In these strange days of social distancing, lockdowns and isolation, it has been a very different experience of Holy Week for the Christian Church this year. Yet today is the day when those of us who belong to the family of God in the Christian tradition are called to announce to a waiting world that, "He is not dead: He is risen!"
Being honest, I find that a really difficult announcement to make today. I wish I could say to our friend whose husband died 10 days ago, "He is not dead". However, the reality is that he is dead and, although they shared a strong faith, these are hard days indeed for her and their children.
And they are hard days indeed for so many, the waiting of Holy Saturday is over, but the demands and anxiety of watching and waiting and praying from a distance is all that some will experience today and tomorrow and for days and weeks to come...
In some ways, it just feels too insensitive and ritualistic to proclaim the message that Christ is risen from the dead in a world that is suffering from this destructive, indiscriminate pandemic. And yet, it is because our faith and our experience leads us to believe that "there is nothing... not even death that can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ." (Romans 8), that we can dare to do just that.
The Easter message that we can choose to share today comes with no scientific proof, or graphs, or charts, or political point-scoring or journalists' questions or anything else that the world has to offer. It comes as a message of hope across the world to all who suffer today; a message not of social distancing nor of a God who is an arch-puppet master, but of God in humanity who suffered an horrific death at the hands of human beings and refused to let death have the last word.
Humanity is not defined by status, wealth, poverty, colour, age, religion, sexual orientation, gender or any of the other headings we choose to use as tools of segregation and division. Humanity is defined by our God-given capacity to love and to be loved. We see that truth profoundly revealed across our country and across the world, as neighbours respond to neighbours' needs; conversations in real time break out across streets and in queues, as well as via the amazing variety of technology that has shrunk the world in so many ways; in the rainbows and teddies that adorn nearly every street and in the support that is being shown for all those working on the many front lines we have to enable us to remain safe and at home.
Christians follow the example of a suffering servant-king... perhaps we are beginning to realise what that looks like in twenty-first century pandemic-affected Britain. May the evidence of the love of God around us each and every day, be the catalyst we need to announce that hope IS still present; that love does NOT die and that resurrection is not just a word used in religious-speak, but that small resurrections are happening and will continue to happen each day as we share our common humanity and the "love that wilt not let us go".
Jesus Christ, we greet you!
Your hands still have holes in them,
your feet are wet from the dew;
and with the memory of our names
undimmed by three days of death
you meet us,
risen from the grave.
We fail to understand how;
we puzzle at the reason why.
But you have come:
not to answer our questions,
but to show us your face.
You are alive
and the world can rejoice again.