Did you miss the end? The end of the pandemic? I did. I thought the pandemic would end like World War II did with parades, fireworks, and strangers kissing in Times Square. Instead, someone just went on TV and said: It’s over.
You’d think that after humanity survived a worldwide threat to our species that left millions dead; that disrupted our lives for years; that we’d reach the end – a recognizable, definite, joyous denouement. But we didn’t. Yes, we made it to end. We’re alive. But we’ve lost so much. In our church, Helen, who survived the pandemic of 1918, didn’t survive Covid-19. We buried friends. We lost years. Graduations were cancelled. Weddings were postponed. Plans were changed. Dreams were killed. It’s hard to celebrate when you know so many who can’t celebrate – and when you yourself have so much to grieve.
As we continue to grieve, recover, and rebuild, maybe part of our healing can be found in facing our grief; in commending the dead to God; and in patiently working with God to rediscover life.
The disciples had to do that after Jesus’ death. They had to recover from the trauma of Good Friday by gradually learning how to live into the new reality of Easter. Thomas had to feel not only Jesus’ wounds, but also his own to recover his faith and himself. Peter, who betrayed Jesus, had to forgive himself – as his Risen Friend already had – and then learn to how to live into that Mercy in humbler, deeper faith.
We’ve all been traumatized. We’ve all lost people and time and so many other precious, irreplaceable things. It’s going to take time for us heal. We’ll never be what we were, but, by grace, we can become whole again. Jesus’ disciples suffered. We’ve suffered, too. Everyone suffers. Even God.
If God is Trinity and if Jesus is the face of God, then we have a God who suffers. We have a God who knows what it’s like to suffer and die – and we have a God who knows what it’s like to emerge from hell to live again. With his wounds. But also, with the Life of God filling him, raising him, and bringing him into a new day.
Which also describes today: Jesus Christ is risen today – and so are you. With your wounds. But also, with the Life of God filling you, raising you, standing with you – here and now – just as surely as the breath causing your chest to rise and fall.
All of us rise and fall in this life. Sometimes we all fall together in a collective tragedy like a pandemic. Mostly, we fall in unheralded, individual moments: We flunk a class. Our marriage fails. Our health deteriorates. Our hope dies. And, by grace, we also rise. As a species, we are rising from a plague. And we rise personally: We heal from grief slowly, but surely. We forgive someone who’s hurt us. We age into greater wisdom and deeper love.
In all our risings and fallings, our crucifixions and resurrections, the Crucified and Risen One is by our side. Emmanuel – God With Us – IS with us. With you. Helping you heal from your Good Fridays – and helping you rise with him in unexpected ways to new life that we never imagined, but that graciously is given to us to live, enjoy, and share with God and each other.
Did you miss the end? The end of the Bible? If you haven’t read to the last page – Spoiler Alert! – God wins. All that plagues us and pollutes creation is gone. All that is loving and life-giving is gathered. And there is a New Creation. Every tear dried. Every grave opened. Everyone freed and fed; loved and alive.
I am confident of this, that the One who began a good work in you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ – when that New Creation is consummated – when the end of what is becomes the beginning of what shall be.
Given that future, did you miss the end? Your end? The end of your life – the goal of your life; the purpose God put you on this earth to fulfill; the truest aim of your existence is this: To be fully alive in love with God, neighbor, and creation. Love in our personal lives is joy. Love in the public square is justice. When personal and public life are filled with love and grounded in justice, there is peace: Lasting, righteous, holy shalom for all.
That peace shall prevail – for the living God shall make it so. God is making it so now. In your heart and in our world. Live toward that good end in which we all shall stand.