[ The Resurrection of Christ ] Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,1 Corinthians 15:1, 3-4NIV
I am reading Unclean by Richard Beck. Well I say I am reading but I am about ten sentences into it and felt compelled to write. Beck begins by explaining a research carried out with Dixie cups. This involved a person spitting into a cup and then being asked to drink the contents.
Imagine: UTTER DISGUST
However the invention of the Dixie cup has brought us to this day with individual butter pats, impossible to open individual jam portions, plastic cups, disposable anything plastic and of course the much needed disposable personal protective equipment.
Dixie cups were invented because people were scared of contracting disease at communal water fountains. This was before antibiotics, vaccines and the truckload of medication and options we have today. We have knowledge, we know how viruses and bacteria congregate and jump from person to person. We have in the 1st world facilities to shower hundreds of times a day if we so wish. But people are still scared. There is a fear in something so small we cannot see it but that devastates lives indiscriminately. I have received emails of healthcare professionals around the world who have died as a result of Covid-19. Almost all do not make the headlines. Headlines are full of statistics, for ordinary people are and have been for some time statistics. Celebrities make the headlines as the rich, famous and the almost forgotten also die from Covid-19.
The disciples were in the Upper Room praying, some say huddled together, others say getting on with life (fishing etc.) but they were there and they were together. The day after, more than one report of his being alive was shared and discussed; these disciples of three years wondered what to believe. They were torn between hope and anxiety.
Jesus appeared to them and began to teach again until his Ascension. Do we know how they felt? Today as I reflect on the days after the Resurrection I focus on what the disciples needed.
What the disciples needed is what believers around the world need today. Encouragement and affirmation remind us of the gifts and strength we have been blessed with and be grateful for them. The crisis is distracting us from this central truth. Yes, there are problems and challenges, there is death and destruction, but crises come and go. God remains faithful to His promise for us.
Sometimes we can be overwhelmed by fear, by the unknown and by the uncertainty that Covid-19 presents. This crisis is rewriting how we be church and how we do church. There is so much need, pastoral visits by phone are increasing, people need contact however that is worked out with social distancing. The disciple Thomas needed contact touching Jesus in his wounds. Life without contact is strange. Thomas needed clarity, the world is looking for something that can give it clarity today. How will we be the day after all this over?
Many of my peers have wanted to get back to the 1st century church ideals, many others look to tradition and many others balance the two or come up with a fresh expression. The day after presents so many creative opportunities to create a new way of church once and for all. We cannot live together as they did in Acts, we cannot go into community as the monasteries of old. A lot of the talk around what church is has been “what is the irreducible minimum” but through that discussion no one suggested we all stay home. It was always something about gathering. How is God working in a new way in your life or those around you?
It is over two years since I heard my friend preach on fussing for a visit only to forget the main thing that the visitor was vegetarian. The church in Ephesus, (REVELATION 2) had forgotten the main thing: love. How in this season of Covid-19 do we keep the main thing the main thing. Each day is different now, it might look like the same thing every day. But each day gives us a new skill, a new way of reaching out, a different way. Creatively remembering our purpose may rattle and knock off perches our traditions of Sunday mornings. There is now no blending the old with the new. There is a new new every week. The disciples in the Upper Room were not expecting Jesus, though he had told them many times. Covid-19 has wiped out our expectations for what church is in this time.
Some pastors and ministers have become a lot busier that they ever were. In the busyness their root can lose focus. This time is a gift: Covid-19 has given us a pause button. This time could be a time when the spiritual disciplines we spout about become an integral part of our daily life. Self care in ministry is important at any time but now it is crucial. Over 50 priests in Italy have died of Covid-19. Is that sobering enough? It is about taking a deep breath and finding the inner resources you have to lean forward into ministry and care for others and yourself.
This crisis will pass: Easter Saturday in the waiting passed, Easter Sunday and our praise and worship for the Risen Saviour has ended. And now it is the day after, the day after. In this moment there is volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. When we look beyond the crisis it is like a small child peering over the sofa when something scary is on the television.
This crisis will end: but what state will the world be in, will each denomination survive the lack of cash in the coffers, will each church? Our endurance and faith is not only being tested in this season but it will even more in the day after. Thomas, bless him, forever known as doubting Thomas because he had to touch to believe. What is it that we need to dig into when the crisis is over? Hard work is ahead, no one can extrapolate the after effects of Covid-19. The fear will be a long time disapating.
In the post-Covid season imagine sharing a cup, sharing a hug, sharing a meal, what about a sharing plate?
Imagine: UTTER DISGUST
There is a fragility in the church’s hospitality. We have moved away from the Jesus model of sitting and sharing food with tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners. Maybe this will be the time to offer as bigger table and mean it. Maybe this will be the time when we share in poverty with our neighbours and community, maybe this will be the time when we create a missional church like no other. God desires mercy not sacrifice. Do you?