Experiencing Passion Week in a Pandemic
1 Corinthians 15:55-57
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Blessed Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday! You may be understandably thinking that this feels different than Holy Week’s past. It should! Never before in our lifetime have we collectively gone through such a clear example of our nation and world experiencing our own version of Holy Week to this epic proportion. Let me explain.
We started with Palm Sunday. We sang “Hosanna” but missed the point. We thought we were worshiping Jesus the Savior and Liberator, not realizing that we’d also crucify him. At that time, Jesus was worshiped for his miracles, gifts and healing power. His resources. Not the source. Likewise, we spent time building a society that glorified money; healthcare that profited from illness; imprisoned people at record rates for dollars; jobs that paid families as little as possible to keep things “efficient” and low cost – all while keeping the wealthiest rich.
Maundy Thursday was a wake-up call. The disciples had been enjoying a time of abundance, miracles, healing and close, intimate friendship with Jesus. Then Jesus warned them of dark times to come, broke bread with them, drank wine with them, washed their feet and served them, telling the disciples to love others in this way.
We have enjoyed relative comforts of health, wealth and well being, and possibly weren’t doing all we could to ensure our neighbors experienced that as well. Then we were warned of a pandemic on the horizon. One that would require of us the ability to buckle down, truly care for each other, no matter our race, religion or region. But we had already built an infrastructure that would not sustain catastrophe. One that demands exploitation and extraction from families and people. It protected the resources produced and not the source – human lives. In this time, Jesus was telling us to serve, love and protect one another.
Then came Good Friday. A funeral of epic proportions. One that extends past a single day and feels like eternity. This is the time that the disciples wept bitterly, grieved, mourned, felt anger, fear, guilt and shame. Our Jesus, Our Savior, has been crucified. This is a time when we mere humans wrestle with our shared humanity.
Being fully human means we, like Jesus, will experience extreme suffering, tremendous pain, and death. We are seeing it all around us. Some of us have already felt it in our homes. We know that Black people and undocumented immigrants are getting hit first and hardest. We know that it will soon come for the rest of us. The uncertainty and the mere threat can be debilitating. You don’t know whether to freeze, flee or fight. And frankly, it’s hard, in the midst of pain, to know what any option looks like.
Holy Saturday was when the disciples slipped into the depths of mourning and grief. This is when real fear and uncertainty began to set in. As far as they knew, Jesus’ body remained in his tomb. They didn’t know what future awaited them and they certainly weren’t thinking about the one they could create. Yet, we know now that at that time Jesus was having an epic battle with Satan in the pits of Hell, bringing salvation to us all and ending Satan’s clutch on our lives. It is because of this, we can today say the words of sacred text above and below.
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?
Then, and only then, came Resurrection Sunday. The Glorious day that true life was revealed. This is when the disciples’ heads are lifted up from the immense depression, sorrow and anxiety they no doubt felt. They also still had work to do. A call to proclaim the Good News in all the earth. The Good News that declared that the ability to choose life was now an option. Real freedom, moral agency and human dignity for people was available. The disciples were charged with making that as widespread a message and method as possible.
It’s in their post-resurrection work that my favorite scripture is located: “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.” Acts 4:33-35
The Triune God reconciled us to Him. We are called to be reconciled to one another. The whole point and purpose of the Lord coming to earth in human form was that we may have life and life together more abundant. It is a lie told by those in power who want to hoard it, that that abundant life is only on the other side of Heaven. While we spend special holidays celebrating the birth, death and resurrection of our Jesus the Christ, the majority of the Holy text tells of his life, politic and ministry. It’s a blueprint for how we are to live and love. How we can create the world we all need and deserve.
We have the remarkable opportunity, one we’ve never had before, to build the conditions and infrastructure that will support Beloved Community. The world where we all have our fill. Where not one person is in need. Where there is ample joy, love and community. Where the imprisoned and detained are freed. Where free and quality healthcare, education and livable wages are commonplace, had by all, no exceptions. To sit and wait for this to happen is both illogical and not biblical. We are to co-conspire with our Holy God – Our Complete God. The apostles started the work. We must carry it on – leveraging the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19 to create the extraordinarily beautiful Beloved Community of tomorrow.