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Yes, this Easter is different, but its message is the same... hope will triumph because Christ is risen

Peter Lynas


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Eternal love: Christ’s suffering on the cross and his ultimate triumph over death and sin resonates strongly in these times we live in

Eternal love: Christ’s suffering on the cross and his ultimate triumph over death and sin resonates strongly in these times we live in

Eternal love: Christ’s suffering on the cross and his ultimate triumph over death and sin resonates strongly in these times we live in

This Easter will be different. The natural rhythms of stopping school, or work, feel very different in lockdown. There will be no trips to the beach, no Easter egg hunts and no gathering for Easter services.

Death remains a taboo subject in our society, but our newspapers now lead with the daily death toll. We feel a loss of control in the face of an unseen virus that strikes at will.

Initially, it seemed the young and the fit were safe, but that is no longer the case. As the Prime Minister warned, many will lose loved ones.

The virus and the ensuing lockdown raise fundamental questions. What freedoms are we prepared to concede on behalf of the other? Who will get a ventilator if demand outstrips supply? What does it mean to exist in this moment? These questions go right to the heart of what it is to be human and to be a society.

At the same time, a number of world leaders have assured children that the Easter bunny is an essential worker not impacted by lockdown. It is a moment of light relief in otherwise very sombre briefings. But, surely, Easter offers something more in this moment?

Easter gives space for lament. We suffer with those who are suffering and grieve with those who are grieving. We cry out to God in our despair, in our sorrow and in our loneliness. And God understands. He knows our pain. He has suffered even unto death.

Despite the story some Christians tell, it is not a neat little feelgood package. On Good Friday, in the agony of the cross, Jesus cried out to the Father, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Psalm 22).

The entire fabric of the universe was ruptured when God became human and walked the earth. The crucifixion of Jesus was not merely an event in history, but, as Tom Holland notes in his book Dominion, "the very pivot around which the cosmos turns". Death is the turning-point. "It is finished," Jesus cried on the cross.

"Ours is the long day's journey of the Saturday" notes Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann. We do not deny the pain of Friday and we live in the expectation that Sunday is, indeed, coming. But Saturday is about "being" in a world of fear, uncertainty and angst; about wrestling purpose and hope out of the now, believing that, despite the evidence to the contrary, there is so much more going on that will make all things well.

It is a challenge to be present during lockdown. Therapists tell us that video calls are so exhausting, because of the plausible deniability of each other's absence. Our minds are tricked into the idea of being together when our bodies feel we are not.

Someone has suggested we use "BC" to talk about before coronavirus and "AD" to refer to after the disease. But the coming of Jesus has ultimately defined humanity as a whole and the life of each human being. This Easter will be different, but history changed forever that first Easter.

That first Easter Sunday, the women went and found that the tomb was empty. Ultimately, Jesus, modelling new ways, sent the women out as the first evangelists to spread the good news that He was risen.

Easter challenges our sense that we are in control. Easter is an act of radical generosity, an act of self-sacrificial love. Easter is the moment when hope, in the person Jesus, showed up.

The coronavirus has disrupted the world in ways that seemed unimaginable only weeks ago. It will change our lives for some time to come.

The Easter story models a potential response. Lament as we cry out in our deep frustration, pain and grief. Being a "non-anxious presence" in a time of fear.

And, finally, living in hope, not found in ourselves, but in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. A hope that moves us towards the other. A hope founded in generosity and sacrifice.

This Easter will feel different. Death and despair will feel more real. Fear and anxiety are on the rise. Hope is in short supply.

The Easter story doesn't avoid the fear, pain and death, but journeys through it. And reminds us that hope is found on the other side; because Christ is risen.

Peter Lynas is UK director of the Evangelical Alliance

Belfast Telegraph