I have recently finished my 14 day self-isolation upon returning hurriedly from India due to the current Coronavirus Pandemic. It was quite a story, when we left Canada the only advice given was not to travel via China, two weeks later, as my wife Sabina and I shared time with family in the Punjab as part of a late honeymoon, we got a message from family here saying we had a flight booked to bring us home the next day as Canada’s borders were closing. The details of the complications of returning to Delhi and getting on our flight back will be a story we get to pass down to our children, and perhaps grandchildren, but I’ll spare you the details here.
We could lament having lost 11 days of our honeymoon, or the things we missed out on because the cities were starting to shut down and hotels weren’t taking any guests. Instead I will remember the gracious hospitality we were shown, the beauty of the country, the flavours of the amazing cuisine, the new friends we made (including a friendly tuktuk driver, Shibu, who has just sent me another message on Facebook with a cheerful hello), the warmth of the welcome and embrace we received from family, and the generosity of so many people. This is the story we choose to tell, the story we will remember and celebrate.
In the Christian calendar we are celebrating the greatest story of our faith community, the story of Good Friday and of Easter – the story of death and resurrection. These are stories that are not just concerned with historical events, they’re not even stories that just have to be taken literally, these are stories that are about finding deeper meanings in our day to day lives today. The death of Jesus on Good Friday is filled with what it means to experience grief, despair, struggle, and loss. It is a story that may well describe how many of us feel at the moment, the sense of having lost all the things which are meaningful to us – time with friends and family, the freedom to travel, the freedom to gather, and to socialise, and to enjoy art, music, entertainment, worship, friendship, the freedom just to hang out. The loss many of us feel at this time is a real grief, and the uncertainty, the question “when will this all end?” is one that any of us who have experienced grief and loss (which is probably all of us) is the one which could frame this moment.
But the hope of our Christian story is not based in the grief and loss of Good Friday, in the crucifixion of Jesus, but on the third day after he died, when we have a story of resurrection, of new life, of hope beyond death and grief and pain. The resurrection is the story which defines Christian people – that we choose not to live into the story of loss, but into the story of love stronger than death, hope stronger than fear, faith stronger than despair. Many people struggle with the ‘how could that happen?’ of the resurrection, but that is not the point of the story. It, like so many stories of faith, is a faith-story, it reminds us of a transforming, inspiring, world-changing love that nothing can defeat.
In times like these, when we feel we have lost so much yet we see so much goodness and compassion around, may we live into the story which inspires and transforms us with love, hope and faith.
The Ven. Alastair McCollum is Rector of St. John the Divine Anglican Church in Victoria and Archdeacon, Diocese of Islands and Inlets. He has a passion for the Gospel, motorbikes and bike culture, worship, philosophy, theology, guitars, single malt whisky, real ale, cinema and all things French. You can find Alastair at the church website: www.stjohnthedivine.bc.ca and on his blog: fracme.blogspot.ca
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* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday. April 11th 2020