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Moderator’s Easter Message 2020

Grace and peace to you, in Jesus’ name. My name is Richard Bott. I’m Moderator of The United Church of Canada.

It’s a strange time, isn’t it?

As the world continues to be gripped by changes designed to get a handle on what COVID-19 is doing in our lives, we have this moment in the Christian calendar when we’re called to celebrate—to celebrate a moment of mystery, a moment of miracle, a moment where God’s infinite love caused the incredible—the resurrection of the crucified Jesus, Easter.

There’s a part of me that really longs for celebration right now. I want to gather my family and my friends for a huge feast: a little bit of turkey, some stuffing, maybe some dahl roti on the side! I want to hear my daughter laughing and feel her dog rub up against my calf with a look that says, “Me, too!” I want to hear the chatter around the table and all those people I love, safe and here. I want to stand with my community of faith and sing, “Jesus Christ is ris’n today…Alleluia!”

But that can’t happen. Not right now. Bringing people together continues to be a danger, and I certainly wouldn’t want my desire to celebrate this moment put anyone’s health at risk.

It will happen. Just not right now.

But that makes me think about Easter morning—the first one, so very long ago. Each of the gospel narratives tells us of the women rising up that first morning to go to Jesus’ tomb. I can imagine them getting up, pulling together everything they needed to prepare Jesus’ body properly for burial. Water to wash him, perfumes and oils, grave cloth. There had been no time to do this before the Sabbath had begun. Jesus’ body had been placed in a tomb, which had been temporarily sealed up so that everything could be prepared properly later.

Now was that time.

I can imagine these disciples, women who had followed Jesus through his ministry, making their way to the tomb as the sun slowly began to move towards the horizon, the sky beginning to glow. I can imagine their sadness, their grief. The one they had understood was Messiah, a man who had taught and healed and ate and laughed and cried with them, was dead. When I imagine this scene, I imagine them walking quietly, their conversation muted by their sadness.

But here’s the thing: Although they didn’t know it, Easter had already happened. Before they got to the tomb, they were grieving. When they got to the tomb, they were confused. Jesus’ body was gone. The resurrection had already happened, and no one in the world knew about it.

The women were the first evangelists of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They took that story back to the rest of the disciples, and from there on Christ’s good news spread throughout the world. But at the time of Easter itself, that moment in human time when the resurrection happened, no one knew except God.

I think that’s what I’m going to hold on to this Easter. God is doing things. Mysterious things. Miraculous things. Incredible things. Resurrection things. Whether we know about them or not.

And we will celebrate those things with great joy and wonder-filled alleluias—when the time is right.

But, for now, I’m going to join Mary, and with wonder and hope whisper, “Rabboni! Teacher!” with all of my heart.

Blessed Eastertide, beloved. Be well and remember: Christ is with us.

Alleluia. Alleluia! ALLELUIA!

Amen.

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