Beloved St. John’s Community,
Every year, during Holy Week, all of the deacons and priests in the Episcopal Church in Minnesota gather with our Bishop to reaffirm our ordination vows. Perhaps not all of you realize that in the Episcopal Church, when a person is ordained, she or he takes lifetime vows that guide our lives and ministries—so, during the week between Palm Sunday and Easter, we always meet to refresh our memory of and commitment to the vows we have made.
This year, our gathering was so very strange. Both our current Bishop Brian Prior, and our Bishop-elect Craig Loya, and all the clergy, gathered via a Zoom phone call that had seven pages of thirty or more clergy per page. But we committed, again, to the lifelong journey we have each made: to minister God’s Word and the Sacraments so that “the reconciling love of Christ may be known and received.”
When our Bishop spoke to us, he said something that moved me to my very core. He said: “My friends, for the church, this is just business as usual.” Nothing has changed. God has joined us in suffering and death. God has raised Christ from the dead; the Presence of Christ is really with us, in each other, in the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, and in the “least of these”—even if we are physically separated from one another, we are bound together with a love that is the only thing stronger than any other force on earth, including COVID-19.
Whatever else you are experiencing, during this time when we cannot physically celebrate the Eucharist together, I invite you to sink even more deeply into your baptism—which is the other and founding Sacrament of the Church. In baptism, we symbolically die and rise again with Christ. We die to seeing ourselves as separate from God and others; we die to the ways of empire, violence, and selfishness; and we rise to lives centered on Jesus’ Way of Love.
This, my beloved friends, is business as usual.
During the next three days—Maundy Thursday, when we remember Jesus’ last meal with his disciples, his commandment to love one another, and his long agonizing vigil at the garden in Gethsemane; Good Friday, when we walk the stations of the cross to remember Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion and death; and Holy Saturday, that terrible time when all hope was lost and resurrection was not even imagined—I invite you to let go of all those burdens, failures, and losses you can no longer bear. Let them die with Jesus. Sink into the truth of God’s overwhelming love for you, stronger than anything else. Let God’s love rebirth you—let the love and life of God be borne anew in your spirit. In all the ways you are walking through this pandemic—choosing love and serving the common good over selfishness, fear, and our individual preferences and wishes—let’s allow the love and life of God help us offer our best to one another. Choose patience with your family, support the good others are trying to accomplish, find ways to provide for those on the front lines. And know that these choices are our way of life; these choices are based on our identity as followers of Jesus’ Way of Love. Let God’s Spirit work resurrection in us and, through us, in the world around us.
Before sunrise on Easter Sunday, at 6:00am, we will release a series of videos from parts of the Great Vigil of Easter. Consider waking up early so that these beautiful words and music can imprint your awareness with joy. Have courage to move through the dark of the coming days, knowing that the light of Christ is an eternal source of comfort and hope, and cannot be extinguished.