Almost forgotten in the non-stop coverage of COVID-19 is the soon-arriving celebration of Easter. In years past, people rushed around, fussing over such things as Easter bonnets and new Sunday outfits. Easter egg hunts were scheduled, and parents were “consulting” with the Easter bunny about what to leave in their children’s baskets. Then, once we got past the commercialism, we began remembering that Easter is really about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This year, despite the hopeful optimism of some of our government leaders, it’s likely the doors of most churches will be closed, with congregants having to settle for online Easter observances. For many followers of Jesus, Easter without physically attending a worship service is almost unimaginable. How can we worship without doing so in “the house of God”?
Not to minimize the value and experience of joining with other believers to celebrate Jesus’ victory over sin and death. Some of the most powerful moments in my spiritual life have occurred on Easter, not only singing (as best I could) the traditional hymns but also hearing talented vocalists perform such selections as “We Shall Behold Him” or “Rise Again.”
However, there’s good news. The Scriptures clearly and repeatedly assert that we don’t need to go to a building, or even be in the physical presence of other followers of Jesus, to “go to church.” Because, we are told, He lives within us. Consider the following:
“Do you not know that you yourselves are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). There was a time when I foolishly believed that when I entered a church building, I was entering into the presence of God – and that when I exited the building, I also was leaving His presence. This passage assures us this is not the case.
Another verse says much the same: “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). So in a real sense, in normal times when we can “go to church” together, it amounts to an assembly of “temples of the Holy Spirit.”
Even better, we don’t have to be around others who profess their allegiance to Christ to live as He would want us to do. The fact that He lives in each of us through His Spirit means we don’t need to rely on positive peer pressure for living rightly. As Romans 8:9 says, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.” As Jesus promised, “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Hopefully, once the coronavirus is under control and a vaccine has been developed, we’ll enjoy the delights of joining with fellow believers in rejoicing over Jesus’ resurrection. But even now we can reflect on what that means for us, both for the present and for eternity:
“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised…. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins…. But Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:13-20).
There’s more to the story. In a time when the specter of death seems ever-present, we have the promise – the absolute confidence – that for all who have received Jesus Christ, physical death is not the end. It’s only a pause before a new beginning:
“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that was written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’
‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).
Even if our contact is only through words appearing on the screen of a computer or some other electronic device, let me extend to you a greeting that Christians have shared through many centuries: “Happy Easter! He is risen! He is risen indeed!”