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Don't put the miracle of Easter on hold

By Rachael Adams | 08 Apr 2020

Tearfund’s Rachael Adams explores how we can process this loss and move forward to embrace a new way of remembering and celebrating Jesus’ life and resurrection. And how – even in the midst of a lockdown – we can still share this amazing truth with others.

With many countries around the world enforcing lockdowns due to the coronavirus, Easter is going to feel very different this year. And it is okay to feel sad about that. But that’s no reason to press pause on the miracle of Easter…

Tearfund’s Rachael Adams explores how we can process this loss and move forward to embrace a new way of remembering and celebrating Jesus’ life and resurrection. And how – even in the midst of a lockdown – we can still share this amazing truth with others.

Happy first Easter
I remember the first time I celebrated Easter. It was six years ago, but it feels like yesterday. I was studying in Florida on a year abroad, and had given my life to Jesus only a few weeks before Easter Sunday.

Public transport where I was living was unreliable and I didn’t know how I was going to make it to the Good Friday evening service at church. Thankfully, a friend drove all the way across town so I could join in. It was candlelit and breathtaking in its sombre simplicity. I cried while taking communion.

On Sunday, the church gathered again for a bring and share breakfast before the service. Out on the verandah that wrapped itself around the building, everyone feasted together. Children ran and played. Laughter was the loudest noise and everything was baked in glorious sunlight. All that before we came to worship together.

Two weeks later I got baptised.

Why am I sharing this? Since coming back to the UK, Easter has always been my favourite time of year. And this year was no different. I’d been planning, with my pastors, the different services we were going to hold, ways we could involve the young people, and praying that all those who came would meet Jesus. But all of these plans have now changed. And it has been hard to know what to do with that.

But in the Easter story itself, we can find that we’re in good company. That a few thousand years ago, there was a group of people who, similar to us, found it hard to accept the new…

Friend to Christ
Jesus’ disciples and followers enjoyed years of his teaching and friendship. Being in close company with him, they shared the everyday together – meals, laughter, frustrations and fears.

To see not only their leader but their friend on the cross must have been devastating. The thorns in his crown piercing his head. Nails driven into his hands and feet. Dehydrated. Scared. Alone.

‘And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).’

(Mark 15:34)

When Jesus rose again it must have set alight so many different emotions for his followers. Delight, astonishment and joy certainly. The scriptures had been fulfilled – Jesus had conquered death and risen again! But they must have felt a sense of sadness too.

When Jesus came back, it wasn’t to pick up his old lifestyle and friendships. Once he ascended, there would be no more boat trips and walks together. No more sharing a meal over a campfire. Jesus was going to be with the Father, and that meant grieving again for the friend they had lost.

Take it from Mary
Mary Magdalene was the first person to see Jesus in his new body – after first mistaking him for the gardener, that is. But even when he revealed himself to her, she still wasn’t able to go to him as she would’ve liked to.

‘Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’ (John 20:17 ESV).

In his book, Holy Longing, Ron Rolheiser writes about how Mary may have been feeling upon seeing Jesus again:

Mary Magdala’s Easter Prayer

I never suspected
  Resurrection
    and to be so painful
    to leave me weeping
With Joy
  to have met you, alive and smiling, outside an empty tomb
With Regret
  not because I’ve lost you
  but because I’ve lost you in how I had you –
    in understandable, touchable, kissable, clingable flesh
    not as fully Lord, but as graspably human.

I want to cling, despite your protest
  cling to your body
  cling to your, and my, clingable humanity
  cling to what we had, our past.

But I know that…if I cling
  you cannot ascend and
  I will be left clinging to your former self
  …unable to receive your present spirit.

And this is what we can take heart in. Our grief is natural and understandable. The plans we had, have been changed beyond our control. Sadly, we are going to miss out on going to church and being with our community. Hugs, handshakes and high fives. There are family members we are crying out to embrace again.

But we can’t hold onto this sadness – otherwise it will take root and turn into further despair. Take the time you need. Then surrender it to the Father. In doing so, remember that none of this is outside of his control.

Locked down but not out
It is only when we surrender our feelings to the Father that we can embrace the new – and everything that comes along with it. And even though this new landscape looks very different, we are all in the same boat.

The church has never been more united as it closes its physical doors and opens its arms virtually to welcome everyone in.

The resurrection story hasn’t changed. It is still as relevant as ever. This Easter let us continue to turn our eyes to God, worshipping him and thanking him for the incredible gift he has given us.

‘I would like to encourage everyone that we do not fight this with scientific efforts or leadership, technology or medicine alone – we need prayer,’ says Bernard Mtonga, who leads Tearfund’s work in Liberia and Sierra Leone. ‘I believe that our God is able and if we as a church rise, our God will answer our prayer. I would like us to stand as a church so that we would not face the worst case scenario.’

In the countries where Tearfund is working, we are continuing – as safely as possible – to equip the church to respond to disaster. We’re sharing resources that churches can use to pastor their congregations, reach out to the people living in poverty and help limit the spread of the virus. We continue to follow Jesus where the need is greatest – and that means standing with the most vulnerable during this time.

Across Latin America and the Caribbean many countries have enforced lockdowns similar to the one here in the UK. This means churches have had to go online and think creatively about how they can reach people in need.

‘I can say 100 per cent of churches are using online tools to be in contact with each other. In my church we are using WhatsApp as a tool for prayer groups,’ shares Rosa Camargo de Bravo, who leads Tearfund’s work in Latin America and the Caribbean. ‘In Latin America most people have a phone and Whatsapp. My church also used YouTube to share the meeting. The temple is closed but the church is not.’

’The temple is closed but the church is not.'

Rosa Camargo de Bravo

Coronavirus may have locked us out of the church building, but it is no match for our God. It cannot separate us from his love. It is our relationship with the Father that will sustain us during this time. And he isn’t going anywhere.

So let us celebrate
Here are some tips on how to stay engaged this weekend:

‘It is infinitely moving to hear our supporters who are also afflicted in no small measure wanting to know how we are doing and how they can pray for us and for those who depend on our work,’ says Emmanuel Murangira, who leads Tearfund’s work in Rwanda. ‘We too are praying unceasingly for our supporters; that God keeps them safe from this virus and that God remembers and rewards their acts of kindness towards the least of the Kingdom. Together we shall overcome in the name of Jesus.’

PLEASE PRAY

Father, this isn’t how I wanted to celebrate Easter. I lay down at your feet my hurts and disappointments. My frustrations and fears.

[Take time to share with God how you’re feeling.]

I take comfort, God, in that I know you are still in control. That you stay the same and your love never changes. Thank you for sending your Son to us, so that we may have eternal life and a relationship with you.

[Take time to thank God for who he is and for the sacrifice that Jesus made for you.]

Lord, as freely you gave your life for us, I ask you to show me how I can share this love with people in need.

Amen.

To help inspire you this Easter, our creative team has put together a short film. Featuring poetry from Gideon Heugh and artwork by Lloyd and Elijah Kinsley, it’s a powerful reminder of the triumph of love over fear.

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Photo of Rachael Adams

Written by Rachael Adams