Easter Message from Bishop Sue



Easter Message
From Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson
Sunday, April 12, 2020

Hello to the people called Methodists of North Georgia.

Today I'm reflecting on Holy Week. It seems like we've had a whole month of Good Friday events. It is a difficult time, a strange time, and there's a lot to lament. We lament loss of our freedom. We lament our ability to be with our loved ones, to gather, especially on Easter Sunday when we're used to joyously gathering. We lament the devastation of the economy, the jobs that have been lost, the real uncertainty of whether a paycheck will come again or not in the near future. The real fear that rent won't be paid, that life has been disrupted in ways that we can't gather back.

There's consternation in the church. How are we the church if we can't gather? How do we do worship? How do we stay connected? How do we lean into connection? That's the heart of United Methodism, our connection. How do we do that?

We know a lot about Good Friday this year. I think back to the disciples who had just lost their master, who had seen him tortured and killed by the authorities, who found themselves enemies of the state, who were in the middle of agony, an agonizing unknown future. We identify with that this year. The future is hazy. We aren't quite sure if things will ever be back to normal. We aren't even sure what normal is. We are well acquainted with Good Friday.

Over the past couple years I've found myself really focused on Holy Saturday. To me that's a fascinating time--the day when resurrection took place, when the power of the resurrection met death head on in the tomb of Jesus and he was resurrected. Something happened on that Holy Saturday, the transformation from death to life, from despair to hope. We need that resurrection power.

I feel like there is a transformation happening right now. We are questioning what is of importance in our lives. We are having to ask questions and think about things in ways that we haven't thought about in a long time. We're forced into a time of reflection, a time of not doing our normal routine. Everything seems alien. It's a Holy Saturday kind of time. My message for you on this Easter Sunday is to sit in the Holy Saturday, to lament, to grieve. There's a lot of loss, there's a lot of uncertainty. There is the loss of loved ones, the prospect of loved ones being ill, those are hard things and I invite you to lament. And I invite you to take time and space for Holy Saturday to work. Let the Holy Spirit permeate deep within you, lay your heart out before God and ask for a new insight.

Glennon Doyle, a writer and a blogger, told a great story. Somebody sent it to me randomly and it resonated with me. The story is about her sister. Her sister was in the middle of an unexpected and horrible divorce, so Glennon invited her sister to come live in her basement. Her sister did that for a year. Every night after work she would come home and eat a little something and go down to her basement room. Glennon would go down to check on her and she would hear her sobbing. The door was shut, and she didn't want to bother her because she knew that there was something powerful happening in that time. Instead, Glennon sat outside the door and was there, every night. That was her routine. And after a year her sister just came out of the room, moved out, and quit her job as a corporate lawyer. She moved to Rwanda and started defending the defenseless in that country. She met a lovely man and had a wonderful family.

Glennon says, I don't know what happened in that room but I know I was sitting outside and I was there if she needed me and my presence was important. But I knew that what was going on in there was powerful.

When I think about that story theologically, I know exactly what's going on. Like Jesus' tomb, that room was a place of transformation for her sister, where resurrection power came in and met death and grief and loss. Where resurrection power came in and recreated and transformed her sister. That's the power of Jesus. That's what we celebrate on Easter. No devastation is too big. Even death he has triumphed over. And so I invite you to create time and space in your own Holy Saturdays for the Holy Spirit to come and work.

I've heard Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, who serves in Louisiana, talk about how she is amazed at the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly. You know, we don't always think about what happens in that cocoon, but we imagine that the caterpillar just kind of morphs into a butterfly. But what Bishop Harvey and others have pointed out is that in the cocoon the caterpillar is totally destroyed. The caterpillar becomes gelatinous sludge. It becomes nothing. Then it is remade into a butterfly. That's why the butterfly is the symbol of resurrection, the symbol of Easter.

God has some work to do, I think, in your cocoons, in your Holy Saturday tombs, where you confront the loss, you confront the fear, you lament, you face life head on and you lay it all out before God. The miracle of resurrection is that God will put it together in a new way. He will bring life in the midst of death. He will bring resurrection out of the horrors that we have faced. So church, let's see what God is doing. Let's see what transformation is occurring. Let's see after our time, our Holy Saturday time, how we will view the future. I think we'll have new ideas of what's important in our lives and what's important in our work and what's important in the church. May this be a time of great transformation.

Trust that the message of Easter Sunday is that resurrection power is present, that Jesus is present in the midst. He will be with you in that tomb, in that cocoon, in that Holy Saturday vestibule. And he will make you new. It has happened to countless Christians through the ages and we in the church vow that we will sit outside the door and be present for you. If you need us, call us. If you need a mental health professional, call. If you need a pastor, call. If you need a good friend, call. We're sitting outside the door but we know that only Jesus can do this work and we celebrate it and we have seen it time and time again in the history of the church.

Christ is risen, Christ is risen indeed. And I hope you too, out of this time of death and isolation, will rise too. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Find this video and other Easter Sunday worship videos and resources at https://www.ngumc.org/easter-worship