Bob Chell, Sioux Falls, SD

Warm-up Question

What long term changes do you think there will be as a result of our current covid-19 crisis?

Life Changing

Covid-19 is changing everything.  Each day brings another milestone:  3.3 million people apply for unemployment in a single week.  Congress approves a 2.2 trillion dollar bailout with bipartisan support.  Relentlessly increasing numbers of estimated deaths in the United States before the pandemic subsides– 100,ooo, 200,00, or even more.

Businesses shuttered.  Churches dark.  Every trip outside the house involves a calculus of risk.  With familiar activities proscribed Americans are scrambling to find new ways to educate, worship, connect, and calm their anxiety.

Nobody can say with any certainty how the crisis will affect the country over the long term.  But some historians believe it will be a defining moment in our history.  Will it draw us together or exacerbate the divisions which were there before?  Will we race to get back to “normal” when the crisis is over or will there be radical changes in the health care system, the relationship of state and federal government, and how businesses operate supply chains?  In the unfolding drama no one knows how the last act will unfold, but everyone agrees that the pandemic has been life changing in the present.

Discussion Questions

  • Will changes be more positive or negative?
  • How much of this impact is due to our attitude?
  • How much of this attitude is due to our actions?
  • What is one specific change you want to see in your own life as a result of this pandemic?

Resurrection of Our Lord

Acts 10:34-43

Colossians 3:1-4

Matthew 28:1-10

John 20:1-18. (alternate)

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19)

This verse from the end of John’s Easter story seems particularly apt for our current situation as we practice social distancing and self quarantining. In the midst of uncertainty and fear, we long for peace.

Both the wilderness and the resurrection are archetypal stories. An archetype is an original model after which other similar things are patterned. Each of us spends time in the wilderness.  Relationships end, loved ones die, careers change, and pandemic sweeps the world. We experience new birth as well, resurrection, often following these same wilderness experiences.

St. Paul writes in Romans 8:28, “ We know that in everything God works for good with those who love God…” God can, and has, brought good, even great, out of the worst that has happened in our lives.  But the pain of death, disease, and devastation remain.

In the first centuries following the resurrection Christians struggled, worked, and argued to understand God’s in-breaking into history. By the year 390 Christians had distilled the faith into the Apostle’s Creed, a succinct summary of the faith: God created us, Jesus redeemed us, the Holy Spirit sustains us. That’s my shorthand way of saying it, but the creed’s words are carefully chosen and specific. The creed ends saying, “I believe in…the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”

The current pandemic has ripped the illusion that we can fully understand and control the world in which we live.  That which we took to be solid and dependable crumbles beneath our feet.

Science can explain some things, yet science cannot fully capture the great mysteries of life, both good and bad:   the love between two people, untimely death, the beauty of a blooming flower,  music which touches our soul, why some sacrifice for neighbors and others hoard.

Theologians and scientists plumb the mysteries of faith and life, but our intellect can’t fully deliver the answers we seek. God has gifted us with faith to reconcile the paradox that Christ has conquered but suffering remains. It is faith which enables us to let go of our fear and anxiety to cling to the promise of the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Faith calls us to make a choice, to choose trust in God over anxiety.

When students choose one school over another they are denying a multitude of futures and limiting themselves to one place. If two people commit their lives to each other they are denying themselves the possibility of other committed relationships. As persons choose one career over another they are un-choosing all the others.  Yet it is this choosing, this faith, which opens up possibility, meaning, and peace which those who dither can never know.

If you are not scared of what lies ahead on your life’s journey there will be a day when you are. When that day comes cling to the Easter promise, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Choose trust.  You are a beloved child of God and nothing in this world or the next will change that.

St. Paul says it better than I: For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

Discussion Questions

  • What have you committed to in your life—and what did you give up in making this commitment?
  • This Easter is more like the first Easter than most years, what insight does this give you into your faith and life?
  • Many things are beyond our control but not all things. What change will you make in your life because of this coronavirus Easter?

Activity Suggestion

Who you know who is most affected by the present pandemic?  Do something which will ease their anxiety.  For example, call someone who is particularly isolated. or take groceries or medicine to someone who is at high risk if they go out.

Closing Prayer

God the coronavirus has made us aware of the fragility of our lives and our world. We know every breath we take is a gift from you, yet we do not live with constant awareness of this. Strengthen our faith, so we do not take your love and the blessings of life for granted. Give safe health to our loved ones and comfort those who grieve. We pray in Jesus name, Amen.