I don’t know what these days of isolation have been like for you, but as an extroverted clergyperson, I’ve experienced some hard times. There are people I want to see in person—those in the hospital for whom I want to anoint with oil and pray over them, my parents in San Antonio, and friends who we’d love to have over for dinner and conversation. As a family, we are limited to the four of us. Yes, we are blessed to be together when some are by themselves, but there are times we’d all like to be by ourselves as those who are alone want to be with others. There are times I want to go out to eat or shopping or to my office. Sometimes this gets me down, so I go for a walk or take a nap or think up a new recipe for dinner. These are things I do to get out of my funk.
Of course, there is also prayer, Bible reading, and worship, which I do daily. There are connections with others through Zoom meetings, which, unfortunately, I sometimes find unsatisfying because it reminds me how many people I can’t see in person! And then I realize, I’m not the only one feeling this way. This feeling of isolation is part of our common humanity. We were created for community, not isolation. Even God said that it was not good for Adam to be alone. But this period of distancing and isolating because of the contagiousness of the coronavirus is important for us to do, even though it may have side effects that can range from boredom to depression, from anxiety to fear, from loneliness to too much togetherness.
And then there is the fact this is all happening during Holy Week, when I usually get to be with more friends than at almost any time during the year. No Palm Sunday. No Maundy Thursday. No Good Friday. No Holy Saturday Baptisms. No Easter Vigil. Yes, there are virtual productions of these, but it is not the same. Instead, some days feel more like Saturday after the Crucifixion rather than the Day of Resurrection.
Yet this is not the first time a community of Christians had to isolate:
In the city huge numbers gathered to celebrate, standing shoulder to shoulder, holding hands, and embracing one another—even shouting “Hosanna!” The One arrived with excitement in the air. Exuberant life. Palpable hope. Something new and electrifying just around the corner.
In a matter of days things changed. The crowd dwindled to thirteen at a hastily arranged dinner party. With clean feet, one left. Twelve talked after dinner and went for a late evening stroll, continuing outside the city walls to a garden to spend the night. There an unexpected intrusion caused eleven, the flock, to scatter and flee, leaving the One alone. Brought back into the city, the One was mocked, tortured, and ultimately crucified as the noonday became as night. A depressing darkness settled over the city and the distanced and isolated eleven.
Days later the sun rose—the first Easter morning. There was no gathering, there was no celebrating and singing, there was no close-knit fellowship. Some were in the city. Some were in the outlying towns. Some were nowhere to be found. But that did not stop the One from rising from the grave. That did not stop the One from defeating death, decay, and destruction. That did not stop the One from appearing to Mary Magdalene, the “other” women, Peter and Cleopas and his other disciples. The isolation and the fear his followers experienced did not and will never stop the One from being the Resurrection and the Life. Nothing will stop the Good Shepherd from gathering back his scattered sheep.
This Easter day will find many of us distanced from each other like Jesus’ disciples were that first Easter. They felt alone. They felt an enemy lurked outside their locked doors. They felt fear for their very lives. They felt there was no hope.
They were wrong. Jesus was with them. Jesus had defeated the enemy. Jesus’ peace would drive out their fear. Jesus was and always has been their hope and our hope today. Jesus was and is and always will be alive!
Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
The Rev. Reagan Cocke