Houses and fields and vineyards
shall again be bought in this land.
Oh, as long as I know how to love,
This week, I did what Christian clergy are having to do all over the world. I sent an announcement out to my congregation suspending in-person worship and activities, at least until April 13, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And we all know that it could be for longer. While public-health officials haven’t yet reported any confirmed cases in my city, we know it’s likely that many in the community are already carriers of the virus, and the last thing I and my church want to do is harm anyone. While it’s counter to a clergyperson’s instinct to forgo the normal religious rituals, in the end, caring for people’s well-being is the loving thing to do.
But yesterday, one of our church staff members asked about cancelling the usual order of flowers and plants that decorate the sanctuary on Easter Sunday. Yes, the suspension of in-person church gatherings includes Easter, the highpoint of the Christian year, the day we celebrate Resurrection, the victory of life over death.
I know that my congregation will find creative ways to celebrate Easter “together” even if we aren’t able to gather face-to-face, but I paused at the thought of cancelling the flowers and plants.
There’s an old story about the prophet Jeremiah, whose city was under siege and who was about to be marched off from his home into captivity. Just before that, he does something unusual. He buys a parcel of land. Why would anyone buy property in a doomed city? Well, because he knows deep down in his gut—call it an inspiration from God’s Spirit—he knows deep down in his soul that his people will return to their home. He takes the deed to his new land and stores it in a clay jar to save it for when it will be needed later (Jeremiah 32).
We may be cancelling our in-person worship on Easter Sunday, but we’re not cancelling the order of Easter decorations. And since we’re ordering flowers and plants, we might as well start decorating the Sanctuary in Easter white. Yes, we’re doing it a little early, but maybe it’s a needed sign of hope.
I’m no Jeremiah, but I know that we will celebrate Easter in the Sanctuary together. It may be a little later than we expected, but it will happen.
In times of uncertainly, look for signs of hope, even if small. And if you aren’t finding any, maybe you can be a sign of hope for someone else–maybe you can be a voice of care, a giver of help, or a bringer of joy and peace.
We have some difficult times ahead, and this situation deserves our careful attention. But in these uncertain times, let’s be the presence of hope and life as we keep ourselves safe and help our neighbors in need. Let’s be people who take seriously the realities of the circumstances and do our part to make things better. Let’s be people who live in anticipation of good things to come, even when the future is a little hard to see. And let’s be people who know that we will make it through together and find new life on the other side.
Order your plants and flowers now for the day that is to come.