I can’t imagine that there is anyone or anything that hasn’t been affected in some way by the virus that’s enveloping the world right now. However you’re experiencing it, isolation is a unifying part of that and we’re just not built for it. We need connection, we need to gather and touch and share in some way. We’re built for community.
And communities are responding, people reaching out, supporting each other, finding ways to be encouraging and connect as best we can, on the phone, online, waving from the street and singing from balconies - you don’t always need technology. We can find new ways, too.
It will be particularly challenging right now because it’s spring and Easter’s this week. Whether you strictly observe the story of Holy Week, day by day, or celebrate the resurrection or just enjoy the big meal and chocolate eggs that come with the big bunny, the fact is it’s a time to gather and celebrate as a family, home family, church family, community family, every kind of family.
It’s going to be different.
We’ve been trying to come up with ways that we can help people engage the Easter story and celebrate the most important day on the church calendar as a church family. And it’s not just in the connecting-people-with-technology, it’s about the story itself. Maybe you’ve noticed this when trying to come up with more creative ways to work, learn or play: the more you look for different ways to tell a story, the more you notice about the story that you hadn’t perhaps seen before. Context is certainly a big part of that, too. Even a story that’s been told thousands of times speaks differently to a different situation.
So maybe, for example, the story becomes more personal. The Holy Week story is full of crowds: the Palm Sunday crowd that welcomes Jesus, the crowd that he throws out of the temple, the crowd who hears him teach, even the upper room crowded with the disciples for the passover meal, the garden crowded with soldiers and certainly the crowd that demanded his death. And what seems a moment of loneliness Friday, on a hill outside Jerusalem. Another in a tomb.
But the irony is that all those crowds also demonstrated just how fickle a crowd can be. And on Friday and Saturday, Jesus wasn’t alone. Mary and the other women were there, watching over Jesus, unable perhaps to save him from pain but present with him in his suffering it. Those same women come back the next day to find the tomb empty and are the first to see Jesus alive (Matthew 27-28).
What if we could find a way to be in those stories, not just as part of the safety of a crowd, but one on one with Jesus. How would the shout of “hosanna” on Palm Sunday feel if we remembered it wasn’t a cheer but a cry: it means “save us.” Would you shout “save me” to Jesus? How would we feel on Monday when Jesus drives people out of the temple if Jesus looked directly in our eyes and asked “how do you respect God?” Or when he’s teaching in the temple if he were to ask each of us, personally, “do you really want to learn how to live well?” At the last supper, when Jesus says “one of you will betray me,” will we honestly be able to say it’s not me? And on Friday, will you be able to stay and be present with Jesus rather than wander by with the rest of the crowd?
We all want to crowd around the empty tomb on Easter morning, but that’s exactly where he isn’t. Where he is, is with you. Wherever you are.