This Sunday, via some electronic means, you will be proclaiming the mystery of the resurrection.
You will do this, even though you may have only figured out how to record yourself in your house three weeks ago. You may still be sorting out how to include music, or make people feel welcome, or wondering what content works in this medium. And you are scrambling to keep the feeding program going, and figure out how to manage the budget, and pay the sexton.
You will do this even though your heart is shrouded: you cannot see your elderly mother, or beloved grandparent, or favorite uncle. They are isolated because of Covid19.
And there is the parishioner who has lost his hard-won job that finally got him on even keel and put food on the table for his children. There is the church friend whose raw grief cannot be tended. There is the funeral that cannot be held, which evidences a community strung together by common sorrow. There is also the heartbreaking 25-year old with incurable cancer whose family cannot touch her, comfort her and tend her in these rough last days. Even so, you will proclaim Easter.
You will proclaim Easter even though the budget has been tight for years, and there have been those one or two in the congregation unable to place the church's decline in the larger cultural context—they have blamed you. There is the staff member or perpetual deacon whose inflexibility and anger confirms the suspicions of younger generations that the church is full of hypocrisy, but whom longtime members shield with “that's just the way so and so is…” or “it would not be kind to let them go.” You have been left to clean up the messes. No wonder it’s so hard to make room for the new.
There are the student loans and the credit cards to pay off, and the exercise routine you know you need, but you can never set up. And you will proclaim Easter.
You will proclaim Easter even though you are perhaps completely alone in your parsonage, or there with 3 school-age children who have demanded your attention for schooling and entertainment. You are lonely and spent.
You will proclaim Easter while your partner goes off every day to essential work, or to the hospital to confront the overwhelming needs of those stricken by the disease and comes home fearful that he will catch it, or they will pass it on to you.
Even though, over the course of these many years, your own beliefs about Easter have shifted from sweet confidence to a quiet wonderment, or a lingering doubt, you will proclaim Easter. Perhaps you are more Thomas than Matthew or Mark. Still, there is a trust that goes beyond your individual believing. There is the cloud of witnesses, and each one of us, like geese in formation, takes our turn pushing against the wind, and our turn straggling at the back. This is no less true for clergy. And you will proclaim Easter.
Dear Clergy, you will proclaim Easter. In the face of all that is dead and dying, in the shadow of lost hope, lingering anger, long held resentments, broken dreams, you will proclaim Easter.
Dear Beloved Clergy: I thank you. I thank you for keeping to those essential promises of hope renewed, forgiveness poured out, and Jesus in our midst. I thank you for training your eye and your heart on new life, even when, in your own life, the seeds struggle to germinate. I thank you for finding the empty tomb a portend for God’s goodness.
For proclaiming Easter, yes even this year, on behalf of the church, I thank you. Our voices will follow yours, as you will proclaim Easter. Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed.