“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…” Isaiah 53:4
For the second straight year, my Holy Week began with driving by church to pick up our palms for Palm Sunday and receiving communion that was pre-packaged and pre-blessed. We will, Lord willing, get to worship in our church building on Easter (socially distanced and masked, of course). Communion will still be pre-packaged, but we will be able to receive the body and blood of Christ alongside our spiritual community instead of sitting in our minivan waiting to receive “drive-thru communion.”
I am holding a variety of emotions about “going back” to church this Easter. I’m happy that we get to go to a physical church building this year instead of worshipping at home. I’m excited because it is a semblance of normalcy. I’m nervous because, while many in my congregation have received the vaccine, I have not. I’m cautious because I don’t know if the virus will shut down our in-person worship again. I am also feeling a sense of grief.
Admitting that I have any emotion other than joy about Easter feels wrong. It’s not a day that we typically think of in terms of complex emotions. Easter is supposed to be about triumphant celebration. It’s supposed to be a happy day. Praise is supposed to be in our spirit and on our lips as we celebrate Christ’s victory over death, hell, and the grave. Why should I feel discouraged?
I grieve when I think about the loss of more than a half-million souls to COVID-19 in America since this pandemic began and the nearly three million deaths worldwide. I grieve when I think of the families who have lost or nearly lost loved ones to the virus. I am firmly in the anger stage of my COVD grief cycle because I cannot help but wonder how many of these deaths, especially in America, were totally preventable and utterly unnecessary.
I grieve the state of the American church. Religious leaders grab for platforms and cultural relevancy while ignoring some of the most vulnerable people in our churches and communities. There are precious people who are being mistreated and overlooked by their spiritual communities while their leaders are in every video and photo op with powerful people. I won’t even address the farce that can only be described as Christian Nationalism and white Supremacist Christianity.
I grieve the personal and spiritual losses that have come with the past few years. Although I firmly believe that I am exactly where God wants me to be, I still mourn the losses that line the path behind me. I left a church that I helped form with the hope of bringing reform to the church that shaped me. When I tried to be a voice for healing and change, racism and misogynoir silenced my voice. I left a city where I experienced increased visibility and opportunities to serve and lead and moved to a place where nobody knows my name. I left the faith tradition responsible for most of my spiritual formation to worship in a denomination that feels new and strange while somehow managing to also feel like home.
Yet, Christ has borne my griefs. He has carried my sorrows. Even on Resurrection Day.