Christ is risen! Alleluia!
I have been waiting so long to say that! I’ve always loved Easter. I know that’s a very pastor-y thing to say, but it’s true. Easter has always been one of those perfect kind of days, where all the gloom and sadness of Lent gets thrown off all at once, and we have the big pipe organ hymns with the brass, there are Easter lilies and white paraments, everyone gathers with their families for traditions like Easter egg hunts or a ham dinner. And it feels a lot different this year.
We can’t meet in person, and so much of what makes Easter such a holy day feels like it doesn’t get to happen. We’re social distancing so all those wonderful traditions we have as a family are going to be put on hold. Even the way we get dressed up in our Easter best is being disrupted—I’m pretty sure most of y’all are watching this in your pajamas. And I think it can be tempting to think Easter is somehow less than because we don’t get all those things.
This has been a pretty insane week. We started, last Sunday, with Daylight Savings Time, which threw us all off of our sleep patterns. Then, as we needed the week to recover from losing an hour, it turns out there was a full moon, which does no favors for anyone who works in the medical field or with children. And as if that wasn’t enough to ratchet up the crazy, this past Friday was the thirteenth. It’s a week that seems to have been designed for the full brunt of the coronavirus arriving in our area and all that that means.
With it, so many of us are experiencing significant changes to how we organize our lives. Jobs that can be done remotely are mostly opting to have people work from home. The normal routine of meeting up with colleagues during the day is disrupted. Schools are canceled for the next several weeks, forcing parents to figure out childcare. Colleges are going to remote learning for the rest of the semester. And then we make the difficult decision not to meet in person for worship today. If you didn’t have anxiety already, this week certainly hasn’t helped.
What was the best day in your whole life? Think back to a time when you had just the best day, where the feeling you got was so incredibly good that you would go back to that day in a heartbeat just to experience it again. We occasionally get those really awesome moments, when we feel like the whole world is lined up exactly as it should be, and we’re truly, completely happy.
I got that feeling the first time Hazel ever fell asleep on me. It was at the hospital; she was barely a day old yet. We’d read that early skin-to-skin contact with both parents promotes some kind of good development in babies, so I was giving it a try while Annie took a much-deserved rest. And Hazel’s warm little body was so sweetly pressed up against me, and she had a stuffy nose from all the birth fluids, so she snored like a tiny old man. The nurse came in to give us some kind of instructions, but I definitely have no recollection of what she said because I was completely lost in that moment.
While I was researching materials about this Sunday’s readings, I ended up going down a rabbit hole of what leprosy is. See, it gets mentioned several times in the Bible, notably in this week’s readings from Luke and from 2 Kings, but also in several other books of the Bible. I looked it up, and leprosy, which is called Hansen’s disease in medical terminology, is a bacterial disease that deadens nerve endings and deforms your fingers and toes by eating away the cartilage. Throughout history and across cultures, leprosy has been treated essentially the same way: by outcasting and isolating people with it.
Up until the late nineteenth century, there was even a leper colony in Hawaii established by the American government where otherwise healthy people were sent to live in isolation together. People in developing nations with the disease are regularly shunned and avoided. And in the Bible, the prescription from the book of Leviticus for the disease—and pretty much any skin disease resembling it—was ritual isolation, wearing your hair long and messy and your clothes tattered and ragged, and shouting “unclean” anywhere you went so people knew to avoid you.
All of this is made even more tragic by the fact that leprosy isn’t contagious 98% of the time. But these are the kind of people who encountered Jesus on the road to Jerusalem and asked him to have mercy on them.