A few weeks ago so many things seemed unthinkable.
So much has happened in such a short time. Our world has been turned upside down by a virus, something so small we can’t even see it, but we have seen its effects overseas and now here too. We must believe it is real and that it is a “matter of life and death”, as the SA Premier said this week, so “stay home for Easter”.
Who would have thought we would willingly agree to stay away from our churches by government decree at Easter?
Jesus, the one we can’t see but believe is real, he is a matter of life and death, and he is present with us and within us, even though we are humanly separated right now from each other as his church. He and his kingdom continue to come among us and through us. Nothing can stop him.
Palm Sunday, with the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, making his slow journey to the cross to suffer and die alone for the world, now draws our attention to him at Easter.
On Palm Sunday morning my three little grandchildren re-enacted Palm Sunday for us to watch on Carolyn’s phone. They had set up a crowd of all their teddy bears forming a pathway through the town they had created in their living room. “Jesus” was carried down the path through the crowd of teddies on a battery operated unicorn while the children dropped autumn leaves on him. They waved to Jesus (and to nanna and papa!) Unfortunately the unicorn didn’t sing “Hosanna” but “ride ‘em cowboy”. Improvising has its limitations…
Faith at home. Faith in the home… Opportunities being taken by parents that might not normally happen, enriching faith during a time of forced abstinence from the gathering of God’s people. Good one mum and dad!
On Palm Sunday a crowd of two gathered in our living room – my wife and myself. There in the midst of us was the Lord, who came and joined us, as promised.
I have never had café church before, now two weeks in a row! With coffee in hand we tuned in to a service on YouTube where the pastor ministered from an altar constructed in his living room complete with crucifix and candles from the church, palm branches etc, beaming right in to our living room. Invocation, responses, confession and absolution, word and prayer, creed and blessing, and singing all sounded and felt warmly familiar and bonding, all in a relaxed setting and manner, by a pastor I haven’t seen for ages, until today.
I then listened to some Christian music by Robin Mark while doing a bit of work (yes on Sunday morning), watched “Songs of Praise” on the ABC while reading the paper, and this afternoon rang my parents to hear how “church” was for them today. My elderly mum and dad are missing Holy Communion too, but appreciating their pastor’s ministry to them from afar.
I wonder what Palm Sunday worship was for you? It was the same Jesus who came to us, finding us wherever we were on Sunday, with his comfort and peace.
I enjoyed Palm Sunday worship, but missed real people (with no offence to my wife). I felt connected yet disconnected from the church I love at the same time, but deeply sensed our connection with God. I pray you will know that too.
Holy Week and especially Easter itself has so much to offer our world right now. It always has. A world wondering what just happened and what it all might mean. People suffering for all sorts of reasons, living in fear and grief, isolation and frustration, and it is only a few weeks in to our enforced hibernation. People fearing for their loved ones and themselves. People looking for signs of hope – in a vaccine, a cure, “for lives, and for livelihoods”. We pray for those things too….
St Paul said: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” – 1 Corinthians 15:19, 20
We live with a hope that stretches beyond the recovery from COVID-19 and the recovery of the economy. The hope we already live with now because of Easter stretches into forever, our hope is eternal, all because Jesus died and rose again. Our faith and our hope involve more than recovery of health in this life, more than recovery of our livelihoods. Our faith and our hope include nothing less than the resurrection of our bodies! Our hope aims high because God invites it.
In the face of so much having been, and about to be taken away we still see what we have to gain because of Jesus. The “worst case” scenario for a Christian is that we end up in heaven sooner than we expected! We leave the timing about that to God…. With our sins forgiven when Christ died for us on Good Friday and our life with God forever guaranteed because he is risen, we maintain hope and live with hope here and now too. We don’t give up on this world or on our lives in it. We don’t stop believing, hoping and loving for whatever time we are granted to live in this life. In fact the hope we have galvanises our faith in God, and love for all people even more.
Our Synod theme (for the Convention of Synod we were going to have in May!) is “The hope we have” 1 Peter 3:15 As you minister “together” among your people and communities in new ways in the coming weeks and months I pray that God will use your messages and contacts to focus people on our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the one who ultimately can help and yes, save us for all eternity. May he come and occupy hearts and minds during the Easter celebration, creating and renewing faith, hope and love as our crucified and risen Lord.
As some have said: We can no longer “go to church” for a time, but we don’t stop “being the church”.
Every blessing for your witness at Easter, and to Easter in the challenging time ahead.
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