Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
A year ago we entered lockdown just prior to Palm Sunday. At the time, in our naïveté, we all hoped and prayed that the then-predicted three weeks of lockdown would be the proverbial “it”. Instead, in reality, we entered a year-long Lent of sorts. And so, for me, this Holy Week and Easter of 2021 feels in some respects a little like picking up where we left off in 2020. The missing celebration of the resurrection has, at long last, arrived — and we are here to see it!
But, of course, in other respects, everything has changed. This has not been a case of simply hitting the pause-button on church (or indeed life) and then un-pausing to resume our place as if nothing had happened. We have walked through a year of loss, struggle, worry, confusion, and fear. This has been a transformative experience in ways both good and bad. It has become almost a cliché to say that “normal” will never quite be the same again. But we do well to acknowledge it, nonetheless.
However, the most fundamental teaching of the Christian faith — the core message of Easter, and that upon which all our beliefs hang — is that, in our Lord Jesus Christ, out of death comes life. I see no message more appropriate with which to greet the year’s anniversary of the first lockdown; I see no message more appropriate to mark the return of church-in-person.
By saying this, I do not mean to offer surface-level optimistic spin to downplay the struggles we’ve faced, but actually the opposite. As the disciples discovered in that first Holy Week, the death of Christ was very, very real — and it was devastating. In so many ways, we now understand devastation far more than we ever could have imagined just a year ago. We all have a story to tell. The Resurrection did not, indeed, erase the devastation of the cross. But it did show that, in the midst, God is faithful. And, ultimately, falteringly, the disciples were faithful in response.
I am grateful, today, just to be back in the church on the day of our greatest feast — to see your faces, even through masks! Because here we are reminded that God is faithful to us, too. As the resurrected Christ showed the disciples his still-wounded hands and side, God exists now — as he has throughout — quietly together with us in the devastation of today’s world. And, though we gather this Easter Sunday more bruised than we were, in God we are not beaten. For “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” As we mark this date, I am grateful more than ever for our friendship, our solidarity, and our love. We are still here, and Christ is risen.
With love and thanksgiving,