But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” – Matthew 28: 5-7
Dear Sisters, Brothers, and Siblings in Christ,
Today we enter the three days, what in Latin is called the Triduum, the three days of Jesus’ suffering and death prior to his resurrection on Easter. We begin today on Maundy Thursday. The word maundy means “commandment,” and on this day we remember Jesus gave the great commandment to love one another as Christ loves us. Jesus embodied this commandment by washing the disciples’ feet, taking the role of a servant, and calling his followers to serve others as Christ serves us. Little did the disciples know at that time how Jesus would serve them.
That night, he was arrested and prior to dawn he was tried by the religious authorities. On Good Friday, he was brought before the political authorities, before the Roman governor Pilate who sentenced him to death. He was crucified, died, and his body was placed in a tomb. On Holy Saturday, the Sabbath, the women who wished to pay him honor by anointing his body had to wait in obedience to the law until Sunday morning. Then they heard the good news that Jesus had risen, that they would see him, that death had been conquered and new life given through Christ’s death and resurrection.
Most of my ministry, I have focused on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday, giving little thought to the meaning of Holy Saturday. But I think all of us are in a Holy Saturday time. We are called to wait at home in order to protect our neighbors from possible contamination with COVID-19. Some of us wait, as the disciples did, with those closest to us, our families who similarly must stay at home. Some of us who live alone wait alone, reaching out to loved ones by telephone, social media, and other means of communication. But we wait, nonetheless. Like the disciples, we are dealing with the shock of how quickly our lives have changed. Like the disciples, we are wondering about death we did not anticipate, and may be worried that we or those we love will be next. Like the disciples, we are wondering how our lives will change, how our gatherings as followers of Jesus will be forever altered, and what the world and the church will be like for us when this is over.
The promise of Easter is that, in the midst of this worry, wondering, and waiting, Christ is with us. Whether you live with others or by yourself, you are not alone. Christ is with you. Jesus died and rose from the dead in order to take away the separation that our sin brought between us and God. Jesus is present by the power of the Holy Spirit to help us do what we are called to do now: wait. As we await our public health officials to tell us that it is safe to leave our homes, we can wait in hope, because we know we do not do so alone. Christ died and rose to be with us and will continue to be with us each day of our lives. Christ will be with us as we wait and will be with us to continue to share the good news of God’s love when our time of waiting is over.
I believe we will need to wait longer than we anticipated even a month ago. I first asked churches to abstain from meeting in person in mid-March, stating that we should stay apart at least through Palm Sunday. I amended that, following President Trump’s admonition, to the end of April. I believe we will need to wait even longer than that. Until our governor (either of Hawai’i or California, depending on where you live) and our local public health officials tell us it is safe to meet together, we must continue to practice social distancing in order to protect the lives of our neighbors. I want to encourage you in your waiting. God gives us all we need, each day, and will help us be resilient. We may even learn some things about our faith, ourselves, and our church, as we wait.
For we need not wait with nothing to do. I encourage you to take this time to deepen your personal spiritual practices. Take time for prayer, for Bible reading, for sitting in silence and listening for God. If you are unsure what can be done, contact your pastor and ask. Our congregations are so creative, and they have a variety of resources to help you take time as you wait to help you recognize that God is with you. For those with internet access, continue to worship with your congregation or, if your congregation does not have online worship, with a neighboring ELCA church, in order to nurture your connection both to God and to your siblings in Christ. Finally, while we are called to social distance, we are also called not to forget our neighbors in need. Many food banks and feeding programs need help and blood is desperately needed to aid the sick. If you can help, you are encouraged to do so.
Always remember, you are not alone. Jesus died and rose from the dead so that nothing could ever separate you from God. And even while we have to live in physical separation from one another, we are one with Christ and one with each other through the power of the Holy Spirit.
God bless you this Easter. And God grant you all you need during this time of Holy Saturday waiting.
Yours in Christ Jesus,
Bishop Andy Taylor