We’re all now getting used to the daily reports and advice about COVID-19. Our lives are captive to a very, very tiny particle. We maintain our distance, isolate, stay at home and wash, wash, wash our hands. Oh, and we try not to touch our faces. Well, not too much.
Experts say ‘it is a matter of life and death’.
And it certainly is, if not our own life or death, then other people’s. This plague can spread so easily, fast and unseen. We are reminded that it is not all about ourselves, it’s about others, particularly the vulnerable people in our community. We do this for them, not for ‘me’.
Easter, too, is a matter of life and death.
Humankind was unhealthy, infected by selfishness and godless living. More or less physically alive, but spiritually dying. God was bothered, grieving, yet still deeply in love with his people. He offered the chance to change, to be reborn to a new life.
And so Jesus was given to us – to heal, encourage, teach and transform, to bring that new life to those who sought it. He lived among us. He died among us and now he lives again among us, in the hearts of those who will accept him.
Easter is the great reminder of all this, the most significant time of remembrance for us Christians.
The reading for the third Sunday of Easter was from Luke 24, often headed ‘On the Road to Emmaus’. It records the story of two of Jesus’ friends walking along the road to join their friends. In this present time of our own disruption it is not hard for us to imagine their state of bewilderment and grieving. They had experienced a very strange time of hostile and angry crowds, the death of their beloved friend, darkness in the middle of the day, the ripping of the curtain in the temple, an earthquake.
Their hearts must have been full of questions. What just happened? How come he’s dead? What’s all this weirdness? What do we do now?
They could be excused if they sounded a bit scornful of the stranger who came up and walked with them: What? Are you the only person in Jerusalem who doesn’t know what’s happened recently? Where have you been?
He soon set them right when he took up their invitation to join them and the others for a meal.
We could ask similar questions in 2020.
What happened? Where is God now? What do we do – apart from wash and isolate? At this strange time we are in, we have not been able to meet, we have not been able to have the usual Easter commemoration and celebrations. We have not publicly mourned the death of Jesus nor celebrated the victory of his resurrection. All our places of worship are shut and locked. Just one or two people may meet for ‘essential purposes’ only.
Recently I came across a cartoon depicting Satan wearing a ‘corona crown’ and sneering at a Christian who was standing beside Jesus’ cross. Satan is saying, Haha! See, I’ve won! I have closed all your churches! God is dead!
The Christian is smiling and says, No, you haven’t won at all. The church has moved into people’s homes. The church is not the building. It is the people. The church is alive and well. God is not dead.
Amid all our current disruption and distraction the church is finding new ways to flourish. Online church is not the same as the real thing, but we are building a community. People of all ages are getting tech-savvy and learning about camera angles and sound files. We really can thank God for the internet! People are sharing and looking out for each other.
Perhaps this time is a metaphorical road to Emmaus: We are walking in isolation, feeling anxious and discombobulated but Jesus is right beside us, hearing our concerns and revealing himself to us in our virtual gatherings.
Yes, it is a matter of life and death. Or should that be a matter of death and life?
He is risen. Alleluia!
Sheelagh Wegman is a freelance writer and editor. She is in the community of St David’s Cathedral in Hobart and lives in the foothills of kunanyi/Mt Wellington.
Sheelagh Wegman’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/sheelagh-wegman.html