Resurrection in the Time of Apocalypse
The Rev. Sara Cosca-Warfield
Scripture: Matthew 28:1-10
On this day the Lord has acted; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Amen.
There was talk in some church circles of postponing Easter this year. After all, this wilderness of social distancing and self-quarantine is scheduled to be in place at least through the end of the month and probably longer. I mean, look at us now—together only by the grace of technology, because to be physically together could put our church family at risk.
Death could be lurking anywhere—on doorknobs and phone screens, on shopping carts and the produce we buy, floating in the air within six feet of the next closest person. We wear masks and gloves to keep it off of us, we wash our hands a dozen times a day to disarm it.
It feels like everything we’re doing right now is to ward off the ever-present risk of death.
I’ve heard the word apocalypse thrown around more than a few times. A lot of the images I’ve seen look pretty apocalyptic: a desolate Times Square, St. Peter’s Basilica empty during Holy Week, grocery store shelves with nothing on them. Images that show us the whole world on lockdown.
How can there be resurrection in the middle of the apocalypse?
Do y’all know what the word apocalypse actually means? I can tell you what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean “death and destruction.” It doesn’t mean “end of the world.” In its original Greek, apocalypse means “to uncover, to reveal.”
Isn’t that interesting?
I think there’s deep truth there. I think we should sit with that for a moment. Because I do think that times like this reveal a lot about who we are.
Like how, more than anything else, we’ve turned to the stock market as the primary indicator of our collective well-being.
Like how our black siblings are dying from coronavirus at a much higher rate in cities across our country. Here in the Portland area, our Latino siblings represent a disproportionate number of our cases.
Like how our poor neighbors will suffer most from a lost job or, if they didn’t lose their job, they don’t have the option of working from home. They must put themselves at risk everyday to make low wages working at stores or delivering our groceries so that we can have what we need while we’re staying home.
Like how some people are calling for an end to social distancing even though that might put people who are older or more vulnerable in danger.
This apocalyptic moment is revealing to us whose lives our culture values more and whose lives are literally expendable.
But that’s not all that’s been revealed. We’ve heard about brigades of sewers making masks for essential workers as protective gear runs out. We’ve heard about people going shopping and running errands for their vulnerable neighbors. We’ve heard about the singing from balconies in Italy and the nightly cheers for health workers in New York.
Times of hardship and suffering reveal to us who we really are.
Which gets me back to those folks who were thinking about pushing Easter back until we got out of this wilderness. Because doesn’t resurrection mean that everything is okay now? Doesn’t it mean that all our problems are solved, that we’re out of the wilderness?
After all, Jesus died, but then he came back, and the whole world was saved. Right?
Except it wasn’t. When Jesus lived, his country was occupied by a foreign military force and ruled by an authoritarian leader. His people, the Jews, were second-class citizens in their own home. And guess what. None of that changed when Jesus was resurrected. In fact, those who followed Jesus would go on to be persecuted, sometimes brutally, for hundreds of years after his death and resurrection.
But do you know what the resurrection did change? The disciples. They now understood the meaning of hope. They now knew that death could be overcome. They now recognized what love really looks like. Even if resurrection didn’t overcome the immediate hardship in their lives, they knew that change was possible. And knowing that changed them. It changed how they lived. It changed how they interacted with others.
Everything they did from that point on was guided by the hope that resurrection gave them. Against all odds, they built a community on that foundation of hope. A community that persists 2,000 years later. A community that we are part of today. A community that now gives hope to over two billion people in the world.
Two billion grown from a handful of faithful disciples living through their own apocalypse. That is the power of resurrection.
Resurrection is not a promise of happiness. It’s not a promise of comfort or ease. It’s not a promise that all of our problems will be solved. Resurrection promises only one thing: hope.
And it also demands something of us: faith. Because faith is what resurrection looks like in action. Faith is hope poured out from our own lives. We get to live out Jesus’ resurrection every single day—if we choose to.
Resurrection isn’t revealed in what happens to us, it is revealed in how we live the hope it gives us.
So in this apocalypse moment, what is being revealed in you? As you look towards the injustice and suffering that this virus has revealed in our country, in our community, what is being revealed in you?
How will you let resurrection change you?
How will you let resurrection guide you?
How will you let resurrection move you?
May the hope of Christ’s resurrection shine in each of us this day and every day, no matter what. Amen.