easter faith is fleshed out, incarnate, in practicing what we proclaim. It doesn't pull us out and away from all that life brings, but sends us back fully into life, following our risen Lord.
And in large part the pain of being physically distanced from our church families comes from this truth, that we have been made for life together. Created in the image of the Triune God who is eternally in communion in himself, we are created for community, baptized to become part of Christ's Body.
And yet, Easter reminds us that this unity we share is not defined by being in the same room. Christ is risen from the grave, and he has taken up residence in our lives, our hearts, our world. If death and the grave could not overcome Jesus, then neither can COVID-19. Not even a pandemic, with its necessary, physical distance, gets the last word. In Christ, nothing, nothing, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
And so, happy Easter! Welcome, happy morning! Whether you're alone in your home or with one or a few others, celebrate. In our trimmed-down lives, let us pay attention to the giftedness and the joy that is ours. Let's hold tightly to the most wondrous news of Easter and have confidence that we can share it.
If you have a big hat or colorful socks, wear 'em. If you have a bell, ring it. If you have cascarones, break 'em on somebody's head, or your own if you must. Seek the abiding joy of Easter. Worship the risen Lord, and know, deep down, that he has come to you because death itself could not keep him away.
I look forward to the day when all God's children can come out and play again. Until then, I rejoice that we truly are, in Christ, together.
"Christ is alive! Let Christians sing.
His cross stands empty to the sky.
Let streets and homes with praises ring.
His love in death shall never die."
Love in the Risen Christ,
Bishop of West Texas