It is an Easter unlike any other, isn’t it?
No sanctuaries filled with people in their Sunday best sitting, not six feet apart, but shoulder to shoulder. No large Easter gatherings with family and friends to feast on honey-baked ham, deviled eggs, and the like. None of our usual traditions to which we look forward every year.
Many have likened this Easter to that very first Easter, noting there wasn’t a huge crowd gathered then either. Depending on the gospel writer’s account, there were no more than two or three present.
The others, like us, were sheltered in place in their homes. They, like some of us, were struggling to feel any Easter joy that morning.
The difference between that first Easter and today is the reason they stayed in their homes.
They sheltered in place out of fear. We are sheltered in place out of love.
Jesus’ first disciples holed up in their homes out of fear for good reasons. Having just seen their master arrested, tortured, and crucified by those in power, they feared for their own lives. Having left family and jobs for three years to follow Jesus, they may have been afraid of how to return back to normal life – or if there even was a normal life to which to return.
Some of us today may be holed up in our homes out of fear for similar good reasons. In the midst of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, we fear for our lives and the lives of those dear to us. Many of us have begun to fear if and when we will ever return to normal life and what that normal life might look like.
Yet the ultimate reason we are called to shelter in place is not fear. It’s not because of a command from those in power.
The ultimate reason we are sheltered in place is because of a command from the One who is ultimately in power.
We are sheltered in place out of love.
We are sheltered in place because Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor. We are sheltered in place to care for the most vulnerable among us. We’re checking in on one another, offering resources to help one another. We’re laying aside our normal routines and lifestyles to ensure life for another.
What better way to celebrate the message of Easter?
Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
When we were at our most vulnerable, Jesus laid down His life for us. We are now called to do the same. Not our of fear, but out of love. As those living on the other side of the cross and the other side of the empty tomb, we know that in the end there is no reason to fear. There is every reason to love.
Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we know that sickness and death are not the end. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we know that, though we grieve sickness and death among us today, we do not grieve as those who have no hope (I Thessalonians 4:13). If ever there were a picture of that hope that we need to hear – perhaps especially today – it is John’s vision as recorded in Revelation Chapter 21: “‘Death will be no more, mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’ And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.'”
I do miss my Easter traditions. I’ve heard many pastors and congregations say that, whenever we are able to gather again as a large group, we will have traditional “Easter” worship, complete with a brass ensemble and the most joyful singing ever of “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today.”
While today is the Day of Resurrection, because of today, every Sunday – indeed every day – is a day of resurrection.
I look forward to that day when we get to have our normal Easter traditions again. At the same time, I pray, on this Easter unlike any other, that we claim a new Easter tradition – or rather, reclaim that first Easter tradition: Easter is about the One who laid down His life out of love for us. Today He has given us the great privilege of doing the same for one another, for “greater love has no one than this…”
May every Easter be like it.