It sort of feels that way, doesn’t it? On Holy Saturday, the followers of Jesus were being careful and hunkering down. St. John in his Gospel says, “The doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews.” In other words, they were staying inside because the world out there was uncertain and filled with danger. Doesn’t that sound familiar? This was reminiscent of an even earlier time of great turmoil when an enemy was raising havoc and Isaiah advised the people, “Come my people, enter your chambers and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a while until the wrath has past.” (Isa. 27:20)
We have celebrated Easter and we hold fast to the message of Easter hope.
But it feels as if we are stuck in Holy Saturday as we are painfully aware of the death, destruction and danger that still lurks outside our door. Like the disciples in that upper room we are being quiet and trying to stay safe. Our normal routine has been broken and there is time to think. COVID-19 has given us lots to think about and lots to grieve. The loss of life across the country is staggering. I am among those who grieve, having lost a close friend and colleague of over thirty years. I think of my family members working in medicine in area hospitals, and one assembling test kits and delivering them to hot spots, which makes me very aware of the present dangers.
COVID-19 makes us realize what is really important.
Family is important. Life is important. People are important. Community is important. Having systems that are strong and operational when they are needed is important. We have seen great damage occur where systems have been neglected or dismantled, as a result of short sightedness. Too much had been taken for granted until the times proved us wrong, exposing our short sightedness, foolishness and hubris.
While we are lying low and have the time, we might think about another thing that COVID-19 has to say to us, “If you think this is bad, then you ain’t seen nothing yet.” COVID-19 will look like kindergarten compared with the destruction and loss of life that is coming if church and society do not step up their game for dealing with climate change.
I remember the first Earth Day in 1970.
I was a young man in graduate school. It is now fifty years later. I am now an old man looking back and seeing that we have squandered most of those fifty years and fallen far short in our response to Climate Change. The work of earth care, or creation care, is of utmost importance for us to engage on many levels. The good news is that we still have time. The bad news is that the time is short. Scientists say that we have maybe 12 years to bring this problem under some sort of control. To some that may sound like a long time, but to others, like me, it is the blink of an eye.
When the news of the resurrection reached those hiding behind locked doors, what did they do?
Society was still a dangerous place. What the authorities and enemies did to Christ, they could do to them. That did not stop them. They realized that they were an Easter People, and they went out and spoke and taught openly and boldly. Yes some were killed for their actions, but as Tertullian, a church father and historian, wrote: “The blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church.” The church grew and became a world religion that would not and could not be stopped.
As an Easter People today, we have a message to get out.
It is a message of love. It is a message that says we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. In this time, and at this late stage, we are realizing that the earth is also our neighbor. We and the earth are all part of creation together. To put in more modern language, the earth is our space ship on which we depend completely for life. There is no life outside of this space ship for us and no life if this space ship is so damaged that it can no longer sustain life. This space ship does not belong to us to destroy. It belongs to God.
As an Easter People, we are called to be about life and not death. We are called to care for the earth and all that is upon it.
The psalmist has said: “The Earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1)
This time of Holy Saturday will pass. This time of being hunkered down will move into a time when we will be able to move about freely again. The psalmist commenting on such a time when the people were brought through a tight and dangerous time wrote: “You have brought us out into a spacious place.” (Ps. 66;12b)
We have a gift of time, a short span to be sure, during which we can make a real difference in the well being of this earth and of everything that lives on it. And that includes our children and our grand children.