Bishop Hughes reminds us that as an Easter people, we know that God uses everything around us for resurrection, including the change we are going through during this time of pandemic. (Time: 4:33.)
Related to this message, see the Bishop's Update on Journey Forward Guidelines (March 2021) [PDF].
This is Bishop Hughes in the Diocese of Newark, and it is Eastertide. Those great 50 days where we continue to celebrate Easter right up until Pentecost. And during this time of year, during this season, we often hear that we are "Easter people." And it's not just us in the Episcopal Church – preachers all over Christianity are talking right now about how we are Easter people.
And what we're being told, what we can hear when they talk about us being Easter people, is that we're people defined by resurrection. We are defined by the hope and the power and the joy of resurrection. That with that knowledge, we know that always we are connected to God – nothing can separate us from God, right up until death. Nothing can separate us from God. All things are something that God can overcome in order to be in relationship with us. And even if we find ourselves in that place where we don't feel connected to God and we feel lost and we don't know where God is, all it takes for us is to turn ourselves to God, to turn to God and say, "Here I am, God, please help me." And God will send the help for us.
We are defined by resurrection. And we're defined by transformation. Because resurrection changes everything! So we're a people of great change, a people of great transformation. It's been easy to see that in us, particularly in this time of pandemic. This has been a very long year, a year plus, of incredible change, incredible transformation. And as Easter people that is something that we know.
Here's the challenge for us though – along the 2000 years that we have been celebrating who Jesus is, his life and ministry, we've also figured out a way that we like to do that. And we, like everybody else in the world, have figured out the "right way" to do the things that we like to do. And we don't like changing those things. And this year has taught us about change. There has been nothing – our country, our workplace, our finances, our homes, our relationships, and yes, our churches – have all been marked by transformation in this year.
I think that's important for us to hold onto as Easter people. Especially right now. It remains a complicated time in pandemic. Infections rates are remaining high. They're starting to come down again, I'm hoping that they continue to go down, but they are quite high at this point. We have some churches that are determined to try and gather right now. We have some churches who are just not ready to do that. We're doing it in different ways, we're all being as safe as we possibly can, and one thing is for sure – it doesn't look anything like how church looked before.
But here we are, during this time of transformation, and not only is God reshaping the church, but God has been reshaping our spiritual lives. We have been transformed in this time. Our faith has become deeper. Our compassion has become wider. We have learned new ways of seeking out the presence of Jesus Christ. And as one person said to me, "I always thought of myself as a faithful person, but I am now a changed person. It's not just that I'm faithful, I have to share what I know with other people. I've got to let them know how much God loves them."
That is what resurrection does for us. That's what happens when we are Easter people. We look at that transformation and we know that is God changing us. That God uses everything around us for resurrection, including the change we are going through. We will continue to celebrate Easter all throughout Eastertide – and beyond – because we are defined by resurrection. We are defined by transformation. And we are defined by God's love.