Easter 2020 so far has been joyful, defiant – and strange. Everywhere on social media and in the newspaper were photos and videos of nearly empty, often beautifully decorated churches, and also photos of “normal” times and expressions of longing to return. Many, including myself, have noted that this was probably the first time in their entire life they didn’t celebrate Easter by worshipping in a church building. The transformation was stunning, including all the incredible and moving ways God’s people found to rejoice anyway. Joy and uncertainty, fear and hope all at once.
Easter is strange – perhaps this is a large part of what our bunnies and bonnets, as wonderful as they may be, help us to avoid. All has changed with the Resurrection, the very nature of being human, and in these days that follow, we watch the disciples struggle to understand and to figure out what happens next, what are they supposed to do? The Bible captures the strangeness, and their confusion and struggle. This year it seems very familiar to me, it comes very close to how I am feeling, and in the strangeness of what scripture recounts, and in what we are collectively experiencing in the here and now, the way forward is unclear and yet it glimmers with promise.
All that followed from the first Easter happened in uncertain halting steps taken by people with no road map other than Jesus. They didn’t have a plan, they had Jesus. Everything seemed changed in a world that had already seemed dangerous. Maybe we need to hold on to that same uncertainty, and trust that we, like those first Christians, will find our way. Sometimes we have to admit we don’t know.
So how do we do that? What does it look like for our churches to rest in the strangeness and wonder of Easter? We have seen in these last weeks, as Bishop Hughes has pointed out, incredible resiliency and creativity. We have moved very quickly into ways of being the church that didn’t seem likely or even possible at the beginning of March. We need to remember this, to look at how we accomplished so much so quickly and let that guide our next steps. We need to hold on to how once we accepted that what we knew and expected could not happen, that what was important happened anyway by the grace of God, and by our persistence and vision.
These last years (decades even) have seen local parish churches change, and in many cases struggle, dramatically. Whether we have seen it or not, a common factor has been wondering about the future, trying to see how church could work in changing times. These last weeks have shown us, more than any method, plan or program, that the church is, because Jesus lives. If we remain constant to that truth and build on the experience of stepping forth quickly and decisively in faith, we will do amazing things, no matter how strange things are! When what’s next emerges, we will find our way, as we have this Lent, Holy Week and Easter, and as God’s people always have found the way – by seeking first God, and God’s kingdom.
My friends, I am excited for what we will do next! We will make our churches and the world anew, because in Christ Jesus, God has made all things new!