For our Jewish spiritual ancestors, the Exodus story of God delivering the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt was their defining story. For us, Christians, the story of Jesus remembered and observed during Holy Week and Easter is our defining story. It is a story of suffering. It is a story of power misused and rationalized to do evil. Phillip Gulley and James Mulholland wrote, “The cross is a symbol of humanity’s consistent resistance to grace. The crucifixion was the cost of proclaiming grace. It was the cost of being gracious in an ungracious world.” (If Grace is True: Why God Will Save Every Person, HarperOne, reprint ed 2010) But that resistance does not have the last word for our defining story is also a love story. In Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection; we see God’s self-sacrificing love embodied. In our defining story, we see God overcome the sin of the world and deliver us from it. While humanity may resist grace, Holy Week and Easter tell us of God’s unfailing commitment to love us. Easter shows us God’s power to bring new life even out of death. No wonder Easter is often our highest attended service. It celebrates this great good news!
This year we are experiencing Holy Week and Easter in a very different context. We are experiencing it in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and yet some of the themes of this holy time speak to us profoundly today. As the number of sick people increases and the death count rises every day, suffering and especially suffering of the innocent confronts us. As the disciples locked themselves away in fear, we find ourselves locked in our homes fearful of a virus that travels in the air and lives on the surfaces we touch. Jesus leads us through what we are enduring today, through our defining Holy Week and Easter story. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he says, “My Father, if it’s possible, take this cup of suffering away from me. However – not what I want but what you want.” (Matthew 26:39) In facing his terrible suffering, Jesus placed his faith, his trust in God. He fully relied on God to see him through. Easter shows us that God is faithful. Jesus’ suffering and death were overcome by God’s power to bring new life.
As we remember our defining story, the story of Holy Week and Easter, in a world in pandemic, let us follow the way of Christ. Let us be like him, trusting in God, fully relying upon God, confident that new life will come. God’s unfailing commitment to love is stronger than sin, stronger than a virus, stronger than death.
Have a blessed Holy Week and Easter. Stay safe, stay home and stay connected to God and each other.