Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia!
Looking back at last Easter, I can’t believe how naïve I was. I thought this pandemic would last maybe a couple of months, and that we’d be able to worship again in our sanctuary come May or June, and just go back to ‘normal’.
Now, to my defense, the leadership in this country at that point downplayed the whole COVID-19 thing – it’s going to go away soon, just like that! – and many others were only too eager to believe this message as well. Let’s get over with this highly disruptive and annoying pandemic!
And here we are, a year later. About 555,000 lives have been lost to COVID-19 in this country alone. There has been so much death, so much suffering, so much grief, so much hardship. All of us were ripped out of our routines, we had to fast from meeting with people we love and cherish, we had to fast from doing many things we enjoy, like eating out, going to the movies, attending celebrations, traveling – and coming together for worship and fellowship. We are so longing to feast on life to the fullest again.
Yes, things are finally looking up, with case numbers going down and more and more people getting vaccinated. But most of us are much more cautious in our optimism than we were a year ago. If the last year has taught us anything, it is that nothing is predictable, and that life can throw us a curveball at any time.
How will life be post COVID? How will we deal with, embrace, celebrate this rising from a time of grief and deprivation? How will we remember this time? How will we re-member all the broken or damaged pieces of our lives?
The women who come to Jesus’ tomb first thing after the Sabbath to embalm the body are still dealing with the shock of Jesus’ arrest and death. They are grieving, deeply. Their lives have been upended. The death of Jesus has scattered, dis-membered the relatively small group of his followers. All seems lost. Death seems to have the last word.
But then the women get to the tomb and see that it is empty. Not surprisingly, they are perplexed, shocked about that. What in the world is happening here? And then, all of a sudden, there are these two angelic figures, out of nowhere. The women are now plain terrified.
Now usually the first words of angels we encounter in the gospel according to Luke are, ‘Do not be afraid.’ And wouldn’t that be an appropriate thing to say to these women? But, no, the angels in the empty tomb seem incredulous, even a little annoyed. ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’
Don’t you remember?
And the women remembered, we hear. They, whose lives had been dis-membered by the death of their master and friend, put the pieces back together – they re-member the pieces.
And as they remember, their lives are turned upside down once more. Their grief turns into joy, they run to tell the other disciples about it, they have to get this good news of their chests. His is risen – he is risen indeed, alleluia!
Now something very interesting happens: the disciples don’t believe them. Nah, it’s an idle tale. Apparently, they don’t remember all that Jesus told them. They are not in a place to put all the pieces back together. And maybe they can’t because they just can’t imagine how – how to put the pieces back together, how to re-member, how to go forward into this new life. For things will never be the same, that much they know. Maybe they just lack the imagination how to put the pieces of their lives with Christ back together in a new way.
How will life be post COVID? How will we deal with, embrace, celebrate this rising from a time of grief and deprivation? How will we remember this time? How will we re-member all the broken and damaged pieces of our lives?
There are probably quite a few people who can only imagine going back to life as it was before the pandemic, who want to re-member their lives like a jigsaw puzzle that came undone, and that now ideally has to be put back together, painstakingly, piece by piece – the way it was. And that most likely will lead to frustration, because things have changed.
But could it be that, instead of a jigsaw puzzle, we should think of the different elements of our lives as individuals, and as society more as Lego© blocks – little pieces that, once they come apart or are deliberately taken apart, can be re-membered in new and different ways? Could it be that God calls us to use some wild imagination as we rebuild our lives, and the life of our society? What can be improved? What areas need a fresh breath of air, new life? How can we tend and foster relationships (which we more often than not took for granted before the pandemic began) – our relationships with those we love and with our neighbors far and near in this world, and even our relationship with God’s good creation, and make them better and gentler?
We are given this new life post COVID – what do we now do with this precious gift from God? Will we share it with those in need? Will we share it with those who have been disadvantaged or even harassed in our society?
Eventually, the disciples believed the ‘idle tale’ the women told them about the risen Christ. They were able to remember – re-member their lives in a new and fresh way. Christ laid down their lives for them, he gave them this precious gift of his life – and they eventually, with the help of the Holy Spirit, learned to share this life, life abundant, life eternal, with others.
They did so with joy and in confidence that life abundant, life eternal could never be taken from them. For Christ had proven that death would not have the last word.
And this is something we remember on this day. Death doesn’t have the last word. There is new life. There are new opportunities. God’s imagination is boundless. May the road post-COVID take us into wonderful new territories, where God awaits us.
This post is also available in: German