This post originally appeared in 2021 in a wonderful online creative community, the Black Barn Collective, an online community where art and faith, cultivated in community, take root, flourish, and grow. Consider this your invitation to check it out.
Any given year, we’re living on Saturday time.
We hang between the time of death, represented by Good Friday, and the time of the new creation heralded by the resurrection of Christ on Sunday morning. We live our lives between the lost garden of Eden and the restored garden of the Kingdom of God come to earth.
Never has this tension been more clear to me than in the second Easter of pandemic-tide.
The tenebrae service on Maundy Thursday marked the start of the commemoration of the death and resurrection of Christ for me. During the service, we sing songs and hear the Scriptures read. One by one, after each reading, the candles at the front of the sanctuary are extinguished and the lights are dimmed, eventually leaving only a single lit candle representing Jesus.
As I sat in the increasing darkness, I realized the act of extinguishing those candles was not unlike what we experienced in the weeks leading up to Easter 2020.
The first cases of COVID-19 are identified in the United States. A flame is extinguished.
A case is found in your state, in your county, in your town. A flame is extinguished.
Schools and businesses close. A flame is extinguished.
Lockdowns and stay at home orders begin. A flame is extinguished.
Death and illness become regular visitors. A flame is extinguished.
Yet, no matter how dark the days of our pandemic year, the light of Christ remained and it shined through in the most unlikely places – in distilleries switching over from making whiskey to making hand sanitizer, in people making handmade masks, in neighbors organizing food deliveries and giveaways.
The light also began to shine in new, online places. For me, that place was the Black Barn. From the daily benedictions to the Friday tables and all the interaction in between, the Barn community delivered encouragement and reminders that the darkness does not win. The act of creating and the gathering – even online – was an act of defiance against the darkness. The pandemic had stolen so much, but it would not steal this.
What we knew as normal had died and we collectively went about our lives in a time of life not unlike the silent Saturday the disciples lived through after they saw their teacher and leader killed. Like us, they didn’t know what the next days would bring.
But, there was a light. They may not have seen it. They may not have recognized it, but, oh there was a light.
That Light burst out of the grave on the third day, expelling the darkness and bringing hope, joy and new beginnings.
This is where the analogy breaks down. Sure, we’re living in the light of the risen Christ, but we’re still in the fading darkness of the pandemic. Yes, there’s light at the end of the tunnel, but we don’t know where the tunnel ends. We have vaccines, but there are still many people to vaccinate and plenty of hurdles still in the way.
We’re living in a time when the darkness of the pandemic is fading and the light of Easter morning is just over the horizon. So what do we do with that time?
Here in the Barn, we keep creating. We keep adding our tiny slivers of light to the great Light of Christ to bring hope to our friends here in the Barn and to those outside its virtual walls. We keep communicating and finding rest in our weekly rhythms.
And we encourage each other as we work out whatever normal in the After Times is going to be.
We take each other’s hands – virtually and socially distanced, of course – and step into the brightness of the light of Christ.