With the new season of Easter comes a new hope for abundant life! These fifty days between Easter Sunday and Pentecost are celebrations of Christ's victory over death and the new life offered to us as we grow more and more deeply in our relationship with the Risen Lord. My husband, Dave, recently said, "Just when we think the tomb is empty, it has more surprises for us." I've been pondering this lately. What good surprises could be waiting for us after a long season of despair? There is one plant in my yard with which I have a special relationship: a blue hydrangea near the garage that I see every time I leave or return home. Last spring, just after the nationwide shut down to try and control the spread of COVID-19, I decided to try and rescue this plant from the impending doom I could see in the branches and vines that were closing in on it and stealing its brightness. So, I spent an afternoon pulling, digging, and trimming and gave it some room to breathe and grow. I was afraid I had done it too late in the season, but it still produced some beautiful blooms that delighted me for weeks on end. I was thrilled! About a month ago, I noticed it was starting to display tiny green shoots from many of its branches. Building on what I had learned a year ago, I trimmed dead branches, and once again made some space for the plant to breathe and thrive, hoping I was on-time for some good growth this season. It didn't take long for the tiny green shoots to become leaves and multiply, filling the plant out, giving it shape, and giving me hope that I would enjoy some more beautiful blooms this year. I'm no gardener, but this makes sense to me. The plant needs space to breathe and grow. It needs help to receive sunlight and water. And it needs time. Last Sunday's sermon was meant to encourage us not to rush through the celebration of Easter but to take the time we are given in the liturgical calendar to continue to look for signs for life and hope. There are many to experience: the beautiful earth as it wakes up from winter and begins to show us the many colors of God's creation, the smiles on faces of family members who have not been together in more than a year as they gather after having been fully vaccinated, and the joy of the beginning of our return to in-person worship. All of these are major undertakings. The earth is designed to have our hands to tend it and help it grow. The vaccines available to us are an opportunity to take an active role in stopping the spread and devastation caused by COVID-19. Our evolving plans to start worship inside the building are signs of good work done by the Re-Gathering Team as it faces the large task of making sure everything we do is simultaneously as meaningful and safe as we can make it. New hope is all around. Here are some ways YOU can continue to spread the joy and hope of Easter as we begin to re-gather on our church property:
make sure church folk you know who aren't online are aware of the upcoming in-person, indoor worship services, and HELP THEM GET REGISTERED.
continue to practice good COVID-19 prevention protocols, like frequent handwashing, wearing a mask, and keeping a social distance of 6 feet when we are together.
pray for our church and continue to support it in every way that you can.
pray for our community. As COVID-19 numbers seem to be trending in the right direction, we are still experiencing a global pandemic. The only way we will stop it is to work together for the good of all of us as we do everything we can to slow it down and eventually contain it.
(this one is the most important) continue to work on your relationship with God. Being away from our normal routines has made that harder this past year. But it's more important than ever before to be connected to God and the hope God is offering in the world. Our church continues to offer you opportunities to do this work, but you have to be active in participating and growing the relationship by whatever means are available to you. Might I suggest praying daily and reading your Bible every day? Worship will continue to be offered virtually every week, even as we begin to gather in person, either through live streaming or through a video of the in-person service after it has finished.
The empty tomb, indeed, has more to reveal to us. I look forward to discovering it with you, and I would love to hear from you about where you are seeing and experiencing new life. It really is all around.