Thirty six of us gathered early this morning for our first public worship service on Sunday in over a year. It was wonderful to be here together to wait for a sunrise, celebrate Easter morning.
This year, the Resurrection feels like perhaps it might be possible. For some of us one, two vaccinations. On Wednesday, all Maine residents will be eligible to receive their vaccines. Some of us are planning summer trips. Gatherings with family and friends. We are planning a return to public worship on May 30. Checks are in the mail. Hopes for a summer season that might be a bit more like normal.
Last year we were weeks into a pandemic, in lock-down. 9,500 had died in the US. I preached about celebrating Easter in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1997 and how strange it felt to be celebrating Easter in a bleak and desolate time in Russia. It reminded me of life here last year.
And as we gather today, there is a surge in new COVID cases in Maine and elsewhere.
New scary variants.
This month our children have been out of school due to a COVID exposure, some in quarantine, worried about getting sick.
8.5 million of us don’t have jobs that had jobs last year at this time.
Over half a million Americans have died. Over 2.8 million world-wide.
On this Easter Sunday we proclaim the mystery of a Christ who rises – and who rises with his wounds.
This year wounded us. And some of us and some in our nation and world particularly and will continue to long after others of us have moved on. Wounds that no vaccine will cure – systemic racism, a broken healthcare system, job loss, anxiety, addiction, violence…..
And the Christ who rises, rises in a new body. Unrecognizable to his closest friends.
Last March I felt fear of this unknown plague and what it might cost. The scars have been great.
And I had a great hope that this virus might awaken us to see – to call us out to be a new people, new community in new ways.
This Easter we need to rise as a wounded people whose wounds have called us to live and see in new ways for the sake of community and creation.
The world we rise into has great challenges –
A creation in turmoil. We gathered for the sunrise service on the Gulf of Maine – the second fastest warming body of water in the world. 2020 gave us not just the pandemic but the West Coast’s worst fire season and the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record. Near record-lows in Arctic sea ice, shattered heat records.
We saw systemic racism in George Floyd’s death and see it in Derek Chauvin’s trial. In voter suppression bills in 43 states.
See our addiction to violence in the killing of a Capitol Hill policeman, in three mass shootings in past weeks.
Broken economic and healthcare structures. A pandemic of loneliness, depression, isolation.
As the pandemic has worn on the desire for us to get back to normal has increased and I worry that the hope for radical positive change has subsided.
But we can’t let it dissipate, we need to imagine a new way of life beyond this one – not a new normal but a new way of life to meet the chaotic world we’ve created. To rise with Christ wounded, yes, and with a new body, new heart, mind, soul and strength to live in new ways.
In the words of Amanda Gorman,
So let us leave behind a country better than one we were left….
We will rise from the gold-limned hills of the West.
We will rise from the wind-swept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked south.
We will rebuild, reconcile and recover in every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country our people diverse and beautiful will emerge battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.
Excerpts from “The Hill We Climb”