EASTER MESSAGE: Keep the faith during pandemic
by Bishop Michael Maxwell
God’s peace and blessings be upon you as we celebrate this Easter day and the bedrock of our faith in a quiet unusual manner.
During the Lenten season just ended, we would have followed a programme and process of “Eeeeeezing toward Easter” that invited us to further contemplate on our lives and our calling to be “the rising church to raise our nation”. In developing this programme, with the assistance of the chairpersons of the Church Missions Committee, I certainly didn’t fathom in my mind that God would have been preparing us for such a time and season as this that is now upon our nation and our world in terms of having to fight against this pandemic of the coronavirus, also known as covid-19.
On this Easter day, we are therefore being called to boldly rise to this challenge of keeping our faith and Christian community alive, and drawing others to faith, in light of all that is happening around us. God invites us to commit ourselves to that of working with Him in conquering this virus and raising our nation to a newness of life from this experience.
Although we are now unable to gather in our regular places of worship for our traditional Easter services, we nevertheless have not postponed or cancelled our Easter observance. Today is still that time for celebratory worship, as we thank God for the resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, who is the hope of glory.
We are still led to worship and praise Him today, outside the four walls of our church buildings, because we have all been reminded during our Lenten season, as we reflected on our call to enrich our worship experience, that worship is not primarily about where we are located physically, but more about our spiritual and emotional state to encounter, glorify and express our love for, and praise and thanks to, our God – the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier of our lives.
On this Resurrection Sunday, we therefore worship now even within the confines of our homes with our families, thanking Him for the gift of our salvation. We also praise Him for raising our Church to be creative even in offering traditional, contemporary and formulated liturgies via social platforms to encourage and enable our members to continue to be a worshipping and praying community of believers. To God be the glory.
As we have eased to the beginning of this Easter season, we also praise God for having raised us as well to be a people who are now more hungry for His Word to strengthen and guide us through this valley of the shadow of death and not to be overly anxious. His Word is truly a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path to remind us that He is with us, that He is able to save and that nothing can separate us from His love and offer of peace.
In response to the presence of COVID-19, God has inspired our Anglican Church to offer our members, and invite them to a state of having, a deeper contemplation on God’s Word through daily or weekly expositions, devotions and Bible studies delivered electronically by not only the ordained, but also lay ministers of our church. What a glorious and mysterious God, who brings forth good even out of the ills of Covid-19; and this is certainly the essential message of Easter, that we serve a God who brings life out of death.
On this resurrection Sunday, we also recognised and celebrate that God has called us to rise and get with it when it comes to our youth and their nurturing and involvement in the life and ministry of our church.
The technological world, which COVID-19 has pretty much pressed us into utilizing more keenly, has been our young people’s world for some time and we are now being raised to join them on their turf with the opportunity of connecting more effectively with them – sharing our faith with them and theirs with us – as we equip each other for the work of ministry, the building up the body of Christ and the re-establishing the Kingdom within our nation.
This Easter day also is to be celebrated in recognition that God raised Jesus Christ to be the Lord of our lives, the one we are to follow and imitate in terms of our relationship with the Father and each other if we are to also eventually experience the resurrection to eternal life. Our resurrected Lord is to be our moral compass to enable us to live right with God and each other, and to such a commitment in life He wants to raise us today that our steps be ordered by Him as He calls us to a life of holiness and to assist in the healing and raising of our nation to righteousness.
There is so much to celebrate this Easter day and yet another aspect of this day is surely the peace that God gives by way of the message of His Son’s resurrection. We know of the fear the disciples encountered following Jesus’ crucifixion. They feared for their lives, maybe even as many of us do even now, but when they encountered the risen Christ and His offer of “Peace be with you”! and the power and good news of His resurrection, everything changed and they were able to boldly face the future despite the threats to their lives. Today, our resurrected Lord also offers us that “Shalom” in the midst of COVID-19, that peace for us to continue in the faith and trust that is needed to meet and conquer this trying season and to be at peace with God and with each other.
And finally, with the celebration of Easter coming at a time such as this when we are all facing this pandemic together regardless of our status, nationality, ethnicity or creed, we are reminded that Jesus Christ died and was raised back to life to be the Lord of all and not just Lord of some; that He loves and cares for all of us regardless of who we are.
He was raised that we also may be raised to having such love and concern for one another, and to embrace each other as God embraces us. Even though we are at this time called to a season of abstaining from physical contact, we are still called to reach out and support each other, to help raise the spirits of those who are currently infected and affected by the scourge of COVID-19 or other scourges of the past. May this truly be a time to show no partiality but rather to love each other as Christ loves us, and gave Himself for us, that we can be raised with Him in loving fellowship with the Father and each other.
As we celebrate our Easter day in this unusual way, let us still raise our voices in worship, let us reflect on, contemplate deeply and be inspired by His Holy Word, let us share this good news of our faith with the young ones currently in our homes to raise them in the “fear” and knowledge of the Lord, let us recommit ourselves to that of following our risen Lord as our moral guide and set the example for others, let us be at peace and offer that peace and love by embracing them in the love of the Lord. May this Easter season be one of a difference as Jesus raises us to be more like Him.
On behalf of my family, I wish you and yours, a blessed Easter. I am your friend and bishop, Michael Maxwell. (PR)
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