My latest for the Longview News-Journal
We have all experienced a unique Easter Sunday. We celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus the Christ without the pomp and joyous celebration that we have been accustomed to. We might have dressed up in our Easter suits and dresses to watch a live stream of our congregation online or stayed in our pajamas. We were not able to hunt eggs with our church families or even our neighborhood friends. Singing “Up From The Grave” sounds different in a living room instead of being in a sanctuary. I know for many people Easter was not as joyous has it had been in years past. The holiest day of the year was changed due to shelter in place orders and social distancing. Many people have grieved the loss of their worship experience. They have grieved the loss of connections. We are slowly finding out that a church community was much more critical and vital to our lives than we once thought. In the midst of a global pandemic where we are ensuring to do our part to slow the spread of this disease, we are finding that human relationships, human connections, and community are essential to our lives. Recently I was on a Zoom conference call with some high school and college students. Many of the students told me that they were tired of the virtual connection and wanted to see their friends face to face again. Something is lost when we move only to online worship or online bible studies. I found it interesting that a generation that is often wrongly labeled as being “addicted” to their phones was yearning for more personal connections. If we are honest, we are all yearning for the same thing. Our hearts break when we have to think about summer without traveling for a vacation or visiting family and friends. Churches are having to consider what to do about Vacation Bible Schools or summer camps. This is not the Easter season we thought we would find ourselves in.
We do not know what the future will be like. We have been traveling down this road of COVID19, and there is no end in sight. We are fearful that this uncertainty will be the new normal. Projections are all over the place when it comes to reestablishing some sort of normalcy, but no one can know for sure.
In the Gospel of John, chapter 20, we find a story about the disciples after the death and burial of Jesus.
This story is one that we might forget even takes place after the Resurrection. There no parties, no celebration, no trumpets or angels singing. Instead, we find the disciples hiding. They were in a room with the door locked, maybe the lights were low, and everyone was trying to keep quiet. Tensions were high, and the disciples do not know what to do, where to go, or how they will ever get through this phase of life. They were wanted men, and this is not what they thought would happen when they decided to follow Jesus.
They were afraid and were hoping all of it would just go away. I imagine that in that room, there were some interesting conversations or internal dialogue: “Can’t things just go back to normal? When will it all be back to how it once was?
Christ was dead; his body was gone. Mary said she saw him but I’m not sure. Did we really see those things? What have we gotten ourselves into? I should have just stayed in the boat when he called out to me. This Jesus guy has been more trouble than I thought he would be… my anxiety is through the roof,” and so on.
The disciples had devoted their lives to Jesus and traveled with him as he was proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom of God and now he is dead and the disciples, the ones who the faith was entrusted to, are all now hiding for their lives. In this moment of uncertainty and dread, of confusion and sadness, Christ just shows up in the room, just pops in a like magician. He offers them peace and the Holy Spirit.
At that moment, Jesus is meeting them where they are. He is finding a way to break through the walls and structures that they have erected around their hearts and minds. This is how Christ operates today. Jesus is breaking through in the places where we least expect it. We are missing the Resurrection around us! In our search for something familiar, we are missing that God is present with us all the time! Don’t get me wrong I am ready to have some face to face interaction. I am ready not to have to wear a mask when I go in public. However, I do not want to miss the new life that is happening. We do not want to miss the moments when Jesus comes into our lives. Throughout this pandemic and shelter in place time, I have witnessed the movement of the people of God in exciting and powerful ways. People’s hearts are opening; they are finding ways even in our isolation to extend the love of God. My prayer is that this does not stop when we return to “normal” living (whatever that means). We need to see the power of the Resurrection around us. We need to understand that God’s love and power cannot be contained to a worship service or even a day. Just like the disciples, we too are looking for Jesus to pop in and make himself known. We just have to open our eyes and look, and I am confident that God will be there.
Sometimes it is merely faith that keeps us going; we will never have all the answers or a perfect rationale for everything wrong in the world or even an exact timeline when things will ease up. Still, we will always have Christ; we will always have the connection of God wherever we might be. We must choose to have faith and journey with each other down this road in this thing called life. So take a moment this week and look for Jesus where ever you might found yourself.