Bemoaning Easter 2020: A Letter to West Franklin

Bemoaning Easter 2020: A Letter to West Franklin April 16, 2022
West Franklin Family,
Tomorrow morning, God willing, we will gather for Easter Sunday services like we used to. You know, before we were quarantined or masked or separated by six feet. Tomorrow should feel like a “normal” Easter Sunday. He is Risen! I can’t wait. I bought a new shirt and coat for the occasion. Three services. Newly renovated sanctuary. Pretty dresses. Pastel shirts. Smiles. Hugs. Singing. Praying. Preaching.
Earlier this week I commiserated with friends about what we “had” to do two years ago. The Easter service in 2020 was pre-recorded. We were at home. It was weird. All of us (myself included) were bemoaning that pandemic-induced Easter Sunday when we were stuck at home. We all admitted we wished we were somewhere else, doing what we do on Resurrection Day.
I am incredibly grateful that this will NOT be the case tomorrow. And I REALLY hope it never happens again.
If I had it to do over again, I hope I wouldn’t spend the day wishing I was somewhere else. Let me explain. As I prepare the Easter sermon for this Sunday I am reminded that the first Easter Sunday did not happen in a church building. It did not happen with a group of well-dressed men and women dripping in pastels. No music. No thirty-minute monologue. No offertory. No large groups of people. None of that. No. The first Easter Sunday celebration took place in a cemetery. Read that again: the first Easter Sunday celebration occurred in a graveyard. And do you know WHY that was the case? Because if Jesus is out of the tomb, we can celebrate His resurrected presence anywhere. It is incredibly ironic (and sad) to me that I bemoaned being stuck at home two years ago instead of preaching the truth that Jesus has risen and can be worshipped anywhere! Do you see the irony? I could have used that time to, instead, enjoy the resurrected presence of Jesus! I could have been present to the fact that – though Easter Sunday looked different that day – it was EASTER and that meant I could celebrate and enjoy the resurrected Jesus where I was. It’s like I was Mary Magdalene going to the tomb, expecting a dead body. I approached Easter 2020 as if Jesus wasn’t alive and present wherever I found myself to be.
Let me reiterate: I hope we never have an Easter like Easter 2020 again. But there is a lesson here for all of us. You and I NEVER have to approach life as if Jesus is still in His tomb. Never. Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, whoever we are with – Jesus is alive and His kingdom reality is near. As the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, “Christ plays in ten thousand places.” Let’s not waste the circumstances we find ourselves in. Let’ s not long for what “could be” as if Jesus were still in the grave. Let’s live in the new reality inaugurated when Jesus’s blood began to flow on that first Easter Sunday.
I am eager to see you in the morning (7:30, 9:00, and/or 10:30 am) with my Bible open to John 20:10-18.
Up From the Grave He Arose,
Pastor Matt

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