Below is a bit of a longer read than normal, but since most of us are in some level of lock down / isolation, I figure you have the time.
There is no doubt that this past Easter was one of the most unique for most people in their lives. For the first time, millions of people who normally would have gathered at church and homes did not. No egg hunts, large family meals, or special services that pastors and choir directors have been preparing for. What is normally a special time for Christians to gather and celebrate the most important event of their faith was spent by many in some form of isolation. While many of us may mourn the loss of our traditional Easter service and activities, I wonder could it be that such a time as this could help us as we seek to grow closer to Jesus?
Like many pastors, I had to make alternative plans. With weather threatening, a decision was made and thanks to the generosity of a local radio station, my message went out across the airwaves. They offered up a block of time at reduced rates so area churches could do the same. Our church did not meet as we have been for drive-in church. So, with such a turn of events, how can I possibly think this would make it easier to find Jesus, especially in such a dark and confusing time as we now find ourselves?
My message came from John chapter 20 where Mary Magdalene returned to the tomb seeking the body of Christ. In her grief over his death and confusion over the empty tomb, she could not stay away. For the disciples, Friday and Saturday had to be one of the darkest moments of their lives. They were isolated, confused, scared and I’m sure time seemed to stop. Sunday morning brought more confusion and Mary returned seeking answers, seeking Jesus. This is what many of us do, especially in times of crisis. We want answers; we want to understand. We cling to things familiar for a sense of stability. Mary had last saw the broken and bloodied body of Jesus hastily wrapped and placed in a tomb and that is what she longed for. Just once more to see that form, to perform the final rights, to demonstrate her love. In a world where everything had turned upside down, this one thing offered a sense of normalcy and it, too, had been seemingly taken from her. Truly, could her world grow any darker?
This happens to us as well, especially when we seek to cling to what was, but is no more. While she can be excused, Mary’s problem was she was looking in the wrong place. She was looking in the darkness for the light, in the place of death for life. Because of this she missed the light and life of men. Often pain and confusion make our worlds terribly small and blind us to all the wonderful things going on around us and this is what happened to Mary. Unlike Mary, we know that Jesus is not in the tomb and that his body was not taken. No, he is very much alive, and he revealed himself to Mary. Though she went seeking Him, He found her. He does this for us as well. He will not leave us groping in the dark for long, though we must be willing to lift our heads and respond to Him. When he first addressed her, she barely noticed Him. The second time He used her name, something she could not mistake and on a second, deeper, longer look, she saw the face of Jesus, she “found” what she was after.
If we spend all our time looking for Jesus in the darkness and confusion of this time, we will not see Him. If we rely on the old things and old ways, if we are stuck in programs and pageants, if in order to celebrate Easter we have to have all the trimmings and normal decorations, then we have missed a very important lesson. Just like in the classic, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” the mean Grinch learned that he could not stop Christmas just because there were no “physical” signs of Christmas. Easter is not stopped because we can’t gather and celebrate together. So perhaps all this gives us time to reflect on what Easter means to us on a personal level? Why do we celebrate it anyway? What does it really mean for me and the world?
It means Hope and Promise and Peace and Comfort. It means we mustn’t be separated from Jesus, ever, for any reason, and it means that nothing, not even physical death can separate us from Him. It means that He is always right there, and He is searching for and seeking us to bring us the same hope and joy that he brought to Mary in the Garden. Easter is the proof that God is on the throne and that He will never leave nor abandon us, and even in what seems like the darkest of times, there is still a beacon of light shining forth that nothing in this Universe can blot out. Can you see it? Can you feel its warmth? Are you looking in the right place or are you groping about in the darkness? I encourage you to reclaim the true meaning of Easter, that Jesus has defeated death, hell, and the grave and because of that fact, we have nothing to fear. No matter how bleak the situation, if we have placed our faith and trust in Him, then we have already won. So, every story of kindness, generosity, love, grace, and compassion you hear of, that is Jesus at work. Those moments when you get the boost you need, the song that uplifts and inspires, the card, the kind word, all of these are reminders you are not alone. There is nothing wrong with seeking Jesus and we ought to do so, just make sure if you do, you are looking in the right places, and don’t ignore the small or the seemingly insignificant, for there, you may just catch a glimpse of the light.
Yes, even as bad as things are now, God can still work this out for His Good and I believe He is.