On Friday the 10th of April Christians from around the world will celebrate Good Friday. The day on which the Saviour of the world overcame death, by giving Himself up to death and dying on a cross to save the world.
This act seems so strange that the apostle Paul would write – “the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us it is the Power of God.” (1 Cor 1:18)
Easter has made the headlines this year for a rather different reason. Churches throughout the world are closed and will not be hosting their conventional Easter Services. The withdrawal from the normal routine of Religious life comes at a very pertinent point on the annual liturgical calendar. Every year the 40 days before Easter are commemorated with a time of fasting and self-denial, following the pattern of Jesus’s 40 days in the Wilderness. The Church has commemorated these days this year in a much deeper and intense fashion as the isolation of its members along with people of all faiths into a time of social distancing and housebound living has been forced upon us.
For the Christian of the Cross laying down one’s life to take it up again is a powerful part of the philosophy of life. As we pray “ on each of my dying’s, shed you eternal light;” by this we mean when we consider others as more important than ourselves, when we make a sacrifice for the other that costs us, it is this living for the benefit of others that should distinguish the Christian of the cross from others.
In the Lock down due to COVID 19, in 2020 this concept of giving our lives for others was seen in one of two ways. The first was a mindset that said we must carry on as normal and if we die doing it, that’s fine we will have died doing the work of God in the world. We are a people of the Resurrection and do not fear death. And yet there was another mindset (one which we followed) and that was to be the first to self-isolate and lay down our normal activities in solidarity with those whose lives were affected. Our dying was to be a uniting with the plight of others, we did not close our doors to prevent ourselves being affected. We closed our doors to lead the social distancing and self-isolation campaign. This Campaign began only a few days later when the President declared a National Disaster and forced 21-day lockdown.
We did this to say that we take the plight of others seriously and we will enter with them into this and from within the situation that the world finds itself, not above it, we will preach the hope and peace and joy, which is ours in Jesus Christ.
The days of Isolation are a “death” from which we will be resurrected, and no doubt we will take a different form when we do, as Jesus Himself said what is resurrected it not the same as what died, what died was a mere seed of what was to come.
The crucifixion was a victory of a very different kind as in the worldly sense you conquer something by avoiding its consequence and defeating it with power. The lockdown has meant that we have had to face the spread of the virus head on by accepting the power that it has over us and adjusting our responses. Shutdown admitted vulnerability, shutdown acknowledges that we are all susceptible.
Shutting the Churches doors is an act of humility. Its saying that we are in this with the world as people who have power over the things of the world but will not use that power to elevate ourselves above the world. The Cross of Jesus is an act of humility. It is the ultimate way of God saying I have given humanity the power to choose. But, of course we have to see the crucifixion in the light of the resurrection. Man’s power over the role of God in humanities life is not the last word. We can get our own way, we can exercise power over God and we can cause the ultimate divide between us and God. But God wins. The Death of Jesus defeats the power of Sin and death – because by enduring it and suffering its consequences, it is defeated.
As a world we are suffering the consequences of sin. Covid 19 is not God’s punishment of humanity its humanity bearing the consequences of its own actions. We cannot ignore it nor its consequences. But we will rise out of the ashes. Death is not the end of the story.
As we enter into this Holy Week which will be like none other that we have experienced, let the closed doors be a reminder of the Stone sealed tomb… just waiting to be opened.
Let the isolation be a clear reminder that the way of the Cross, is not an easy road, but it is a rewarded road.
Let the separation from others and from the normal corporate liturgies of the Church be a reminder that we each need to take personal responsibility for our salvation. We each need to respond to Jesus’ question, “but who do you say that I am.” As we approach this Jerusalem, as we enter Holy Week, may the Holy Spirit lead us, inspire us, and bless us with an intimacy with God, May Jesus lead us as He led the first Disciples through their fear and confusion, through their pain and loss, all the way to the Cross and beyond, to the joy of resurrection.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all, now and throughout eternity.