As the global community continues to confront the evils of COVID-19, Christians awake to one of the most peculiar Holy Weeks ever encountered.
Entering Holy Week within a worldwide pandemic that has forced people inside their homes feels almost like an anti-resurrection experience. Front doors feel like sealed tombs with insurmountable rocks blocking the way.
How is a person of good faith to celebrate the most important moment on the Christian calendar without the ability to leave the tomb and enter the garden of the world?
The Apostle Paul can help.
Writing to Christians in first century Rome, he offered, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4).
But what is a new life if we cannot roam freely without the fear of death lurking in the air? Believe it or not, first-century Christians can relate to modern-day sequestering.
Persecuted for their beliefs, first-century Christians spent much of their time fearful for their futures and careful in public expressions.
Paul knew far too well the hatred many felt toward Jesus-followers, as he himself spent his younger years persecuting and executing Christians.
For this reason, many good-faith people longed for a day when a new reality would emerge from their fear of death. They dreamed of a new life – a life free from death and exclusion and filled with hope and freedom.
The Apostle Paul did not stop with the hope for a new life. He continued, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Roman 6:5).
And there rests the hope. While the reality of the resurrection dangles before us, hope can only exist within the realm of the anticipated outcome.
First-century followers of Jesus lived in fear of death, but they also lived within the yet-to-come. And that is where we find ourselves this Holy Week.
We find ourselves amid a global pandemic, but at the same time we are hoping better days await us. We cry in response to the sickness and death all around us, but we hold tightly to an ultimate future free from hospitalizations and funerals.
We desire, more than anything, for a new life – a life absent of death and filled with resurrection.
When Easter morning dawns this Sunday amid a pandemic, the sun will shed light on a hope for a new day.
It will shine a light on all the good in the world, visible in a global community coming together fighting a disease.
A global community mourning and crying in solidarity.
A global community celebrating the brave souls making such dire sacrifices.
A global community rising in unity to establish a new life for a new world to come.
Easter morning 2020 will be like no other as our churches will sit empty. For many, this will be a sight for mourning and sadness. I, too, will grieve the loss of such traditions.
However, let us not make the mistake of mourning too much.
This Easter might reveal something new. It might reveal new life for the church, for empty churches sound a lot like an empty tomb.
Rediscovering life in the time of a global pandemic might mean rediscovering the church’s mission.
While the church building will always be with us, maybe we should leave the safety of our sanctuaries more often in order to celebrate new life with others.
Maybe the church needs to refocus its mission, finding ways to collaborate with the good work we witness in the world.
Instead of focusing so much on condemnations and conversions, what if the church rediscovered the Jesus-model of working and relating within the world?
What if we stood beside doctors and nurses in hospitals?
Volunteered to assist teachers in school buildings?
Cooked breakfast for first responders?
Demanded quality healthcare for all people?
Treated differences as opportunities for dialogue?
Acknowledged systemic racism and changed our systems?
Welcomed the stranger to live among us?
Treated men and women equally?
Accepted LGBTQ people with welcome arms?
Just maybe if we left our tombs empty more often, we could walk within the world with the greatest hope ever given to humanity – a resurrected Jesus that changes the world for all.