By Easter Monday, my family had been hunkered down for a month. Long before our governor declared a statewide “Stay at Home” order, we leaned into the recommendation to keep ourselves and others safe by reducing our contact with the outside world. We occupied ourselves much the same way you probably have, learning how to order groceries online, making sure our prescriptions were filled, realizing the church my wife serves needed a more powerful laptop in someone’s hands to edit the videos being created on iPhones and iPads. I’ve been baking (so much), and I picked up a knitting project to make something in a cheery yarn, and even finished it.
The adrenaline of getting ready for Easter helped some, too.
But Monday, we felt deflated, faced with whatever indefinite period of this continuing, non-ordinary, “new abnormal” time may lie ahead. I found myself thinking about the disciples, hunkered down in the Upper Room for a long Sunday afternoon, wondering what to think. They had by then heard a testimony of hope from Mary Magdalene, but from where they were sitting, it must have been hard to believe it could be true.
Our Monday afternoon felt much the same, and Tuesday, and Wednesday, so far. We have a testimony of hope, but from where we are sitting, it may be hard to believe it can be true. I sit in the suburbs of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, reasonably safe and secure, with prescriptions filled and plenty of toilet paper, but I read the news of increased domestic violence, and terrible conditions on the U.S. border with Mexico, and the strain on migrants elsewhere, and the racial disparity in who is dying in the U.S.
I wonder whether we will see a typical low Sunday compared to Easter when churches count up Zoom attendance or Facebook views this weekend? I tend to think we will not, because we are all waiting out a long Sunday afternoon, wondering what will happen next, questioning whether we can believe the snippets of good news we might hear, and bearing a collective grief, if we have any moral conscience at all.
As we live through this unfolding public health crisis, with its economic and political ramifications, the lectionary texts give us what we need this week, in the words of a psalmist who asks for protection and in an epistle written to believers who endured unnamed trials.
In this you rejoice,
even if now for a little while
you have had to suffer various trials…
(1 Peter 1:6)
It’s almost better that we don’t know to whom 1 Peter was written as we inhabit the first half of the first verse of the gospel lesson from John, locked away with a reasonable fear of the virus in our case, the authorities in theirs. I hope in worship, whatever form it takes, we can find a space, through word and liturgy, which allows us to hunker down with the full range of feelings we and they may have: grief for all the losses suffered, gratitude for healthcare professionals, frustration or even fury over the way some things are being handled. We need to make room for existential and spiritual questions about why it happened and where God is in all this.
It’s a hard place to be, and it was a hard place to be for the people closest to Jesus. We’re waiting just as they were, and it’s been Sunday afternoon for 2000 years. The good news this week is that, like them, we are not alone. We have each other, however we are connecting, and we have God.
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