This is the last devotional I will be writing for Lent. We are now officially into Holy Week and are preparing for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. You may remember how last year, at this time, we had just entered into the lockdown for the pandemic. We all thought it would last about three weeks and we’d be back open in time for Easter. Sadly, as you all know, that’s not what happened.
For the first time in our church’s history, we could not celebrate Easter in our building. Now, more than a year later, we are on the cusp of another pandemic Easter. However, this time, if the weather is warm enough and dry enough, we’ll be able to gather in our parking lot for an outdoor Easter worship service at 11:00 am. The prospect of being back together again on Easter is not only exciting, but also representative of the larger reality we have experienced over the last 12 months.
As Christians, our celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection is centered on a specific event that occurred around 2000 years ago. Jesus was executed for the crime of treason and, then, quite unexpectedly, Jesus appeared to his followers for months following his death. This caused something unexpected. Jesus’ movement, which had been dead, all of a sudden found new life. Jesus’ disciples were inspired to keep his movement alive. Their movement would eventually grow to become the Christian faith as we know it today.
However, death and resurrection are not unique to Jesus. This pattern is part of the universe itself. When something in the universe dies, it is reconstituted as something new. For instance, the death of a star will often leave behind the materials necessary to form new stars and planets. On Earth, when a living organism dies, its body decomposes and becomes nutrients for other life forms.
Take your body as an example. Your body is comprised of 70 octillion atoms (that’s 7 x 1027). For some reason these atoms have seen fit to come together and work in harmony to create you. At a certain point, you will die. When this happens these atoms that were formerly you will disassemble into a chaotic state and then reorganize into something completely different.
Some of your atoms will become water; some will become dirt, trees, bugs, deer; some will even become other human beings. It is estimated that every human on the planet has at least one million atoms of Shakespeare’s body in their body. Life is a constant state of flux from chaos to wholeness and back again.
This cycle is the essence of death and resurrection. Indeed, this is what each of us has experienced over the last year. Due to the pandemic, we have had to readjust our lives in major ways. We’ve asked you to reflect on this with our Pandemic Reflections Worksheet.There are parts of us that have undergone a process of death. Now it is time for something new and better to rise in its place. Now it is time for resurrection.
This resurrection process is going to take place in a lot of different ways in our community. One very important way this will happen is with our members. The composition of church members we left behind in March of 2020 will not be the same when we return to regular worship. People have retired, moved to other states and countries. Some of our members have passed away. Others have fallen out of the habit of attending church and may not return.
And yet, there are other people who have been watching us online during the pandemic and plan to join our church once we are back to a regular worship schedule. The point being, as people come and go, the culture will change into something different than it was before. Personally, I think this is a grand opportunity for us to become more welcoming. Since we are all coming back anew, we can work to create new friendships that, prior to the pandemic, would have been harder to form.
Another very important way this will take place is with our church building. The church you left behind will not be exactly same as when you return. If you worship in the Sanctuary, you will find a beautifully renovated chancel. Not only does it look better, but it sounds better. The resonance of the space has improved so markedly that our music recordings are now on par with that of studios.
Likewise, we are in the process of making the church more accessible. Next week, you will be receiving information from the Capital Campaign Committee about renovations we want to make to the Memorial Prayer Garden hallway so that our members can more easily access Fellowship Hall and the Chapel. Whereas, prior to the pandemic, anyone with physical limitations could not easily enter either space, now a wheelchair lift will be installed removing barriers to entry.
Death and resurrection. We’ve all been through a hard year. We’ve all experienced so much loss and difficulty. I hope this Easter you will look forward to the resurrection that is right around the corner. Our church is just waiting to become something new. The possibility is palpable. Just as Jesus emerges from the tomb a new man, we will emerge from this pandemic stronger than when we entered. That is the power of God’s spirit working in the world. I hope to see you all on Easter morning!