Easter Sunday John 20:1-9
This is not a normal Easter. We are locked in our homes, unable to gather together and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.
But even in these unusual circumstances, it is Easter still. Therefore, we must try to connect the good news of this holy day to the struggles that we face during this coronavirus pandemic. There is a detail in today’s gospel that can help us. When Mary Magdalen tells Peter and the beloved disciple that she cannot find Christ’s body, the two disciples run to the tomb. They do not walk to the tomb. They do not hasten to the tomb. They run. Why is it that Peter and the beloved disciple are so anxious to go to the tomb as quickly as possible? It certainly must be that they have a hope—a wild hope—that they may see Jesus again.
For Peter and the beloved disciple, Jesus was not just a teacher or their master. He was their friend. They loved him so much that they were willing to leave all things and follow him. After his brutal death and burial, their lives were broken, their future was unsure. They would have done anything to see and touch Jesus again. So, when Mary Magdalen tells them that the tomb is empty, they run with the hope that the impossible could be true. They run hoping that they could again be in the presence of of the Lord.
This experience of Peter and the beloved disciples reminds us how essential it is to have physical contact with others. It also reminds us that the normal way we experience the risen Lord is by our interaction with other people. It is when we gather together, in the physical presence of one another in this parish church, that we have supreme confidence that Christ is with us. It is when we see our family and friends that we know that we also see in them the risen Lord. It is when we touch the broken and poor in service that we know we are touching Jesus.
This is what makes this struggle with the coronavirus so difficult. For all the right reasons, we must distance ourselves from one another. Yet, in this separation it becomes clear how much we lose when we are not in one another’s presence. Grandparents long to be able to hold their grandchildren again. Friends wish that they could be with one another to share a meal. Coworkers long for the day when they can work shoulder to shoulder with one another once more. Such separation is not simply a personal loss. It is a spiritual loss, because the normal way that we experience Christ in our lives is through our interaction with one another.
Now of course, God is always with us. Even when we are alone, we know that if we turn to God, God will comfort us. But the social distancing that this crisis places on us robs us. It takes from us the normal way we experience God’s presence. Like the early disciples after the crucifixion, our lives are broken, because we are not able to experience Christ’s presence by gathering for prayer, fellowship, and service.
This is not a normal Easter. We do not have the usual means by which Christ communicates his love and presence to us. But this Easter, like the first Easter, gives us hope. It promises that a day will come when our quarantine will end. Like the early disciples who heard the voice of Mary Magdalen on that first Easter morning, we are called to hope that isolation and fear will be replaced by community and joy. So, this Easter, we wait for that Easter. And we believe, that when the day comes and we hear that Alleluia, we, like the early disciples, will run to the place where we can meet and touch one another again. There we will hold hands and sing together once more the glory of God.