Beloved St. John’s community,
At times, the whirlwind of the past several weeks, with no end in sight, makes me feel that we are being asked to live through a much longer Lent. We are in the wilderness with no map, living with a global pandemic and real fear. We are being asked in every way to tighten our belts, fast from our usual physical connection and indeed much of our normal way of life, live without, and sacrifice for the common good. As is the case during Lent, we are asked to engage in self-denial, patience and generosity.
But we also need permission to grieve the incredible loss of being able to meet in person, to celebrate Holy Communion, and to sing and worship in each others’ physical presence—especially during Holy Week, the pinnacle of our liturgical year and Christian identity. I miss seeing you. I miss your faces and conversations and the palpable sense of the Holy Spirit among us all when we gather. Along with all of you, I feel afraid and overwhelmed at times.
In the midst of all these things, extended Lent notwithstanding, here is the truth: if we are anything as followers of the Way of Jesus, we are an Easter people. It is true that after a lifetime of healing, teaching, and proclaiming all that was life-giving for the poor and the ordinary people of the world, the Powers still condemned, tortured and killed Jesus. It is true that for a terrible period after his death, his disciples were utterly bereft. And it is true that on that Sunday morning, the angels stood in the empty tomb and proclaimed, first to Mary Magdalene: “He is not here: he is risen.” Whatever happened that morning long ago, the shock wave of joy, love and hope that swept through a few previously heartbroken disciples quickly swept to the four quarters of the compass. Two thousand years later, we still celebrate Jesus’ resurrection and all that it means for us—we are still living his way, celebrating his actual risen Presence among us today.
We aren’t there, at Easter, yet. We grieve that we will not be able to celebrate in person together on Easter Sunday, April 12. But here is my promise to you, that I want you to hold onto with all its meaning for us at St. John’s: No matter how long it takes, the very first Sunday we are able to meet together again in person—whether that is in May or July or later—we will celebrate Easter together. Every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, which means that death does not have the last word. Pandemics and fear and loss do not have the last word. The endlessly generative life and love of God do. It is that life and love that is at work within each of you and among us still, even when we are meeting via Facebook and telephone and email and Zoom.
Whatever you are experiencing, I pray that you will hold onto the reality expressed in these verses from Ephesians:
..I bow my knees to the Creator, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of God’s glory, you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through God’s Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to God who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.