The last few weeks have been surreal. Talk to your neighbors (at a distance) and they sound like they’re living in a dream-world. Since no one can really grasp how much the corona virus has changed our world, maybe we should call it: a nightmare? Everyone wants to “go back to the way it was, BC—before corona.” We hold onto that illusion because it’s safe. It’s what we know. But, this dream-world in which we find ourselves in is our new reality. It marks the beginning of “the great reset” which will fundamentally transform social, political, and financial structures in our society. It may take a few months or even a few years. But after March, this country, and the world, will never be the same. Down deep we all know that, hence the surreal atmosphere.
You immediately feel and hear it when you venture outside. It’s quiet. It’s still. You can hear the birds singing and the neighbors conversations a few houses over. That’s never happened in the 32 years I’ve lived on Wilmington Rd. I’ve talked (at a distance) to my neighbor across the street who has lived on Rt. 62 for about 65 years. She predates the building boom. Even she says that it is surreal. Boston is a ghost town. The roads are empty. And it is like that nationwide. People are on edge, living in a dream world and hoping it doesn’t end as a nightmare.
I was thinking about Holy Week and Easter—not the 2020 version but the first one. For the disciples and other followers of Christ it started out as a surreal nightmare. Their beloved Savior had been rudely captured, tried, and executed. Some of them, overcome by grief, had still managed to pull enough of themselves together to remove His body from the cross and hurriedly buried Him. Dark days indeed. And then with anguish in their souls they came back on Easter morning to complete the task. In the twilight of dawn they plodded to the tomb. Then and there their lives turned even more surreal. You know the story: the stone was rolled back, the soldiers were gone, angels greeted them, and those fateful, yet wonderful words: “Don’t be afraid” were spoken to them. In that instant, their lives fundamentally changed. “He is risen, just as He said.” Could it be possible? YES!!! It took hours and even days for this to sink in. Surrealism doesn’t pass instantaneously. Yet, the nightmare began to recede with each passing day. The disciples started out afraid in the Upper Room that night—“with the doors locked for fear of the Jews.” Yet Christ appeared to quell their fears. And He continued to appear over the next 40 days in Galilee, in Jerusalem, and in other locales. God’s Son never leaves His children gripped by fear. He comforts and uplifts them.
Have you ever wondered what the disciples’ psyche was like after the resurrection? Read the Acts of the Apostles, and you’ll find out. They went from a surreal nightmare to a fearless reality of certainty. The truth of the resurrection and the power it conveys fundamentally altered how they viewed their lives. It propelled and compelled them to preach, teach, and confess their risen Savior. They lived, breathed, taught, and confessed Christ crucified and Christ risen as the singular moral and spiritual compass for life. They finally discovered their purpose in life. And they were fulfilled, content, and joyous over it all!
Currently our political leaders are attempting to do what we’d expect them to do in this crisis. They are trying to reassure people about their lives and their future and to lead the nation. I’m not sure they will be successful. Many others share my concern and this has spawned the term: “The greatest depression.” None of us hopes for that. We hope one day we will wake up from this national nightmare and we can go back to “normal.” But anyone, especially those over 60 know that wasn’t the case for our forebears. We heard their stories of abnormal living as we grew up. We saw how frugal our parents were and we knew why.
My father didn’t talk about it very much. But my mother did! She talked about her dad not having work. She talked about peddlers going door to door to raise a few coins for food. She talked about the banks failing, long lines out the door, and fishing in the local lake in order to eat protein that night because the larder was bare apart from a little flour. This went on for years. And yet, they got through it and survived. They laughed, they cried, they went to bed and got up to persevere through another day. And the one constant in their lives that sustained them was: church. Every Sunday morning, even with stomach growling, my grandfather would trudge the 2 blocks to church and ring the bell before service. He would call the faithful. And they all came! They had nothing (in varying degrees) but they knew that God had everything. And that in Christ He shared it with them.
This Easter it appears that the church will not be full. Covid-19 is the cause. Fear and uncertainty are also the causes. Yet, the bell will still ring loudly. And if the live-streaming works, the message of the angels: “Fear not!” will still go out to you. Because I believe that message is eternal and the Holy Spirit stands behind it and works through it on uneasy hearts, America’s surreal nightmare can and will be overcome through Jesus Christ, the Light of the world. Death, and the fear of it, will be swallowed up in the Victory of Life over darkness. For the Lord is risen! He is risen, indeed!
This Easter looks as if it will be far different than any Easter in memory. That’s the surreal reality to most. But if you break it down, is it? The building might well be empty, but not your hearts. For Christ resides there. The message will be the same as in the past. The comfort will remain the same, as well. So it was for the disciples as long as they lived on earth. And it will be the same for you and me, too. And that’s because the gifts of Easter: love, compassion, truth, justice, forgiveness, goodness, purity, and a whole host of other “noble gifts” will never cease. The empty tomb proves that!
To My Beloved People,
Pastor Thomas H. Fox