The Church is the People
Dear Friends in Christ:
This will certainly be the most unusual Easter most of us have ever experienced! No Easter church service with joyful Alleluias announcing the resurrection of our Lord. No Easter flowers with the scent of spring filling our sanctuary. No greeting each other with the words, “Christ is Risen,” and no hearing the triumphant reply, “He is Risen indeed!” Instead we will continue to stay “Safer at Home” and pray for our world and our community in the midst of this health crisis.
But Easter will still dawn and the church is still the church! John Pavlovitz, a Christian writer, wrote an article on March 27. He says it all so much better than I ever could. Let me share some of his words:
“Many people who talk about the Church miss what’s always been true—even many Christians. The Church has never had anything to do with geography. It was never a building, never a fixed, physical location you visited for an hour on Sunday. That’s far too small a space to fit the vast and sprawling life it produces.
The Church has always been the people who gather together to do the work of compassion and mercy and love and justice, regardless of where and when they gather. They are living, breathing, animated sanctuaries who house divinity.
In these terrifying, draining, disorienting moments, the Church is doing what it was always supposed to do:
* Exhausted healthcare workers are on the front lines, boldly living out sacrificial love of strangers.
* Courageous first responders are daily placing themselves in harm’s way to care for their neighbors as themselves.
* Grocery store employees are working tirelessly to fill ever-emptying shelves so that hungry people can have their daily bread.
* Faith communities are rallying people and marshaling resources and redirecting energies to continue to love the least of these.
* Heroic teachers are feverishly finding creative ways to shepherd well the children in their care, without physical proximity.
* Emotionally and physically taxed parents are contenting with a swirling storm of fierce worries, while being a calm, steady, gentle reminder to their children that they are beloved and they needn’t fear.
Those people are being the Church now as much as ever, with the embodied hymns of and exhaled prayers and walking sermons that rise up in the brutal trenches of this life, when the compassionate love of Jesus is incarnated in their work and their words.
These things cannot be relegated to one place for one hour, they are the expansive holy ground of hospital rooms and store aisles and makeshift closet computer workspaces and dining room tables and wooded paths. They are the tiny yet mighty acts of goodness that no worship service can create or contain.
Whatever the work of Jesus is, it isn’t waiting quietly in a building to be unlocked and released. And that’s the beautiful truth of these dark days: even in the middle of a terrifying pandemic, even when schedules are interrupted, even when chaos is ever-present, even when people are scattered, even when buildings filled with pews and class rooms are closed—the Church is still the Church and love is still love.
Every day is Easter for those who are willing to see it. There is always life breaking through, always restoration happening, always resurrection taking place, always glorious rebirth happening, always miracles in our midst.
We won’t worry about timetables or deadlines.
The Church doesn’t need to be open by Easter.
The Church is already open.
Hallelujah and Amen”
To which I can only add and echo. Hallelujah and another Amen.
Yours in Christ,