Easter 2020 meets the world ‘on its knees’, humbled by a virus that has catspraddled us. One day we were invincible; or so we thought and behaved. The next day, racked with physical and emotional pain, our voices curdle in our throats.
Our hearts fail us for fear. We are anxious, confused and grieving. Plagues, even though increasingly common, always find us unprepared. Our minds race back and forth as we long for some semblance of normality.
When asked what will change with the coming of Covid-19, Mark Cuban, a former US presidential hopeful, said: “Everything! We really don’t know what to expect, what’s on the other side.”
How in this roiling sea of uncertainty, can this Easter represent hope? Not the ‘reckless denying of our realities’ type of hope. We need more than that. What can we do?
The most important thing is not to set our hearts on false hopes—be they couched in lying tales or conspiracy theories. Those are dead-end streets, cruel jokes played on the unsuspecting.
The purveyors of these stories are themselves seeking answers and desiring to regain predictable normality. They seek to rationalise what is happening, but you cannot build a better future with a lie.
Be wary of those who peddle gloom and doom and offer little beyond a call for repentance. We live in a broken, messy world. A virus, without moral attributes, should be expected.
We are haunted by the age- old childhood ‘why’ question. Why should Ms Vernise Lodge and Mr Victor Mootiram, avid churchgoers and community enablers, die and others survive?
Both of these persons were vouched for by their priests and fellow community members. Why them? ‘They did not do nothing’, as we would say in Trinidad and Tobago.
To argue this position is to ignore that God never gave Job an answer in His long and direct conversation with him about why suffering and pain are part of our existence. God made no attempt to justify this. He only convinced Job of His sovereignty.
We therefore should not look for easy answers when our turn for pain comes. Most times, there are no real easy answers.
How Christians respond to crises is a theological statement. Whether they want to admit it, their responses are being scrutinised by their contemporaries. What they do says a lot about how they really see and understand their God and His ways.
Psalm 115:2 says that onlookers should never ask ‘where is now their God?’ A panicked church is a useless church. Lamentations advises, ‘wait quietly… sit alone in silence… God is good to those who hope in Him’.
In 1854, cholera broke out in London. It took a doctor and a curate to solve the most pressing problem at that time. Rev Whitehead’s extensive knowledge of the community helped to determine the cause. The church has a part to play in the health (spiritual, physical, emotional and family) of the communities they seek to serve.
Plagues are an integral part of our human existence, they—HIV/AIDS, SARS, Ebola and now SARS- CoV-2—now come faster. Nobody should be under any illusion that this is the last one.
Indeed, this one is more than a health crisis, since it is flattening our economy. The long-term effects will be seen in waves that would have us more giddy than those at Maracas Bay.
Actuary Kyle Rudden, named by Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh to head the scenario planning team for the national response to Covid-19, is the latest high-profile example of Christian action. But this pro bono offer by Mr Rudden is a choice that has to be made. The church has to decide what their response to this crisis will be: condemn all for their sins and blame them for the crisis, or open their arms to draw others in by their demonstration of practical love.
This approach of love is consistent with the story of Jesus on the cross entrusting the care of Mary, His mother, to John, the disciple (John 19:23-27). In pain and the final moments before his crucifixion, He built a relational bridge. His entire time on earth was spent defending the outcasts and not condemning those accused. This is Easter personified.
A Christ who selflessly ignores self while seeking to give to others, especially those who are disadvantaged by the structure and men of our society. A Christ that tells us there is a future, no matter how dark it seems presently, made possible through restored relationships. There is hope.
Martin Luther said, at the time of the Bubonic plague, religious leaders are not hirelings and should provide comfort and strength to their congregations.
“We are bound together […] it is the Devil that stirs up abhorrence and fear to separate us. He tries to make us despair […] forget and lose Christ, our light and life, and desert our neighbour in his troubles… If God should wish to take me […] I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others.”
He further wrote, “I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I’ll fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it… avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed… a God-fearing faith [is] neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”
Build your bridge of hope this Easter!