‘Digital Easter’: Old message, new hope

By Patrice Lewis

The entire world is groping around blindly, trying to come to terms with the new normal of lockdowns and social distancing. One of the most obvious and visible consequences is church attendance, which is down precipitously. For obvious reasons, most church services cannot abide by social distancing guidelines, particularly for religious holidays such as Resurrection Sunday where crowds are doubled or tripled.

Yes, church attendance may be down, but apparently faith is up. People are remembering the ultimate source of solace and strength, and it doesn’t spring from any government platitudes or solutions. It comes from a reliance on God.

Right now, many are struggling spiritually, which is why the Easter message needs to be heard more than ever.

We like to think what we’re experiencing as a result of the novel coronavirus is unique, and in some regards it is. And yet people have had to cope with pandemics before, and it’s a common government response to shut down all types of public gatherings, including churches.

For example, during the Renaissance whenever any communicable diseases swept Europe, churches and any other institutes (theaters, shops, schools) were closed. Back then, no one had the option of social media, so those who were quarantined were truly isolated, which must have wreaked havoc on their mental health.

This weekend, most churches are tasked with finding a new way to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. They are doing this by using technology to hold church remotely in what’s being termed “pixelated preaching.” Houses of worship everywhere are live-streaming their services, using the most modern technology to convey a very ancient message.

That ancient message is one of hope and consolation, a way to cope with despair and uncertainty. In times of trouble, the message God sent through His Son needs to be heard more than ever before. Atheists can mock this, but unbelievers forget (or ignore) something very important. While it’s true that rain falls on both the just and the unjust, it’s those with faith who have the courage to look beyond the hard times at a better future, whether on this earth or off it.

Churches are rising to the occasion. “In just a matter of weeks, the majority of churches across the country have switched to or enhanced their online ministry,” noted CBN News. “It’s the ‘new normal’ for 2020. And it means a digital Easter as well.”

Church leaders know people return to faith during time of crisis – and it’s been a long time since we’ve had a crisis of this magnitude. CBN notes how pastors report “they’re experiencing online ‘attendance’ that’s higher than their normal in-person Sunday service attendance. One in three pastors said they think this growth will continue after the current crisis has passed. … Many church leaders believe the pandemic represents a unique opportunity to share the Gospel. A recent Pew Research Center report showed that more than half of adults are praying for the end of the crisis – including people who normally don’t pray.”

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,” says Jesus, “and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Who among us can’t take comfort in those words? The best thing in the world any of us can do is take our troubles – medical, financial, familial, whatever – and dump them in the lap of a Higher Power.

“This year, we observe Easter in a challenging context amid painful situations,” reads a message from the World Council of Churches. “The COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected the whole world, is also affecting the way Easter is to be celebrated.”

For many church leaders, this “digital Easter” is new territory. Yet it might have a silver lining: Those who might not otherwise darken the door of a church can receive this critical message of hope right into their own homes via the live-streaming services and online spiritual outlets.

Sydney (Australia) Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies says when asked whether coronavirus had killed Easter, his answer is a “resounding no.”

“We’ve never experienced a crisis quite like this before,” Dr. Davies said in a video message.

“We have so many fears – unemployment, loneliness, the safety of our loved ones. Of course, the greatest fear of all from this virus is the fear of death, but the message of Easter is that death has been conquered. There is hope because God sent Jesus into our world.”

Critics point out how it can seem insensitive or even impossible to offer hope when people are sick, dying, anxious, unemployed, or facing other difficulties.

Yet without hope, what do we have? Without a resurrection, what good was Jesus’ death on the cross?

That’s the whole message we should be focusing on this weekend. The pandemic has given people a lot to worry about – not least of which is our own mortality or the mortality of loved ones. In that context, the promise of eternal life is staggering and powerful, as it should be. Sometimes it takes a trying time to remember the important stuff. Old message, new hope.

“The arrival of Easter this year has found us all living in a surreal landscape,” writes Nelson Pérez with the Philadelphia Inquirer. “The worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus has dramatically and suddenly impacted the normal course of our lives over the past several weeks. As the number of cases, the danger to our health, and the death toll have all grown, we have been starkly reminded that every life is a truly precious gift from God.”

Yes, we are urged to socially distance ourselves to flatten the curve of the coronavirus. The important thing, though, is God never “socially distances” himself from us. All we have to do is ask, and we shall receive the hope that will get us through this.

For inspiration, watch this video:

A blessed Resurrection Day to everyone.

Patrice Lewis is pleased to announce the availability of the complete collection of 52 Country Living Series ebooklets, representing over 17 years of homesteading experience. Subjects include preparedness, frugality, rural skills, food preservation, and more. Click this link for details.

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