Friday, March 27, 2020

The End of Lent: A Message of Hope

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Dear Friends,

Have you heard the good news? God is love. God is faithful. Even in this time of unprecedented challenge, God is with us. Even in this long Lenten season, we can be assured that Easter will come. Joy will return. In fact, every Sunday, the Lord’s day, has been called “a little Easter.” We can say with confidence, “Easter has come. Easter will come again."

For the past several months, I have been on sabbatical from my normal role at Duke Chapel. It was my hope to have this be a time of peace and refreshment and a time of focused research and writing. But the current trials and troubles facing our nation have stirred me from that sabbatical to offer you a word of hope in these difficult days.

When Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always,” he was speaking about days like these. For so many across the country, social isolation, fear, and grief have become a new reality. Family members are distanced, and households are huddled around computer screens to continue their classroom education online or to work at make-shift desks. Those with fewer resources feel additional strains as they rely on public Internet or have no home computer to use for FaceTime and Zoom connections. Gig workers, service providers, and small business owners are losing their employment while first responders offer their expertise with tireless courage, tending to the needs of our vast communities. Worry can be our constant companion in times like these, but Jesus is here with us. We are not alone. You are not alone.

I want to encourage you to use this time to seek and find our Lord. The call for social distancing is an opportunity for spiritual closeness. Simple spiritual disciplines, individual and family prayers, praying the Psalms, and reading the stories of Jesus recorded in the Gospels offer pathways to drawing near to God today. But other activities can also be a source of spiritual comfort and strength.

Just this week, I found the harmonica which my mother gave me years ago. As I breathe into it, the sound takes me back to memories of my family singing, dancing, and laughing. I can see again my mother and father, together with all of my siblings, in one room, praising God. And quickly, I think again of our Duke family: the students now scattered around the world; faculty teaching from home; the community of faith at Duke Chapel worshipping with us online. A touch of melancholy comes with all of these memories as we live in unpredictable times. I would love to gather together for Easter Sunday to hear the songs of our celebration punctuated by the brass ensemble, the thunder of the organs, the harmonies of the choir, and the beauty of the gathered community, singing, “Christ the Lord is risen today!”

This year, because we cannot gather in person for Easter, we must remember Easter is more than the service of celebration at Duke Chapel.

Easter is also our individual, personal, celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the fulfillment of God’s promises of hope and new life for the entire world.

So, my friends, as we come to the end of Lent and travel through Holy Week to arrive at Easter, please know that we are with you, wherever you are.  As we care for students online and on the phone, connecting through new technologies, and as we pray for each of you every day, we do so as a small reminder of the boundless love of God in Christ Jesus.

May God bless you with a spirit of peace and comfort even in the face of sorrow. Together, we will #findsanctuary in the risen Lord who never leaves us nor forsakes us.

Yearning for a long Easter,
Dean Luke A. Powery

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