Easter Hope in a Good Friday Time

Easter Hope in a Good Friday Time

A Menno Minute

by Tim Wiebe-Neufeld

Easter just wasn’t the same this year. Instead of hymns sung by the joyful voices of the full congregation, there was music played through laptop speakers. The online worship services were a far cry from the annual in-person celebrations I so much enjoy. Rather than big gatherings for Easter breakfast and Sunday dinner, it was Jacob, Donita, and me sitting around the kitchen table—just as it has been for every meal these past four weeks. Even the normal signs of spring were put on hold as we awoke Easter morning to a new skiff of snow.

As we enter what is normally called the Easter Season what strikes me is how much it still feels like the “wilderness” experience of Lent. We are still in a time of uncertainty. We are still huddled in our homes, physically isolated, awaiting word of when it will again be safe to be together. It is hard for anything to feel “normal” as we continue to cope with the global health pandemic. In recent weeks my own focus on event cancellations and economic struggles shifted as I first learned of people I know who have tested positive for COVID-19. As the number of infections and deaths continues to grow, it feels more like a season of Good Friday than the assurance of Easter Sunday.

And yet when we look at our scriptures the experiences of the disciples that first Easter were also a far cry from our usual celebrations. Initial Jesus-sightings were a patchwork of encounters with individuals and small groups of two or three at a time. Jesus appeared in the garden by the tomb, on the road to Emmaus, and to groups huddled in hiding behind locked doors. These initial witnesses to the Resurrection respond with a mix of emotions: with “terror and amazement” (Mark 16:8), “fear and great joy” (Matthew 28:8), even with doubt in spite of what they had seen (Matthew 28: 17) and heard (Luke 24:11, John 20:25).

Today even in the midst of our affirmation of the Resurrected Christ we acknowledge the confusion of our time. We continue to experience the “wilderness” of social distancing, the fear of illness, and the grief of loss and death. It is the promise of our faith that within these aspects of our basic human vulnerability we may encounter the risen Christ. We grieve, but not as those without hope.

In this “Good Friday” time Easter may look a little different than we might normally expect. We may not yet see the lush flowers of gardens and meadows, but there are still flowers and beauty to be found in the wilderness. For me, this time continues to be one of deep reflection as I look for ways to open myself to God’s presence. When I have more time alone, how do I use this time to nurture my relationship with the risen Christ? How does that help me recognize Christ’s presence in the world around me—to see the risen Christ in random offers for help from neighbours going for groceries, in those who reach out to connect with those in isolation, in those who provide care for the sick and elderly and dying, even in all who practice physical distancing so more can remain healthy?  And yes, to see Christ in our online worship, in zoom meetings, and in the many ways we continue to minister to each other and those around us?

I pray that in this unique time we may open ourselves more fully to the presence of the risen Christ. May this open our eyes to these and other “Easter moments” as they continually emerge in our world today.