This post is shared as a COVID-19 resource on our resource page at www.abc-usa.org/coronavirus. Visit this page to find helpful resources and information, and see regular updates from American Baptist regions and national partners.
April 9, 2020
Written by Rev. Julia Bruton-Sheppard, PBA Communications and Leader Development
“Some skeptic is sure to ask, “Show me how resurrection works. Give me a diagram; draw me a picture…We do have a parallel experience in gardening. You plant a “dead” seed; soon there is a flourishing plant. There is no visual likeness between seed and plant. You could never guess what a tomato would look like by looking at a tomato seed. What we plant in the soil and what grows out of it don’t look anything alike. The dead body that we bury in the ground and the resurrection body that comes from it will be dramatically different.” 1 Corinthians 15:35-38, Peterson’s. The Message
Christians have celebrated Easter also called Pascha or Resurrection Sunday since the 2nd century A.D. Some Baptists may not follow the entire Christian calendar, but Baptists unite with all Christendom to commemorate the event many Baptist preachers describe as “Early Sunday morning, Jesus got up, conquering sin, death, hell and the grave.”
This year Easter arrives Sunday April 12, 2020. Decades of predictable ritual, carried out in street processions or in churches won’t occur. The sounds of organ and piano or acapella voices that normally fill sanctuaries worldwide heralding the miraculous resurrection of Jesus from the dead will not be heard. A microscopic organism, called Coronavirus/COVID-19, is threatening the lives of both young and old, rich and poor alike. It has no military or economic or political power, but it has forced the world into “social distancing.”
It remains for us to consider how the Church of Jesus Christ will celebrate Easter, 2020. We will continue to embrace the spirit of this season, by accepting that the grace of resurrection power always brings about new life. It has inspired and empowered churches to use current video communications systems to present new dimensions of worship. ZOOM meetings keep vital ministries connected in order to provide ministry to the membership. “Prayer Meeting” can remain personal on Facetime.
However, if you don’t have computer access to view live or recorded worship messages, you might consider formatting your own worship service at home. You can recite the Lord’s Prayer together and please include prayer for those suffering from this disease, for the families who have lost loved ones and the formulation of a vaccine. How about singing your favorite hymns and share why they are near and dear to you? Your sermon for the day can come from each persons’ reflections on one or more these Scriptures: Jeremiah 31:1-6; Psalm 118: 19-24; Colossians 31-4; John 20:1-18 (the gospel account of the resurrection). https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu
Using Paul the Apostle’s garden metaphor, take time on Easter and the days ahead to practice being still until distractive thoughts die down and we reap God’s assuring peace to calm our fears. Take time to be still until the internal must-be-doing-something engine shuts off; and we reap the stress reducing quiet that benefits both body and soul.
When we come to the other side of this pandemic, we will be different. Resurrection power guarantees a “New Normal.”
As is often the case, crisis surfaces the better angels of our humanity. We seem to become more aware of our common fragility and vulnerability. Our response is to join forces to find creative ways of caring for one another: From singing to each other on balconies, to applauding the valiant efforts of health care workers every evening, to leaving bags of groceries on the doorsteps of those suffering from this disease. However, from Paul’s view what we’ve done cannot compare with what we will become. “What we plant in the soil (of this crisis) and what grows out of it don’t look anything alike.”
Our “New and Better Normal” will be one where humankind, working together will plant and harvest groundbreaking approaches to make life better in this world and the cosmos, regardless of race, ethnic origin, gender, religious or non-religious creeds, because…
I serve a risen Savior; He’s in the world today.
I know that He is living, whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him He’s always near.
He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives! He lives! Salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.
Alfred H. Ackley, 1887 – 1960
He is Risen; He is Risen, Indeed.