Life is filled with close calls. We experience them every day, though some of them are larger than others.
Almost getting the boss’ name wrong at that big work meeting, or thinking you’ve flunked that last big-marker question at exam time. Taking the wrong turning at a road junction and having to re-work your journey to make it to your destination in time, or simply almost catching your toe in your house and just missing that sharp sense of pain.
We’re in the midst of a global close call right now. In the space of a few weeks we have gone from business as usual to confinement in our own homes and a re-shaping of our work and family life. Some of you may have had big events cancelled, that you were working towards for so long. Some of you may be unable to see family and friends you are worried about and miss dearly. And we’re all worried about just how far this crisis is going to take us.
Even our church buildings are forced to stand empty and silent, at a time when ordinarily we would be memorialising what is in many ways the Church’s most monumental close call: the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Our age’s Easter worship benefits from hindsight: we know what’s coming on Sunday even when we lament what had to happen on Friday. We don’t have the shock of seeing a human figure we had followed for years wilfully allowing Himself to be degraded, tortured and nailed to a wooden cross to die. We don’t have the anger of seeing years of world-changing ministry seemingly wasted as its forerunner is killed, the uncertainty and fear of not knowing what comes next.
That’s how the disciples experienced the Easter story, and these feelings of shock, anger, uncertainty and fear often fill the close calls we experience today, those bigger ones anyway. Right now, many of us are still in shock at how our society has changed in so short a space of time. Some feel anger at what has been done, or not done, and all of us are feeling fear of what comes next.
We might express our feelings in different ways. Many will try to keep the faith, like the three Marys who remained with Jesus as He died and was buried (Luke 23:55), or like John who invited Jesus’ mother to His home after Jesus’ death (John 19-26-27). For many this is easier said than done, and might only cautiously watch on from a distance in the midst of uncertainty, like Peter who then even denied being a follower of Jesus three times when challenged (Luke 22:59-62).
It seems, then, that how we feel on the Friday so often makes it hard for us to even contemplate what’s coming on the Sunday. In the midst of crisis, we can close off in fear, not being able to see a way out or feel able to wait for the light on the other end.
It wasn’t until the Sunday itself that Peter regained his senses, saw that Jesus dying on the Friday was far from the end and was reconciled to Jesus (John 21:9). Regardless of how people reacted to Jesus’ death, the outstretched love of Christ was re-affirmed to all on His resurrection, and everyone rejoiced as their original faith in the promises of Christ were seen to be fulfilled.
That love remains outstretched to us all. Right now, we’re still in the middle of our own close call, but however we react or otherwise feel now, history has shown us that there is always an end. Not least the story we are called to celebrate this weekend, even if from our own homes.
Right now, we’re on the Friday. Watching, waiting, wondering. Perhaps even denying. Let’s keep watching together. Sunday’s on its way.