08 Apr Easter amid Covid-19
Whatever your faith or spiritual beliefs, the message of the Easter story, of self-sacrifice for the greater good, resonates through the current global crisis. This Easter weekend, our Chaplain, Revd. Simon Paul shares his reflections, as he considers how the love and lessons of Easter can help us endure the hardships presented by the pandemic, and perhaps even emerge from it with a fresh perspective on life.
The Easter story has incredible highs and lows! It begins with Palm Sunday when the crowds hail their new king, as Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey. The crowds lay down palm branches and cloaks for him to ride over, instead of a red carpet. The story is a direct challenge to power. Conquering kings would claim their victory by riding into a city to claim ownership of the territory and people that were now under their subjugation. People would throng the streets to demonstrate their loyalty to the new leader knowing that failure to do so would place their lives and their families in danger.
Jesus rides a donkey instead of a war horse and is greeted with palm branches rather than a guard of honour. This was not the entry of a victorious warrior but the victory of a man who eschewed all violence and called for peace! In the midst of Covid–19, the remarkable thing is that the world is a more peaceful place. The tensions remain but the bigger existential threat means that for now, as on the first Palm Sunday, we are learning that war and violence should be put aside. One commentator reflected that just a fraction of the money spent each year on military weapons for defense would be enough to prevent viruses like this killing people!
As politicians scrabble to gain control over the situation, Palm Sunday reminds us that God’s will is for power to be used to bring peace not war.
The Easter Story takes us from the triumph of Palm Sunday to the quiet moments of the Last Supper, where Jesus gathers with his closest friends and supporters in the upper room. The world outside is plotting his downfall but for a short while there is peace and the chance to be with loved ones.
"We are learning that the food seller, the nurse, the doctor, people caring for the elderly, are the people that we rely on most. As human busyness slows still we are allowing the planet to heal, the air we breathe to purify, the wild animals that we exploit to roam free. Could these days in isolation change our understanding of what is truly important in life?"
Covid–19 has broken into all our routines and thrown everything upside down. It has put a massive question mark over every area of our lives, most importantly our finances and careers. It has also, like the Last Supper, thrown many of us together with our loved ones. Families have never, until this pandemic, been forced to share space together, in an ‘upper room’. It reminds us that whilst there is uncertainty outside, we have each other, our most precious loved ones around us, just as Jesus did during his last supper! These moments may seem strained and difficult. Jesus heard the disciples arguing amongst themselves as to who was the greatest! It was only when he got down on his knees and began washing their feet that they realized how ridiculous their arguing had been. Could we, like the disciples, make this time with our loved ones be the most precious interlude in our lives?
This interlude is also helping us to realize how out of line our values and priorities have become. How we value success and money over precious human contact. We are learning that the food seller, the nurse, the doctor, people caring for the elderly, are the people that we rely on most. As human busyness slows, we are allowing the planet to heal, the air we breathe to purify, the wild animals that we exploit to roam free. Could these days in isolation change our understanding of what is truly important in life? Could we come out of this kinder and more considerate people not just with our loved ones but with the planet that we share with all living creatures?
The low point of the Easter Story is Good Friday. The crucifixion was such a cruel punishment for a person who only spoke of peace and love. We are realizing that Covid–19 does not discriminate between human beings. There may be among our community those who lose loved ones in the harshest way. The virus forces people into hospital isolation where no visitors are allowed. In the UK some of the most wonderful people have lost their lives. This includes doctors, nurses, a headteacher, and numerous people who have given their whole lives to caring for others. There have been different kinds of loss. People have lost businesses that have been built up over generations and some may lose the house that they live in.
The community of Woodstock School has been torn apart by this virus. The Seniors have lost their final weeks and months in which friendship, love, support and memories would have been shared, treasured and celebrated. Staff members have had to leave the hillside without saying their goodbyes to friends and colleagues. We see each other by Zoom but feel the pain of distance and long to be chatting together in the school dining room. For every individual, who is part of the Woodstock community, there is bereavement and loss, a sense of isolation and abandonment. This is the story of Good Friday lived out across the world. But Good Friday is not the end!!
Easter Day for Mary and Martha, who arrived at the tomb with sweet smelling scent for the body, was a total shock. It was a shock that transformed their sadness into joy, their grief into laughter. Resurrection changed everything!
Be assured that the world will come out of this disaster! We will come out of it changed, wiser and more understanding of what is important in life. It is down to each one of us to use this time to reflect, to learn, to listen, to grow, so that we determine to build a kinder more sustainable world. Easter Day for the disciples changed everything and gave the disciples a new understanding of the length and breadth of the love of God. Can we also use this extraordinary moment in history to change? Can we change our relationship with each other and with the planet so that the world is a kinder place for all?
May God bless you this Easter, may you know the love and protection of God. Together, may we bring that love to a hurting world that needs healing and hope.
Simon Paul, Chaplain