Below is my bulletin column for Easter Sunday, 2020:
A Blessed and Joyous Easter to all of you! We are of course all very accustomed to typical Easter routines and rituals that are painfully and strangely absent this year. There is sadness in this fact that one cannot help but acknowledge, even on what could be called the birthday of joy itself. How does one make sense of it all?
Perhaps it is helpful to return to the first Easter and consider it in the light of our current situation. The only gatherings we are aware of through the Scriptures that took place on the Sunday following the crucifixion consisted of two or three women in the morning, and about 10 or so disciples in the evening. Therefore those gatherings were, by and large, “shelter at home” compliant.
They gathered in an atmosphere of collective and total bewilderment over what had become the most heart breaking and unsettling opening to Passover that they had ever experienced. Their teacher, Jesus, was dead. He had been taken from them, and many of them had not been able to make any proper good bye, or understand how it was all going to turn out until it was done. Their hearts were heavy.
By this point, one could say it was too early for them to have the Eucharist or the Sacraments in the way that they would very quickly take root in the heart of the early Christian community experience. An assembly on Sunday, around the breaking of the bread and the proclamation of the Word, and with elders to instruct them was not on their minds that first Easter. These things were just on the horizon, just outside of their possession. One might say they knew them in concept, but not yet in reality.
So, with heavy hearts, and without sacramental rituals, or large gatherings, or customs, etc, what did they have on that first Easter Sunday? The Gospels do provide a clear and instructive answer. As that Sunday unfolded, from the dawn until the evening hour, they did know without a doubt that Jesus had risen. The reality of the Resurrection was planted deep into their hearts and minds by their encounters that day with Jesus himself. To a group whose world had been shattered, especially by death, they came to know that He is Risen.
Yes, that encounter in its authentic and full manner is given to us in the Eucharist and in the Word proclaimed, which this year are lacking. However, we do know, without question, because we have been taught it, that Jesus is Risen. He is Risen even to a world that appears shattered. Because He is Risen, there is a path forward, beyond this shattered world.
Maybe Easter this year will be, in its way, remarkably similar to the first one. Maybe, therefore, it will be just as powerful. He is Risen, He is Risen Indeed.