If there was ever a year to celebrate Easter, this is it. For the past 12 months we have been surrounded by gloom, doom, and a relentless death toll that has turned each news cycle into a mini-Good Friday. It has been a tough and painful year on so many levels, for so many people. And we all just want it to stop. We are all so ready to get back to some semblance of the way things used to be. We want to see one another’s faces again and hug our loved ones and do so many of the things we have long taken for granted.
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And with this as the backdrop, it is tempting to race headlong into the arms of what might be called a societal Easter. To replace the word “hope” with “vaccine,” to swap out “new life” for “new normal,” to proclaim victory against this pandemic, and call our recaptured life “resurrection.” But for Christians, resurrection —?real resurrection as made manifest in Jesus Christ — is so much more than just relief or light at the end of the tunnel or getting back to the things we’ve missed.
The resurrection we celebrate on Easter is not found in the joy of indoor dining at our favorite restaurant; or paying $9 for cheap beer in the bleachers at Fenway Park; or even in being able to hug our grandchildren again. As wonderful as all of those things may be, and as welcome as they will hopefully soon be, they are not, in fact, what Easter is all about. Not even this?particular?Easter.
Because the resurrection we celebrate is not just about getting our lives back, it is about the very essence of new life. It is about the triumph of life over death. It is about the spirit of the risen Christ being made known to us not just as a distant memory, passed down through an ancient book, but as a real and tangible presence in our lives right here, right now. It is about a God who loves us, forgives us, and walks beside us, right on through that valley of the shadow of death, straight into the new life of grace and love.
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Here’s the thing, though. Belief in the resurrection doesn’t automatically wipe away grief and pain, or suddenly erase all the scars on our hearts. Faith isn’t some magical elixir that turns our lives into utopian existences. But it does point to a path forward. A path through the rubble and debris of our lives to a promised land of a soul at peace. A place where joy can coexist with grief and delight can mingle with mourning.?
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Easter joy exists not despite all that we have suffered this past year, but precisely because we have suffered and, with God’s help, found the path through. That’s what the flowers and fancy hats and jelly beans ultimately point us towards: a new life of hope.
Whenever we can fully embrace one another again, know that you have always been and will always be, embraced by the loving arms of God. Yes, go get vaccinated and enjoy taking those first tentative steps into the life we have all been longing for. And then join me in gratitude to God for being present with us at each step of the way.
The Rev. Tim Schenck serves as Rector of the Episcopal Parish of St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, MA. He is the author of five books full of faith and humor. Follow him on Twitter @FatherTim.
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