Resurrection in the time of Coronavirus
Resurrection offers the possibility of a new world – but first we must face the issues of the old one. By Edward Pillar
Holy Saturday is a difficult time. A time of silence. Stillness in the shock of the reality of what has taken place. On Holy Saturday we do well not to leap forward to Easter Sunday, but to sit with the discombobulation, and the questions, and the sadness of the day. On Holy Saturday we sit with shattered hopes. Deep questions about possibilities, and change, and renewal, and justice, seemingly thrown back in our faces.
Our present days, and weeks, and months of separation, of suffering, of wariness, and of sadness seeing friends, loved ones and family succumb to the coronavirus can be compared to the sorrow and confusion of Holy Saturday. We echo the age-old refrain, ‘This is not how it should be.’ And yet, to answer this cry with integrity and truthfulness is to face the reality of a broken world, where COVID-19 is one of many potential viruses that we will face in the future; it is to confront the truth of inequity, and the pervasiveness of injustice.
On Holy Saturday we sit in the shadow of the cross of Christ, with the terrifying realisation that the powers and principalities rule. Against Love manifest in Jesus, they have issued a shattering ‘no.’ They are determined that life will go on as before. There will be no new dawn. And yet, we are called to dream; to dream of a new and different world, where the sick are healed, where justice prevails, equity is commonplace, and the natural world, with all of its multiplicity of species, is reconciled with its Creator.
Death. Resurrection. There, did you see it? Here it is again. In the space in-between death and resurrection. A full-stop. The end of one thing before the beginning of another. Death is a full stop. Death marks the full stop in the narrative of life. A good life, a bad life, a moral life, rich, poor, generous, kind, jealous, evil... you get the point. They all end the same way; with a full stop. The End. But the deeper point here is that the full stop marked by death gives rise to the possibility of something new, but most certainly not what came before. The possibility of a new narrative, a new paradigm, a new world.
This is what was dreamt by those in the times before Jesus, as the Holy Spirit inspired their imaginations with the possibility of bodily resurrection. A strange yet brilliant idea; the possibility of a new life, not so much a return to the life previously lived, but a life through the other side of death, or beyond death.
Someone recently posted an image on social media of graffiti daubed on a wall in Hong Kong that read, ‘We can’t return to normal, because the normal that we had was precisely the problem.’ In the resurrection of Jesus, God says ‘No’ to the norm of injustice and all of its ugly sisters; ‘No!’ to inequity and the domination of billionaires; ‘No!’ to the destruction of the rainforests; ‘No!’ to the violence perpetrated throughout the natural world. If the scientists are correct that ‘coronavirus will not be the last pandemic to wreak havoc on humanity if we continue to ignore link between infectious diseases and destruction of the natural world’ (The Independent 20 March 2020), then perhaps it is also time to say ‘no’ to the voracious destruction of diverse and complex ecosystems.
Resurrection offers a new world, a profound paradigm shift. And yet, to accept resurrection as a future possibility, is to welcome the call to live within its reality today. Just as God, in raising Jesus says ‘Yes!’ to him - to His values, His life, His teaching; ‘Yes’ to love, mercy, justice, and compassion, there is also a profound resonating ‘No!’
To accept the world of resurrection is a tough ask. We live within the bubble of capitalism and an ill-advised commitment to economic growth, we live with the seeming inevitability of war and violence, and the endless, unsatisfying pursuit of gratification in consumerism. The world of resurrection offers a new world, but first we must die to the old one. We must be content in these difficult times to examine one’s own life, and habits, and predilections; to place a full stop to signify the end of the old life. There is no return to ‘normal’ after this, ‘normal’ was the problem all along. Resurrection offers a radical, life-saturated opportunity. Resurrection is a gift of grace - it cannot be presumed, it is not a ‘given.’ But, maybe, just maybe, as we honour the ‘key-workers,’ recognise the dedication of the teachers, applaud the selfless service of NHS workers, and as we say ‘no’ to ‘normal’, we can trust in the Author of life to begin a new chapter.
Edward Pillar is minister of Evesham Baptist Church
This is the latest in a series of theological and biblical reflections from Baptists for Holy Week and Easter
Image | Sasha Freemind | Unsplash
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