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Easter 2020 was like no Easter in living memory. The global pandemic due to COVID19 caused most churches in North America and around the world to pause large gatherings to allow some breathing space for health officials to understand and hopefully contain this rapidly spreading virus.

Like many other congregations, we were disappointed, but not dismayed. We would miss the opportunity to wear our bright coloured clothes, to sing our loudest and most triumphant songs and to revisit together the glory that is ours through the power and victory of Jesus Christ.

But the Gospel would not be chained.

We did our Holy Week services online in 2020 and not only did our people tune in for Christian hope and encouragement, but so too did many others awakened from their spiritual slumber by the ominous danger spreading rapidly and seemingly unchecked around the world.

It was our Easter in Exile and while we would never have chosen it, we rejoiced in the way God sovereignly used it to extend our Gospel reach and to stimulate our appreciation for corporate worship.

Of course, the pandemic due to COVID19 lasted much longer than any of us anticipated or predicted. Here in Ontario, we moved through nearly a dozen distinct protocol iterations ranging from near total lockdown to reduced building capacity – and back again. Easter 2021 for us was a mad scramble!

For Good Friday we were operating at 30% building capacity which necessitated three services at two different locations in order to ensure that all who were well enough and eager to attend were able to do so. On Easter Sunday we were reduced to 15% capacity because of the outbreak of a third wave of COVID19 infections. This necessitated five services over two locations to accommodate everyone.

It was chaotic, it was exhausting, but it was glorious! We felt like worship was costly again. It felt like we were offering the Lord something precious. The worship was deeper and more tangible. It wasn’t “happy clappy”, it was substantial and real. I wouldn’t want to ever repeat what we had to do on Easter 2021, but I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world.

Easter 2022 will be our first “normal” Holy Week in three years. We will gather as one church, in one location as one whole, healing body on Good Friday. We will contemplate the cross. We will feel the darkness. We will weigh the price. We will mourn the cost.

And then we will rise as one; one voice, one soul, one song, on Easter Sunday morning to declare and proclaim: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Praise the Lord!

It will be a new day. A new start. A new life for us, filled with fresh possibilities and Gospel hope.

I suspect we will sing a little louder as a result of having our mouths covered, our distance kept and our joy repressed for two long years. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder and sometimes for joy to be authentic and heartfelt it has to emerge out of darkness and sorrow. Jesus said something like that to his disciples in John 16:16:

“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” (John 16:16 ESV)

When the disciples had difficulty understanding the saying he explained to them:

“You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:20–22 ESV)

Most immediately in this passage, Jesus is referring to his death and resurrection. He is saying that when he dies on the cross the disciples will be sorrowful, but when he rises from the dead a little while later, they will experience tremendous joy.

Secondarily, however, he is speaking about the experience of the church during the long delay before his final coming and their enjoyment of the eternal kingdom. During this time also his disciples will be sorrowful. They will have tribulation. They will experience agonies akin to the pains of a woman in labour. But when the baby finally comes – when the Lord comes – they will know unspeakable joy! And their joy will be all the sweeter for the pains and the sorrows they endured.

Have you endured pains and sorrows over the last two years?

We all have.

Every church I know has experienced loss, difficulty, division, disease and death. We have all suffered. Not as much as some others – but more than most of us have ever known before. It was hard. It was dark. It was depressing.

For a little while we were not at our best.

For a little while we felt lost and off our game.

For a little while we were scattered, disordered and distracted.

But joy comes with the morning.

In the light of Christ’s victory and triumph, we are brought back to our senses; we are brought back to life, joy and Gospel hope. May it be so in our hearts and in our homes and may it be so also in our churches!

I am praying for this Easter Sunday to become the unofficial beginning of a whole new era in our story as followers of Jesus Christ here in Canada.

We have been shaken, stirred, stressed and strained over the last 2 years but God was in it, over it and for us through it all. As we come out of it, I pray we would come out stronger, more resilient, more grateful, more focused and more united. Let’s leave the past in the past. Let’s admit that things are said and done in a time of darkness and confusion that wouldn’t have been said and wouldn’t have been done on a bright and sunny day.

So be it.

Let’s nail those things to the cross.

Let’s forget them.

As far as the east is from the west so far has he removed our transgressions from us!

The blood covers all.

And the empty tomb answers all.

So let this Holy Week be a new beginning. The Lord is risen. He is risen indeed! Thanks be to God!



Pastor Paul Carter


To listen to the most recent episodes of Pastor Paul’s Into The Word devotional podcast on the TGC Canada website see here. To access the entire library of available episodes see here. You can find his personal blog, Semper Reformanda, by clicking here.