South Carolina Episcopalians
An Independent Journal of News & Commentary for Anglicans
not affiliated with ACNA, the Episcopal Church or any of their dioceses
Easter Sunday 2020
For the first few weeks, I was highly attentive to news stories about those who had died from COVID-19, their families, and the health care workers who had cared for them.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, one of the networks aired a tragic story of three children who’d lost their mom to the pandemic… and, without even thinking, I headed to the kitchen for another cup of coffee.
That was when I realized that, at some level, my brain and my heart were hardening themselves against the suffering, and tuning out the ubiquitous messages of chaos and death.
My circuits were overloaded.
On Palm Sunday, I tried to listen to the gospel reading but my mind could not focus on yet another story of suffering. So, I cheated and looked up the gospel for Easter Sunday.
As you will hear today, the climax of the reading is the moment Mary recognizes Jesus as he calls her name. She responds with the simple word, “Master”.
According to the authors of John, this is the first conversation to happen in the new age of resurrection… and it is animated by the simple calling of names. Grief, confusion, and anxiety are instantly cast aside, and replaced by confidence and healing... solely through the power of naming each other.
Long before Christ, the word resurrection had no religious connotation. It literally meant to raise up or be raised up. The implication was that it takes at least two entities – one acting on the other – for resurrection to happen.
As Christians, we believe this relationship is at the heart of our common life in the Risen Christ. It is not a private relationship between me and Jesus, but new reality between the Creator and all humanity, grounded in love and made whole through the experience of resurrection among us.
But how do we raise up each other or be raised up in the midst of such widespread death and suffering? I don't know.
I took a hint from today's gospel and decided to write down the names of every person mentioned in personal conversations or news accounts about COVID-19. Those who died. Those who survived. Those who ministered to them in spite of risks to their own lives and, of course, their loved ones.
At first, I'd tried to say a prayer for them, I could rarely find the right words. So, I just read their names out loud.
I was surprised by how much this affected me.
It reminded me that, while the suffering of others is not always apparent in our day-to-day living, we are part of it even so. In spite of living in quarantine, we remain part of a wider communities of faith through which God has always acted and will continue to be made known to us.
Finally, as with Mary, the Risen Christ calls us daily -- by our names -- to be witnesses to resurrection, not simply as historical fact, but as a present reality, remembering Paul's confidence that through this act of raising Jesus from the dead, "All are made alive."
-- Steve Skardon