I have been unraveling some hard questions in this era of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Not the ones that solve how a novel corona virus will be treated and eliminated. I am not an epidemiologist, nor an infectious disease specialist!)
No, I am unraveling questions related to privilege and power, of comfort and access to healthcare, of equality and disparity. These are thorny, tangled systems within our global community, to be sure, and there are no easy answers.
To be brutally honest, this pandemic scares me. (And if you wish to express some kind of puffery and bravado… fine. This is a space for truth-telling!) The sheer weight of our collective grief, fear and anxiety can paralyze me, wreck my sleep, and cloud my thinking.
There’s no treatment (yet). There’s no vaccine. There’s no way of knowing how or when we will each be exposed. And, there is no way to get back to “normal” because that old way of living is gone.
The women on their way to the tomb asked “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” (Mark 16:3)
The first Easter morning, the followers of Jesus were asking the wrong questions. Their logical conclusions were based on the old, pre-established traditions of burial practices. When someone died, you wrapped the body in a shroud with spices before putting the corpse into the tomb. Or, as in the case of Jesus’ death, if it were to close to sundown, after the Sabbath, you returned afterwards to complete the burial process.
Their questions were realistic. What they had seen and known, up to that point, suggested that Jesus’ body would still be there. The stone would be sealed in place. The guards would be on duty. They would not be able to move the stone without help, or at the very least, without permission.
In their hearts, they had hoped Jesus would change things. The Roman Empire toppled… The burdensome practices of Temple worship removed… A patriarchy that maligned and sidelined everyone but the wealthy male slave owner dismantled… They saw a glimmer of a kin-dom not of this world. But now… what did they see? What did they understand?
“Who will roll away the stone?”
Were they faithless? Or just hopeless?
Were they doubting? Or just grieving?
How many times have you and I asked the wrong questions? How many times have we been blinded by our circumstances and missed the invitation of the Holy? How many times have we followed the wrong advice, the status quo, the conventional wisdom of our time?
And… how many times have we limited our responses by our life experience?
ALL. THE. TIME.
When tradition and protocol override GOD’S reality, it’s a problem.
When we limit what God can and will do, we miss out on the work that God is doing — right under our noses! When we are focused on the voices of the rich and powerful, the connected and the patriarchal, we ignore the poor, the incarcerated, and the marginalized.
“But we’ve always done it this way…”
Friends, it’s time for new questions, a new reality. Whether we are discerning what to do about an election or treating a virus, the old ways do not work. We must value every voice, every culture, every faith, every expression of identity.
May we hear the voice of the Risen Christ, toppling our preconceived ideas of what God can do in our world! Whether it is racism, sexism, or elitism, it is time to lean in and listen.
“Who will roll away the stone?”
I will. So help me, God, I will.
Thanks be to God.