In so many ways we who are a people of faith have been experiencing this Holy Week and Easter with a sense of dread. There is a feeling that there has never been an Easter like this. This Holy Week through Zoom meetings with friends and colleagues I could see the stress and deep sadness on their brows that they were going through since none of us would be together. Gone are the flowers, the lilies are not there, the tulips and other flowers won’t be on display. We shall not see friends this day. There will be no trumpet blasts announcing the queen of all our festivals, Easter. It’s a simple Easter. Everything has been stripped away, like our altars on Good Friday’s past.
Yet, let us not forget that 2000 years ago that was also true. No lilies, no alleluias, lots of confusion and lots of fear. There has been an Easter like this before. The first one, filled with uncertainty, filled with dread over what would happen to the followers of Jesus. What’s next? Is there a next? Those disciples were also separated and locked away trying to be safe, just like we are trying to be safe. They were filled with fear, not of a pandemic raging outside their doors, but of Roman soldiers searching for them. They must have looked a lot like we do in this extended season of grief. And in the midst of their fear, grief and confusion comes Emmanuel!
Yes, Emmanuel, God with us, came to those frightened ones. He came and was with the two Marys and spoke to them these words, “Do not be afraid.” He is with them! The words spoken about Jesus at his birth are echoed in this first Easter. The last words Jesus speaks to his disciples in Matthew’s story are, “I am with you always, until the end of the age.” As that story moved out into the world it wasn’t easy. There were still moments of fear and death at the hands of the Romans, but still they believed that Emmanuel was present. When it was their time these frightened followers of Jesus were transformed, and they went out and they changed the world, for Emmanuel was still with them.
This Easter as we worship together through YouTube please remember that Emmanuel is still here too. He still is risen! Is there grief? Surely yes! Is there still fear? Oh my, yes! Yet it is not the last word! Hasn’t Jesus’ yes to us in the cross and resurrection always been the last word? We have inherited that faith of the first disciples, but it is more than that. We are believers that Jesus hasn’t left us now. We through our sacraments have experienced the crucified and resurrected Jesus in our lives. And not just there for that is far too narrow of experiences of the Holy. In our relationships and in this world of ours are places where we just know the presence of Jesus.
Our time will come too when we shall be let out into a world that will be different. And like the disciples we shall be different too! This sabbath time, or maybe this wilderness time, is a time of deep reflection and challenge. A time to discover new things about this Jesus who won’t leave us alone and ourselves. But always keep in mind at this lonely time that Jesus has never left the world! And he will never leave you. So in your homes this day or maybe even on your porches shout it out, that Emmanuel never leaves us and that
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Wonderful words John. A reminder that the first Easter was like this one. The last time we were in a store I took extra time to smell the lilies.
Thank you, John, for your Easter message. I appreciated your connection between what is happening for us today in our world and the world of the 1st Century for the followers of Jesus.– a couple thousand years apart and yet in a similar predicament. Appreciated your words and hope-filled message