Approaching Holy Week

As I write this, it is 15 days since church services were suspended, and 9 days since church buildings were closed and ‘the lockdown’ began……and everything feels rather strange.

Someone described this as feeling like ‘we’re all at that stage in musical chairs where the music has stopped.’ A good description as the frantic scramble to get where we wanted to be and to stock up on pasta and toilet paper has passed, and we are now where we are, with whom we are…and the music isn’t going to start up again any time soon.

But while for many people – those in the front-line of care or delivery of goods or providing essential services – life continues at a pace, for many more things are very different. Working from home, spending a lot of time on the phone, ‘zooming’ services, preparing for Holy Week in the knowledge that I’ll be doing everything sitting in front of a computer – this is all far from the ordinary.

And in this ‘far from ordinary’ time, we should perhaps take this unique opportunity to reflect on how much we have taken for granted prior to this pandemic. Not just our elementary freedoms, but the apparent expectation people have that their every demand will be instantly met by supply (in the western world certainly). A few weeks ago we would have been outraged if we couldn’t get our favourite extra-virgin olive oil from the supermarket, and we took it as a basic human right to be able to buy an avocado at 3.00am.

But now we are all too aware of the fragility of the supply chains, of the fact that resources are scarce, and that there may not always be enough to go around. We might be waking up to the truth that money can’t buy what isn’t there – and so maybe when this has passed (as it will surely pass), maybe greed in our society will diminish, maybe we will see an increase in patience, maybe sharing will become the norm.

Because we do see glimmers of this happening now in and around the panic and anxiety of these times. We see it in the help that people are offering each other, friendships fostered and nurtured over the phone or through video chats, supermarkets dropping off free groceries to sheltered housing, an Italian florist giving away flowers just as his shop had to shut, garden centres in the UK giving away bedding plants so they don’t go to waste, a tattooist donating all of their surgical masks to the NHS, and many more stories that gladden the heart. So there is hope….

And this is what Holy Week is about – the pain followed by the hope – the hope of Easter. Easter is the desperately needed reminder that pain and death and loss do not have the final word – a reminder we need more this year than most. In the resurrection of Jesus we are reminded that there will always be hope – and we can see that resurrection hope mirrored in our lives if we know where to look.

So even when things seem at their most hopeless, when perhaps we feel like the disciples did on Good Friday, hang on to the hope we have in Christ. Or as Tony Campolo, the American Evangelist says “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin!”

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