I was fairly certain Jesus would be present among our family of five on Easter morning. If we rose that sunny Sunday morning, if we called his name and praised him, if we sat on our couch and worshipped him via a streamed church service, and if we celebrated Easter for all its glory, Jesus would be with us.
He tells his disciples just this in the Gospel of Matthew. “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 20:18). And there we were, all five of us. Three of whom were knee-deep in gratefulness for Easter candy.
Yet it was on Easter Sunday morning that I found some sadness in my individual worship. And not because Easter looked so different this year. Easter had arrived despite all the uncertainty in our community and in our world. Glorious Easter. A day of restored hope. But I knew that Easter had arrived for so many across the globe who sat at home alone.
The church we attend in our relatively small community set its large wooden cross outside in the parking lot on Easter Sunday—the wooden cross that is covered in chicken wire for one reason. Typically, it sits all through Lent merely draped with a purple sash. And on Easter morning, this darkened cross awaits the hands of many generations placing bright and colorful and fragrant flowers on it – top to bottom, side to side, until it is covered in vibrant symbols of life.
On this Easter Sunday, full of social distancing and separation, parishioners were invited to come at their convenience to participate in the traditional flowering of the cross. So our family drove over after Easter baskets had been picked through, candy wrappers covered the dining table, and new Lego sets were already undergoing assembly.
We seemed to be the second to arrive, as only two lilies hung from the cross. I felt a ping of sadness even in my joy to be able to flower this beautiful cross with our boys, an act I cherish year after year, because it sat mostly barren. But the boys were not dismayed in the least. They jumped and ran and skipped around, and finally placed our garden’s bounty on the cross.
Later, on Easter afternoon, I hopped on my bike and rode back over to the church to see if anyone else had come out and flowered the cross—to see if others had wanted that tradition of Easter despite this year’s many limitations.
The wind was howling that afternoon. The tall light posts in the church’s parking lot were shaking at their foundations. And just beyond the cross, the columbarium was in sight. I stood there alone.
The sight was overwhelming. The cross was absolutely covered in so many different varieties of beautiful blooms. I gasped for a breath of air in awe of the sight. And I prayed. And I thanked our Lord Jesus. And I cried. It was the most inspiring Easter cross I have seen.
Because people came.
People came and stood among their families. People came alone. And I know, Jesus was with us. Each and every one of us, as we gathered apart to worship him.
May our worship continue, even if the darkness of our current worldly affairs has not lifted. Because Christ is risen indeed. And God remains when there is only one, and he remains when there are a few. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).