Monday, April 05, 2021

Easter 2021

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Two and a half billion people celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ yesterday around the world.

While St Peter's Basilica only allowed 200 to be seated where normally thousands would gather, the largest Protestant Church in the world, in Seoul, South Korea, under mandate by the government could only seat 2000 in their sanctuary which normally seats over 10,000 in each of its 12-14 services.

Having preached at least two dozen times in that church, I cannot even imagine it anything other than filled to capacity every service.

In Canada, a pastor ordered the police to leave their church building and return only after obtaining a search warrant---and in India, Christians were attacked, beaten, and told if they did not "reconvert" to their tribal Hindu religion they would be killed. Some have been.

The media noted that "The Pope sounded weary," while many Protestants sounded determined, but all expressed one common emotion---sick and tired of Covid.

Troubled, but not distressed.

Be informed, not misled.

Easter services directly affected by coronavirus. 

Most news organizations reported that "from Protestant churches in South Korea to St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, worshipers followed national or local regulations aimed at preventing the transmission of the coronavirus."

In the Holy Land, air travel restrictions and quarantine regulations prevented foreign pilgrims from flocking to religious sites in Jerusalem during Holy Week which culminates in Easter services.

Inside St Peter's Basilica, only about 200 were allowed to attend the actual mass. The empty cathedral appeared cavernous. Normally, thousands would attend the Mass. 

The press said that the Pope "sounded weary as he noted that pandemic worries and protective measures have crimped religious holiday traditions in many places and at times have kept some faithful from engaging in public worship."

The Pope said, "We pray that these restrictions, as well as the restrictions on freedom of worship and religion worldwide, may be lifted and everyone allowed to pray and praise God freely."

In South Korea, the largest Protestant church in the world---Yoido Full Gospel Church--- with a little over 700 thousand members was only allowed to seat about 2000 in its 10,000 seat auditorium. Having preached there so many times in the past, I can't even imagine how that would look or feel.

Intent on controlling surging coronavirus infections in Italy the government ordered people to stay home during the three-day weekend except for essential errands. 

What was essential?

Going to church was not essential---food shopping and exercise were essential.

In France, churches held their traditional midnight Easter services just before dawn Sunday instead of Saturday night because of a nationwide 7 PM to 6 AM curfew.

More than 100 people are facing charges in Germany after the police broke up a church service over allegations that the gathering was defying coronavirus rules on congregating, social distancing, and communal singing.

The police said more than 100 people are facing charges because they were "gathering" and "sometimes singing."

They were doing the same at a church in Alberta, Canada this weekend---"gathering and sometimes singing" when the police also appeared in the church, however, the outcome was not as expected.

Pastor Artur Pawlowski, pastor of the Street Church in Alberta---a protestant church that describes itself as a multi-denominational, multi-ethnical ministry of believers with the mission of winning people to Christ according to Acts 1:8---was having none of it when police officers interrupted his service this weekend.

The pastor told the police, "Please get out, get out of this property, immediately get out," he told the 6 officers.

"I don't want to hear a word," he told the officers, "Out! Out! Out of this property immediately until you come back with a warrant, out!"

When officers continued to stand there, Pawlowski continued to shout "out, out out" several times.

He said, "Do you understand English? Gestapo is not allowed here." 

Pawlowski then turned a camera on himself as the officers left the building. He said, "The holiest festival of the year and they're coming to intimidate the Christians during the holiest festival?'s beyond me."

Calling the tactics like the Pharaohs who enslaved the Hebrew people, asking the people, while he was still on the camera, "Is this the future you want?---Is this what you want for your children or grandchildren?"

When this was posted on social media, you can imagine... It went viral.

Reports from India say that Christian families in a village in the central state of Chhattisgarh fled after villagers belonging to a tribal religion ostracized and threatened to kill them if they did not reconvert to their ancestral religion---forsake Christ and embrace eastern mysticism.  

Many churches met, worshiped, preached, and sang without incident yesterday, but to suggest that Covid has not been used as a tool to alter our lives---including how, where, and when we worship God, would be terribly uninformed.

Many churches in America defied local authorities and filled their church building with worshipers.  

But Christians around the world are feeling the effect of the virus in one way or another. And most of us are aware that the virus is being used as a tool to further restrict religious liberty and freedom


The takeaway.

True Christianity cannot be beaten or persecuted out of people. Christianity is a relationship, not merely a religion. And certainly not a philosophy.

The transformative power of the gospel is not merely what we believe---it's who we are. Our very identity is rooted in the person of the resurrected Jesus Christ.

To the Christians in Corinth Paul wrote (II Corinthians 4): "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed."

Paul concluded in verse 18: "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things that are not seen are eternal."

Jesus Himself  assured us, "I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

Be Informed, not confused. Be Discerning, not misled. Be Prayerful. Be Bold.