When the holy days of the Christian year are over – Christmas and Easter – most of us, who have been moving at a frenetic pace for several weeks, breathe a sigh of relief and delight in going back to business as usual. So far for 2020, things have been anything but normal! With the suspension of in-person church activities in mid-March, our Lenten journey to Holy Week and Easter felt truncated. For the first time since I was in grade school, I missed in-person worship services for both Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. Even though it did not “feel” quite right, the occasion is still marked with the passing of time. Not even the Coronavirus, COVID-19 can stop Easter!
We persist in the celebration of these holidays with the expectation that, in some way, they make a difference in our lives. Easter Sunday has passed for this year, but we are now in Eastertide – the 50 days between Easter Sunday and Pentecost. We stretch out the celebration of Easter as a
reminder that the reality of Easter is indispensable for Christianity. As the Apostle Paul put it: “if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless…” (1 Corinthians 15:17). And none of us wants a useless faith!
What, then, might we say constitutes a useful faith? The word that comes to mind most often in conjunction with Easter is hope. Peter says, “By [God’s] great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1Peter 1:3). At the crucifixion of Jesus, the disciples were immediately met with hopelessness. Their high hopes in his messianic powers were dashed, dead. But as our PC(USA) A Brief Statement of Faith so eloquently puts it: “God raised Jesus from the dead, vindicating his sinless life, breaking the power of sin and evil, delivering us from death to life eternal.” God broke through the hopelessness of Good Friday and brought forth a hopeful future on Easter Sunday.
We don’t have to look far to find the hopelessness of our world. All you have to do is turn on the news, or read the newspaper... or look in the mirror! We face so many challenges at the moment that it is possible to become paralyzed by fear. It seems tempting to gravitate toward the negative, to dwell on worst-case scenarios presented by media headlines. It is worth remembering that we are not the best at predicting the future, and no one but God knows exactly what is going to happen next. Our mental and spiritual outlook often affects our response to challenges in life.
If you want to see hope, then with the eyes of faith, look at the empty cross. Jesus is not there. He is not in the tomb, either. God raised him from the dead, thereby infusing our world and our lives with a living hope. Although we do not know exactly what shape that will take in our lives, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God promises us a future with hope. If we take that message to heart, then we will be taking Easter with us into tomorrow.
He is risen! Alleluia!
Rev. Barrett Ingram