Mary Magdalene weeping outside the tomb is a poignant image of Easter. “Mary, weeping outside the tomb, stands for all of us. She is weeping bitterly; weeping for herself; yes weeping for her Lord, yes; but also in her tears weeping for the hope of Israel” (Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship, NT Wright).
As we hold in our heart all that is happening around the world, we join Mary in her weeping. This is a different Good Friday than we have ever experienced before. We identify with Mary in her loss and heartbreak as we lament for the world; for the unfolding chaos, death, vulnerability and isolation that is disrupting the fabric of communities and individuals.
Most of our Mission Partners remain in the countries in which they serve. Many work in vulnerable communities where the impacts of the virus and the loss of income will be even harsher than it is in New Zealand. Andy and Shona Miller, serving in Costa Rica, share in the video below about the need for basic food supplies in their local neighbourhood.
As Mary weeps, as our Mission Partners lament, and as we grieve this Easter, we are invited to reflect on the ‘good’ of Good Friday. Our Lord enters the depths of human suffering and experiences death. In doing so, God fully redeems death, darkness and chaos in His Resurrection. Tears are shed, yes, but tears are also wiped away.
Andy reminds us that this is not the first time the Church has faced a pandemic. In fact "Christianity has always been a life and death issue”. We don’t get to the resurrection hope of Easter Sunday without going through the death and darkness of Good Friday or the aching and empty waiting of Holy Saturday when we sit in the disorientation of all that is lost.
Mary didn’t know what would happen next that morning as she wept, but we do. As we approach Easter, we remember and experience the hope that comes from Christ’s defeat of death. It is not the end on Good Friday. We know that we live in a world of Calvarys, where suffering and death surround us, and for that we weep, bitterly. Yet as Easter people we hold onto a future hope and assurance that one day every tear will be wiped away.
We are each called to live into that Easter hope as our witness in the world. N.T. Wright continues, “we find ourselves to be Sunday people, called to minister to a world full of Fridays. In that knowledge we find that the hand that dries our tears passes the cloth on to us, and bids us follow him, to go to dry one another’s tears. The Lamb calls us to follow him wherever he goes; into the dark places of the world, the dark places of our own hearts, the places where tears blot out the sunlight... and he bids us to shine his morning light into the darkness, and share his ministry of wiping away the tears.”
Mission Partners are our teachers in this time. They have followed a calling to accept the invitation of Jesus to live as Easter people in different parts of the world.Mission Partners have already made the choice to leave safety and security, and many live in places where life is more fragile. Andy reminds us that God is in control, and what we need in this time of crisis is the Word of God.
He shares how Philippians 4 has been reminding him of our calling as Christians to trust God and give our anxiety to Him. Part of our witness as Easter people is offering a non-anxious presence in a world consumed by fear and anxiety.
The image of a woman weeping beside a tomb evokes the pictures we have seen in the media of nurses weeping beside the bodies of those taken by COVID19. We weep in new ways this Easter. We honestly face the world’s chaos, death, waiting, and darkness in this moment in time and say: yes, this is all real, it’s awful, it’s overwhelming, and it’s a suffering I never expected to know, see or experience.
Yet what else is true? What else is true is that we are Easter People with a fierce and active hope in God in the midst of suffering and darkness. Being Easter people is to defiantly straddle between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. We weep, we are present in the hard, suffering corners of our world, but we also we look for and action signs of God‘s Kingdom arriving on earth, participating in the redeeming work God is continuing to bring forth.
Jesus, pass us the cloth.
WATCH ANDY AND SHONA'S VIDEO HERE