April 4, 2021 will register as the second Easter Sunday during the COVID-19 pandemic and – according to some area ministers – comes with Memphis and the nation languishing and sorely in need of a beacon of encouragement and hope.
Easter Sunday, widely known as Resurrection Day, is anchored in the scriptural proclamation that Jesus Christ, the Bible’s central figure, was crucified on a Friday and – three days later – fulfilled the declaration to rise again
Pastor ELaura James Reid of Coleman Chapel CME Church said the meaning of Easter is as relevant now as ever.
“When I look at this pandemic and this great racial divide and turmoil, I think of the scripture in Psalms which declares, ‘This is the generation that will diligently seek Him,’ said Reid. “People don’t want all the entertainment and fluff. This generation, those who are alive now, wants the true and living Christ, not His watered-down version.”
Reid said she will encourage her congregation on Sunday to remain faithful because “God hears our prayers.”
“The Bible tells us that our prayers are placed in a golden bowl of incense,” said Reid. “He hears us, whoever we are and whatever we might be. It’s been a hard year, but weeping only endures for a night. Joy will come in the morning. Jesus, the matchless Lamb of God, seeks to commune with us. He is alive today, and that is good news.”
This Easter and the time in which it comes has the Rev. Wanda Davis, founder of Rehoboth Ministries and Outreach Services, attuned to game changers.
“When Jesus came, he was a game changer,” said Davis. “The pandemic was a game changer. It changed the way the world works. How many ministries had the desire to go online and extend its reach through social media and on virtual platforms?
“Many thought God was going to send their ministries around the world literally. But God has made them global through virtual means.”
The Rev. Melvin D. Watkins Jr., senior pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church-Westwood, said there is great reason to rejoice this Easter Sunday.
“With the pandemic, racism and gun violence, there is a pervasive sense of hopelessness and turmoil,” said Watkins. “But everyone would do well to remember that God has the last say so.
“We can always find hope in the resurrection. The same God that raised Jesus from the dead gives us hope for justice and equality.”
Pastor Sharon Webb of Life Changing Word Ministries World Center says that there has been purpose and divine intention through the global pandemic.
“Jesus allowed all we have experienced so that those who really desire Him can receive Him in their hearts and have new life,” Webb said.
“Genesis 15:16 speaks about the cup of iniquity being full. The cup of iniquity refers to a cumulative weight of sins. So the sin of murder and racism became full on May 25, 2020 when George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota while being arrested. The whole world watched in horror.
“God had given America over 400 years (roughly the time since Africans were brought to America as slaves) to repent and correct this behavior. But she (America) didn’t. So because of this, racism has no more hiding places.”
This is the season, said Webb, “when the Lord is causing recompense. It is a wonderful time for the Black and Brown races. It is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. Easter is, indeed, a time for rejoicing.”
Pastor Larry Lewis of Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding Ministries said much of what is happening today could have been torn out of the Bible.
“The resurrection story has remained constant – Jesus was crucified, buried and raised on the first day of the week,” said Lewis. “Yet, this year, I find myself strongly compelled to ask the question contained in the passage regarding the resurrection.”
This is Lewis’ reference: “And they said among themselves, ‘Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulcher?’ And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.”
Elaborating, Lewis said the contingent of women at the tomb weighing the question was dealing with a stone barrier, a partition between them and Jesus. Today’s separation “from the savior” reflects itself in the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and sacrifices made during the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6th.
“We consider ourselves to be followers of Christ, yet we continue to experience continued racism, instances of gun violence, police brutality and neglect to show compassion and mercy towards others who may not look like us,” said Lewis.
“We refer to ourselves as the United States of America, but we are experiencing an unusual amount of division among us. Oh that Jesus would rise up again in our hearts! This resurrection celebration would be a wonderful time to start anew.”
Pastor Devante Hill of One Church Memphis and a prominent activist during the summer protests, said, “Knowing that George (Floyd) is no Jesus, I’m still captivated at the thought that both Jesus’ and George’s names will transcend the barriers of impact and change for generations to come.
“Father, why did you leave was Jesus’ cry. ‘Mamma, I can’t breathe,’ were George’s last words. These two worlds don’t collide because they are one and the same,” said Hill.
“We can’t breathe until heaven breathes on the earth. If my people, who are called by the name of the Lord, would humble themselves and tear down these systems, heaven can then hear from us and heal the land!”