Two years and two months ago, I don’t think that any of us could have imagined the extent that COVID-19 would disrupt our lives and our world, nor the amount of death it would bring in such a brief span of time while simultaneously preventing us from gathering to grieve together as we normally would.
To say that it’s been a long two years would be a gross understatement. As we move toward COVID-19 as endemic rather than pandemic, many of us ask the questions, “now what? How do we move forward?”
As a leader in the church, I have both asked and responded to these. We frequently try to look backward when trying to determine how to move forward. As both of my teenage daughters have learned while driving, it’s hard to look in the rearview mirror and go in the right direction for very long before veering off course.
These questions about moving forward are faithful resurrection questions. They are the same questions that the disciples asked as they gathered in a locked upper room (John 20), fished all night and caught nothing (John 21), and walked on the road to Emmaus, lamenting to the stranger that, “we had hoped that he was the Messiah.” (Luke 24) The disciples experienced despair, confusion, and doubt. Whether we ask these questions following a pandemic, or the death of a loved one, or the diagnosis of a chronic or terminal illness, or whatever the life-changing event may be, we wonder how we can return to the way life used to be.
In the post-resurrection appearances, Jesus reminds his disciples that the answer does not include returning to the way life used to be, because the world – whether from a global pandemic or another event – has changed. Forever. We cannot look back to find resurrection and new life in the past. We find resurrection and new life by looking forward and trusting in God’s promises to walk with us, even through the valley of the shadow of death.
In this Easter season, not only does God call us to resurrection and new life, the risen Christ reminds us, by the wounds in his hands and his side, that these things happened. The disciples do not encounter the risen Christ as he appeared before. They encounter the crucified and risen Christ – the one who still bears the wounds in his hands and his side, who then calls us forward into a new reality and new life.
This time after the pandemic feels like the post-resurrection time, a time of wondering what will happen next. We do not yet know the answer, but we know that God continues to walk with us and send us out with the good news. Not by looking back to try to return to the world as it used to be, but by moving forward together into a new reality and new life as it now is.