My Dear Clergy and Churches of the Rome-Carrollton District,
You have been in my prayers and on my heart this week. I hope what I have written will offer some hope and help to you this week as you prepare for a different Easter Sunday.
“These are different and difficult weeks we find ourselves in right now. So much has shifted and changed in the last few weeks because of this virus—routines, plans, projects, work, school, income, social lives, calendars, celebrations, family visits, etc. One thing that has changed the most is the way we do church. We all know the church meets in a building, but it isn’t its building. The church is a people who choose to follow the teachings and example of Jesus Christ and do life together with others—other Christians, communities, and contexts. Our regular ways of meeting together for worship have changed. We are all doing the best we can. Many of us are trying new things, testing out new ways of communicating, and creating new ways of being together in mission and service even though we are physically apart. I am grateful for everything our clergy, church staffs, and congregations in the Rome-Carrollton District are doing to be the church in the midst of a pandemic. However, I know there are areas where we are struggling and one of those is this particular week.
I have received communications from so many mourning the loss of our regular Holy Week and Easter traditions, celebrations, and gatherings. We are mourning not being together in one place to share Easter greetings. We are saddened by the loss of the sounds of trumpets, the high processionals, the egg hunts, the flowering crosses. It is okay to be sad. I am with you. It is hard not celebrate this high, holy Sunday in the sweeping, grand ways we usually do. It is hard, but it isn’t wrong. In fact, as I have been meditating this week on the story of Christ’s death and resurrection here is what the Holy Spirit led me to see this week. I hope it will help you in the midst of all your feelings, disappointments, and fears.
The Bible tells countless stories about how God often does God's best work when all seems dark, hopeless, lost, lonely, fearful, and bleak. The best message we can remind ourselves and our congregations of on Easter is that the risen Christ still leaves the tombs to come and find us even behind all our locked doors--figuratively and literally. In fact, the first Easter sermon was given to only a few women, in the dark and its message went against human logic, local politics and leaned towards love, forgiveness, and new chances above all else.
Easter, the message of a living God, made its way to people behind locked doors for many days and gave them hope. The kind of hope that when the time was right for them to venture out, it allowed people to share Christ's message in a new and powerful way--in a way they never had before. Remind yourself and others that the story of Christ's resurrection had to go first through dark tombs, thick stones, and locked doors before it got to a large gathering. Don't rush the story. In fact, maybe this is a time to focus on the parts of the story we often rush to get through. Perhaps there is power there we have never considered.
The first Easter didn't have trumpets and perfectly choreographed processionals, or a twenty minute, perfectly crafted sermon. The first Easter was sacredly subtle. A curtain in an inner chamber was torn. A stone was quietly rolled back. Graveclothes were simply folded. Jesus was mistaken for a gardener. An angel was sitting inside the dark tomb. A few sentences regarding the whereabouts of Jesus's body were the only sentences uttered. When you really stop and think about it, Easter was a huge truth told in small gestures. Easter was sacredly subtle. To help ourselves and our people see this may be some of the most helpful work we as clergy do this week. Tell the wondrous story not with grand motions but with small gestures—is our sacred task this week, but it is no less powerful. Tell it from your heart. And like Jesus says, those with ears—they’ll hear it. “
In Christ’s love and mine,