At the last minute I substituted for the scheduled writer, and found myself thinking how little different our current world situation is from that of the first Easter. The same uncertainties, political. military, social and civil unrest, and divisions were being played out, while families and communities struggled to live and raise future generations while caring for their elders. This hymn, written by a Tanzanian Lutheran minister several years ago, speaks to me. There are several translations but, being Scottish, I’ve stuck with the one by John L Bell of the Iona Community*.
Jesus is risen, alleluia! Worship and praise him, alleluia!
Now our redeemer bursts from the grave;
lost to the tomb, Christ rises to save.
Come, let us worship him, endlessly sing;
Christ is alive and death loses its sting.
Sins are forgiven, alleluia!
Jesus is risen, alleluia!
This is beyond belief! People don’t rise from the dead, especially after so much suffering and torture. Despite hearing Jesus himself tell them he would die and rise from the dead three days later, the disciples, both men and women, still could not believe it was possible.
Holy One, enable us to navigate this unchartered path of faith. I believe: help my unbelief.
Buried for three days, destined for death,
now he returns to breathe with our breath.
Blest are the ears alert to his voice,
blest are the hearts which for him rejoice.
This year, so many of us have had to bury loved ones, often from a distance and often unable to be with them as they died. The pandemic continues to decimate families and communities across the globe: in Brazil where over 3,000 deaths each day from Covid-19 continue to mount; in India where vaccines produced for overseas are being retained for use at home; in the U.S. where infection rates are soaring; in Europe where rates are spiking again leading to lockdowns; in Tanzania where the pandemic-denying the regime of former president John Magufuli, who died last week, has been replaced by a new government under Samia Suluhu Hassan (the first female president), and where hospitals are overrun with Covid-19 patients. This pattern repeats across the globe, despite the progress of vaccination programs in some, mostly western countries.
Holy One, be close and comfort those who ache with grief and loss, and enable them to accept the hope of knowing that through the resurrection of Jesus, new life beyond our limited physical life is open to us all.
Lord, hear us, and answer our prayers.
’Don’t be afraid!’ the angel had said,
‘Why seek the living here with the dead?
Look, where he lay, his body is gone,
risen and vibrant, warm with the sun.’
When we lose someone we love, wherever we are, whoever we are, of whatever culture or ethnicity, with faith or faithless – we want to do everything we can to do everything decently and lovingly to lay them to rest. Yet when those closest to Jesus found his body had disappeared, the beings of light where Jesus’s body had laid asked them, “Why seek the living among the dead?”
In so many tragedies – war, natural disaster, air crashes, or disappearance whether through political turbulence or unexplained circumstances – the not-knowing is like a continually draining wound. Regardless of how deep our faith is, in our humanity we often need “someone with skin on” to comfort us or be a listening ear. Enable us to be these, your hands and ears for your beloved people.
Holy One, in our emptiness, fill us with your love and spirit to meet the needs of those we meet, both near and far.
Go and tell others, Christ is alive.’
Love is eternal, faith and hope thrive.
What God intended, Jesus fulfilled;
what God conceives can never be killed.
The passion-filled life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the whole Holy Week and forthcoming Eastertide, is about re-discovering that Love is the greatest energy in our lives, world and creation. So many of us in this last year have rediscovered this in a new way for ourselves. Not touching, meeting, seeing, just sharing and caring face-to-face has taken a terrible toll on us all one way or another. But we give thanks for the love, faith and compassion of so many who have gone out of their way to do acts of kindness for others – often unknown to them.
As Woody, an 8-year-old autistic English boy said, “I don’t want life to go back to normal. I want it to go back to better.” His sayings are now being made into screen prints by his father to raise funds for an autistic children’s charity.
Holy One, enable us to dare to trust and live in tune with you, as Jesus showed us. It’s all about Love, and You ARE Love.
Let heaven echo, let the earth sing:
Jesus is saviour of everything.
All those who trust him, Christ will receive;
therefore rejoice, obey and believe!
*from “Mfurahini Halelyuya” or “Jesus is Risen” by Revd Bernard Kyamanywa, Tanzanian Lutheran minister; English version by John L Bell. You can find the tune here.