By Chaplain Nicholaus Slater
“These are certainly unusual” or “unique times we are experiencing.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this, read this, or received this via email over the past few weeks. But I do think the church, and for that matter, the body of Christ has an essential message for us to be reminded of and to be heard and received, especially during this holy time of Easter.
On Sunday, April 5, most western churches acknowledge Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. It is considered a very sacred and special time for the church, as together we follow and memorialize Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, final moments with ‘good’ friends, and ultimately conclude with his difficult but important work on the cross on Good Friday. Much like a Good Friday, there has been a lot of difficult but important work we as the body of Christ have partaken in for the greater good. Sometimes I feel as though we are going about it the right way, and sometimes I fear we are not.
In my own world, I lament that families are not able to be together for the sake of physical health. I lament that due to fear, I can no longer pick up relatively simple things at Costco like toilet paper or hand sanitizer, and that there are accompanying news reports of hoarding and price gouging. I lament that people are without work and pay, all for the greater good and to flatten the bell curve. I lament that on Easter Sunday, the most sacred and glorious of all church holy days, the churches will be empty. This is both difficult and hard work. It leaves me at times skeptical, downcast, and disillusioned. But it also leaves me with the reminder that I can‘t do this on my own. I need God, and I need God’s help, and I need both to meet the uncertainties of the times before us.
My wonderful wife reminded me that perhaps the message we need to hear, receive and proclaim to one another is that, although the churches may be empty on Easter Sunday, more importantly, the tomb is empty as well! This the ultimate biblical message for us in these “unusual and unique times.” The tomb is empty! This is the ultimate Easter message that God wants us to hear, receive, and proclaim.
Schools, wedding venues, funeral parlors, restaurants, high school graduations, these are empty. This is hard and difficult work. But God reminds us that Good Friday is always followed by Easter Sunday. Hard and difficult work is always greeted, infiltrated, and followed by resurrection and new life; God’s resurrection and new life. Things may be vacant and empty, but the tomb reminds us that this is a good and Godly thing. God empties us of those things that need to be vacated. God empties us of our self-importance, empties us of guilt and shame, and empties us of brokenness to reminds us that He has set creation back onto a path of wholeness.
I’m not sure I believe that the Coronavirus is God’s attempt at gathering our attention. But I do believe that these setbacks we’re experiencing are hard and difficult, much like a Good Friday.
But God’s ultimate message for us is that every Good Friday is greeted with the joyous news that the tomb is indeed empty! This Easter Sunday, be greeted with the message that the tomb is empty; recognize that this is a sign of both love and grace. Amen.