Well, this has certainly been a different Holy Week, hasn’t it? All those things we had planned for — the rehearsed choral pieces, the palms and the flowers, the special, cherished liturgies — all had to be done differently, if at all.
It has only been three or four weeks since we were no longer able to worship together in person. We all got online fast. For most it was quite the learning curve. We discovered how to bring worship right into people’s homes, exploring Zoom and Facebook live. Preachers shared tips on how to preach to our computer screens or when nearly alone in our empty sanctuaries. We encountered bandwidth issues. Pastors discovered how to check in with parishioners by phone, Skype or Facebook. Parishioners reached out to each other in the same way.
And then Holy Week was upon us. For me, worship this week has reaffirmed how powerful is the story of Jesus’ passion and death. This story speaks not only across ages but it speaks across communication modalities as well. It answers our terror and our longing, as much now as it ever has.
And now it’s Easter Sunday. We have been stripped of the bonnets and bows, the flowers, the linens and fine silver, the trappings of a sanctuary-based worship. If we are worshipping together today, it is from our living rooms, our studies or our sickbeds. We see each other on screen. We pray and sing, and few others can hear us.
What we have left, once again, is the story. And today it is THE story, the story to answer all our anxieties. “I have seen the Lord,” says Mary. She knows he is no longer in the tomb; he has conquered death. And gradually, over weeks and years, she and all Jesus’ followers will come to understand what this means.
And so shall we. We will continue to learn that whether it happens in the next few weeks or years from now, we will transcend our encounter with death, just as Jesus did. This being true, we can risk much. We can spill ourselves out all over the place, in love and service. We have absolutely nothing to fear.
I wonder what we will think about this experience of Holy Week and Easter as we look back on it from the vantage point of next Easter. Will we have kept some of the flexibility of online worship, incorporating what we have learned? I hope so. We keep talking about how the church needs to continue to adapt in a new century.
It’s all brand new, but, bottom line, the Holy Week and Easter story itself is what keeps us viable, keeps us going. This is the bedrock of our faith. So, Alleluia! Christ has risen! Let’s enter joyfully into this new day.