Dear Members and Friends of the West Virginia Conference,
Christ is risen! Christ is risen, Indeed! Alleluia!!
With this joyful proclamation, we would like for everything to change instantly, wouldn’t we? Our hearts yearn for the healing of this pandemic, for the economy to burst to life, for our health care workers, essential personnel, and for those who have been infected by Covid-19 to be able to have everything that they need to be healthy and whole, to live without constant fear and anxiety.
As I ponder this, I think we come to this Easter in much the same way as the first disciples. Can you imagine what fear and anxiety they had on that first Easter morning? They were in hiding – sheltering in place – fearing for their lives as they were people under the plague of Roman occupation. They did not know what the future would hold – but they knew things were never going to be the same again. They hoped for good news, but they did not fully understand all that Jesus had taught them.
Now he was dead.
They were mourning the loss of their friend and loved one and wondering what they were to do in the days to come. And then there was the resurrection! The tomb is discovered empty!
Jesus was not dead, but alive!
Joyful news, yes! But remember, for these first disciples – it took many days and many convincing moments later for their gloom to lift and for Christ’s Good News to be received and accepted in life-changing ways.
This Easter is not much of a different experience for the followers of Christ than that first one. We come with some anxiety, some fear. We come to this day not really knowing what will take place in the future. We come into this day looking for hope, hoping for love, and light, and life – hoping for the day that things will return to something that we can call normal and life-giving.
On this Easter, we are being remade into Easter people, true Easter people! People who do not just dress up for Church, or do egg hunts, or gather in family gatherings – but people who know what it is to watch and hope and wait. We are not waiting until after this crisis is over to celebrate our faith, but we are finding new ways to do it – in our homes, by phone and internet, by writing and video. We celebrate as people who trust in God’s sufficient grace and abundant love in this current situation. We express our faith in Christ’s redemptive and healing power now believing that God is with us and so we pray for neighbors and communities in our own back yard and around the world that they may receive the healing hope and peace of Christ.
We walk with Jesus in this Easter Sunday just like the first disciples walked with him, not knowing just what will lie beyond this day, but believing that Jesus is true; and that Jesus and God’s love will bring us through these current trials, worries, and fears – resurrecting us to new life and not just new life, abundant life!
Maybe more than ever before, we are called to make a witness that we are in fact an Easter People. A people who benefit from knowing and believing in the rest of the story – the story beyond the story of anxiety, fear, brokenness, pain, and death. A people who bring light to those who feel bitter or scared or hopeless.
Yes, on this Easter Sunday, we may not be able to gather for worship in person, we may not do church or family celebrations in the ways that we would normally do them, it may not be all butterflies, tulips, and daffodils. However, today is Easter Sunday and this Sunday is as full of joy and promise as it is every Easter. In fact, this Sunday – as is every Sunday – is a day of resurrection hope, joy, love, and celebration!
So, sing out Easter People!
This world needs your witness and your song! It needs your prayers, your presence, your gifts, service, and witness like never before!
We can and should celebrate – for God sent his son into this world because God saw each of the persons God created not as objects of sickness or brokenness, but as persons, as human beings – beloved, valued, and valuable. Because of this great love, God moved out into this world through Jesus making a way to raise human beings out of death into life.
Easter is God’s story and our story. It is a story that needs to be told over and over again – and not just on Easter.
Easter: it is a story about our experiences of death and of being lifted up and made new, when we ourselves do not have the power to do so.
Easter: it celebrates the life- giving power of the presence of God. Through the resurrection, God says to the world, “Listen, I am not kept in a certain place, I am not contained or limited by human thought, action, or opinion, and I do not do my work at a distance – I am present with you.”
The Easter story is clear! God is about the redemption of the world, the forgiveness of sin, the resurrection of life. And, this pandemic has not stopped the movement of God’s redemptive power into this world!
We are Christ’s disciples for this time and this season. We are called to move closer and closer into the likeness of Christ, and that likeness moves us ever more outward into a world that desperately needs the love, life, healing, and hope that only God can give. Truly we need to take the Good News out, to shine forth God’s light, and “seek in word and in deed to do everything in the name of Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God through him.”(Colossians 3:17)
Today, I praise God for the West Virginia Conference, for our pastors, for our lay leadership, for our congregations, and for the witness we are making together in and to this world. Thank you for your ministry and witness in the midst of these challenging times!
Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball