On Tuesday, March 24, against the advice of public health experts who project the ongoing, increasing spread of the deadly pandemic, the President called for the end of our life-saving social distancing by this Easter. He said that, on Easter, the churches would be packed.
But Easter is the triumph of love over death. Of a transforming God over the violations of Empire.
In a recent Twitter conversation started by the Rev. Dr. William Barber, about Pharaoh in the Book of Exodus, one person pointed out that Pharaoh has no name–because Pharaoh is “the evil that is always among us, looking for ways to oppress the poor, the stranger, the faithful.”
2. Every time there was a little relief, Pharaoh would go right back to his mean, lying & oppressive ways.— Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II (@RevDrBarber) March 24, 2020
3. Rather than deal with the cause of the plague that was made worse by his action, Pharaoh & his admin became worse & was exposed for all to see.
Another person pointed out that, etymologically, Pharaoh is actually a Hebrew variation of the name not of any person, but the palace: when we hear “Pharaoh,” we can understand it to mean the whole system–the machinery whose gears don’t take into account the preciousness of human life.
As plagues come down on the People, Pharaoh can’t hear their cries, and instead digs in, hardens his heart, only ever loyal to the wealth and power of empire, fearful and jealous only on its behalf.
A packed church this Easter would be a church testifying to the importance of the stock market over the sacred worth of human life. A packed church this Easter would only be a death cult.
This Easter, in fact, the churches will be empty.
And the tomb will be empty.
And the joy and freedom of Love will be unleashed the world over, in the hearts of all those willing to make hard personal choices, to sacrifice and even suffer if it would do something that could help just one neighbor.
This Easter, continuing to give ourselves to each other, staying home even when it’s not easy (or, for first responders or healthcare workers, showing up for each other even when it’s not easy), far-flung members of the Body will celebrate and demonstrate the triumph of selfless, all-conquering love.
When the plagues rained down, and Pharaoh’s heart hardened, the People’s hearts at the same time became softer and braver.
They let themselves dream together.
It was then that they slipped free of bondage, together, entered the wilderness, together, following a vision of freedom, together, knowing they’d only reach it if they got there together, and crossed over together.
Together, at last, they arrived, with the shadow and shame of their life under Pharaoh far behind, only a cautionary memory ever after–just a story to remind them of what it takes, generation after generation, for freedom to be won.