Well, I think I’ll just come out and say it. Easter was a little more than what we have usually made it through the years. It was braver, more celebrative, more participatory even if we were confined to our homes. For me, this Easter had its unforgettable moments.
In the face of our collective trauma, when worship was shut down globally for all three major religions of the world . . . unprecedented . . . people took to social media to bring their own versions of hope to the world. Soloists and choirs sang to us. Entire choirs sang in unison though no one was in the same room together. We’ve rarely seen that before. Amazing!
Instrumentalists, some who may not have played for years, dusted off their guitars and pianos, and from their homes of confinement offered their musical gifts to the world…even if they were a little rusty…no one was ungrateful. We all recognize the impulse to give something comforting to the world in these days. Whatever we can.
Here’s another unique aspect of Easter this year. We could attend several services simultaneously. Church surfing! Every service Steve and I attended was led by pastors who, in the midst of their own compassion fatigue, pumped out hope in capital letters to the traumatized world. We know they are exhausted. We know they, too, are afraid. But they stood tall this Easter and proclaimed the good news of the Gospel…Christ’s death, burial and resurrection to a death-weary world. Let us remember that they, too, are frontline.
And here’s a piece of amazing news. At the online Willow Creek Easter service interim pastor, Ray Johnston, mentioned that 60,000 people would be participating in worship together. Last week I heard a report that churches with online services were exploding in attendance. One friend told me his church’s service last weekend went from 4,000 to 16,000 and that Saddleback had 118,000 people attending that weekend before Easter and Greg Laurie’s church, Harvest Christian Fellowship, had more than 200,000 that participated on line that same week. I also was told that one Chicago-area church had over 30 people who accepted Christ during their on-line Easter service.
Who knew God would have a plan for reaching more people during this time of pandemic? Amazing!
Then, I don’t know if you caught the live stream of Andrea Bocelli singing from the Duomo Cathedral in Milan. At the end he stepped outside into an empty plaza and sang Amazing Grace while the screen showed videos of major world cities that were empty. The Eiffel Tower without a soul standing nearby. Paris’ Arc du Triomphe looming over an empty street. Trafalgar Square in London . . .deserted and New York City’s Times Square lit up for no one’s eyes to see. You could sense how heart broken he was for the world.
At the start of his concert Bocelli said, “I believe in the strength of praying together. I believe in the Christian Easter, a universal symbol of rebirth that everyone—whether they are believers or not—truly needs right now.”
It made me realize that hope is the greatest act of defiance we can give this needy world right now.
You want to do something to help the world? Is your heart broken for this world? Then have hope!
Hope stands tall and defiant, blessing a world in the grips of pandemic disease.
Hope looks grief in the eye and declare that there is no grave too tear-soaked to hold our souls as prisoners. We, too, will be resurrected!
That is defiance.
Hope declares there is no viral disease stronger than God’s power to heal.
Hope points to Jesus’ empty tomb and defies Satan’s evil plans.
Hope crowns Satan the “King of Lost Causes.”
That kind of hope is absolute defiance!
C.S. Lewis wrote about death and hope in The Pilgrim’s Regress
On the one hand Death is the triumph of Satan, the punishment of the Fall, and the last enemy. Christ shed tears at the grave of Lazarus and sweated blood in Gethsemane; The Life of Lives that was in Him detested this penal obscenity not less than we do, but more. On the other hand, only he who loses his life will save it. We are baptized into the death of Christ, and it is the remedy for the Fall. Death is Satan’s great weapon and also God’s great weapon: it is holy and unholy; our supreme disgrace and our only hope; the thing Christ came to conquer and the means by which He conquered.
In other words, our Enemy’s plan to use death against us was defeated by Jesus on the cross and at the empty tomb.
And then these powerful verses from 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day . . . So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
We do not lose heart means we do not give up. We strengthen ourselves and the world with our hope. We give everything we can to this world and to each other. We comfort, we lift heads and by proclaiming hope we defy the evil that has brought this world to her knees.
This Easter I renewed my hope as an act of defiance against Covic-19 and all it’s heartbreak.
A lot of you did too. You offer hope as your gift to this aching world. You give it to me in so many ways. Don’t give up!
Finally, to celebrate hope, I’d like to share something with you.
This is an Easter greeting from Awana children around the world. Notice what they do with their fists. No one told them to do that. It is a natural response of victory and defiant hope. These children are giving us a gift of hope with their raised fist defiance.
Let hope rise! Let’s raise a defiant fist together. Let’s give a gift of hope to a grieving world. And let us never, ever, ever give up.