“Do Not Be Afraid": Celebrating the Week of Holiness During a Pandemic
As I reflect on the events of recent weeks, I find great solace in the stories around which this week’s liturgy is centered. While these times are difficult and in many ways frightening, the Easter and Passover stories remind us that God is with us even in the darkest of times, that He cares for us and has a plan for us.
The story of Easter is full of wonderful imagery that explains what it must have been like when the angel rolled the tomb away. The Bible describes events as an "earthquake" that was so frightening that the guards of the tomb "fell down as if they were dead." The angel appears to the women at the tomb and, seeing their fear, says, "Do not be afraid, Jesus has been raised just as he said." Later, Jesus appears to the women as they go to tell the disciples and once again they are afraid. He says to them "Do not be afraid...others will see me."
The Passover story has a similar resonance. It is a time of great fear in the land as the plagues make their way across the country and Pharaoh's heart is hardened to the plight of God's chosen people. Fear as they place the blood of a lamb on their door and pray to be spared from this latest horror. Fear as they wait for God to release them from bondage in Egypt, and fear about what might come next for them. And God tells them that they are his chosen people. That God has a plan and they need only follow the voice of God, and God will lead them to freedom.
We are in a time of great fear. COVID-19 has permeated our society, and with each new announcement, each new change in routine, each new CDC recommendation our fear increases. God is present in this fear the same way God was present to the people of Israel. God is present in this fear the same way God was present to the women at the tomb.
First, God assures us that we can trust in the God we know. God has already told his people he desires goodness for them, that he will guide them into a land flowing with milk and honey. For Christians, this love is complete in the person of Jesus Christ, whose love for us extends as wide as the arms of the cross and unites us with God in God's kingdom. So, God's first promise in fear is that His goodness will not change. We can count on God's care and mercy.
The second thing that God tells his people in fear is that He knows who they are. He reminds them that they are the chosen people of Israel. That they are God's beloved. That they are a community of believers. That God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.... He reminds them that they are the beloved children of God. Yes, COVID-19 is scary, and it is okay to feel fear. But, hopefully we can also hear the echoes of God crying out to us as he did to his people in this week of Holy Celebration. God saying, I am the God of love. I will not change and you are my beloved, my chosen people.
This week seek to hear God's voice whispering the song of Hope to you...God's beloved children.