Campus Minister with Cru at Stanford University, Associate Faculty in Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary
Yesterday was the beginning of Holy Week in the Christian tradition. I have been thinking a lot about this week and what it means during a global pandemic. The events that we reflect on and celebrate are not gone; but the rituals, the ceremony, the symbols, and the traditions that help us make those events more of a reality won’t be there in the same way. It is a bit disorienting.
We usually celebrate Easter Sunday with friends or family and a shared meal. We usually go to church to celebrate with others (I like when we say “He is risen”…and then someone says back, “He is risen indeed”), and we usually have our annual Easter-egg hunt with another family. Our oldest kids have known each other for 20 years (they met in a Gymboree class 20 years ago when they were 6 months old). We still hide eggs at the school across the street…but since the kids are getting older, we started to involve them in hiding eggs for the middle-schoolers when they come back to school on the Monday after Easter. Who doesn’t want to find money or candy (hygenic and properly sealed) in an egg on the first day back to school after Spring Break? These are all losses that we are grieving. But we will try to find a way to celebrate—a way to bring the story of Jesus from 1st-Century Palestine into our 21st-Century pandemic-shaped lives.
Holy Week is about hope. It starts with hope and ends with hope: Palm Sunday and Easter: A “Triumphal Entry” and a “Resurrection.” But…the time between is filled with shattered hopes, grief, betrayal, questions, doubts, abandonment, suffering, mockery, death, and silence. We clean up well on Easter, but the week before was not clean. When the writers of the New Testament talk about hope (it is one of the cardinal virtues of the Christian faith: faith, hope, and love), they usually nod to the resurrection. I think that one of the reasons for this is not just the miracle that took place—that God could conquer sin and death by raising Jesus from the dead—but that Jesus walked through the mess of that week to get to Sunday.
So, I am trying to find hope this week. Not a naive hope that overlooks the loss, the pain, the struggle, the loneliness, the isolation, or the suffering. I don’t want to skip from Sunday to Sunday of Holy Week. I want a real hope in a God who is also present during the week…I will be struggling and reinventing ways to find that this Easter—the people who are usually messengers of that hope will be at least 6 feet away.
Photography By Bonnie Sanders