Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, were the first celebrities to make global headlines as coronavirus patients. Now fully recovered, Hanks hosted NBC’s Saturday Night Live from his home last weekend.
Wearing a suit while standing in his kitchen, Hanks said, “It is a strange time to try and be funny, but trying to be funny is SNL’s whole thing, so we thought ‘What the heck!'” He joked that since being diagnosed with coronavirus, he has become “more like America’s dad than ever before” because no one wants to be around him and he makes people uncomfortable.
Andrea Bocelli’s amazing gift
Tom Hanks is just one celebrity using his platform to help in these difficult days. Andrea Bocelli is another.
His “Music for Hope” concert from Milan’s historic Duomo cathedral is one of the most moving videos I have seen. Often described as having the most beautiful voice in the world, Bocelli sings “Ave Maria” and “Sancta Maria” in front of a single microphone, accompanied only by the cathedral’s organist. His concert closes with a rendition of “Amazing Grace” I’ll not forget.
The renowned singer, who has been blind since the age of twelve, explained the purpose behind his concert: “I believe in the strength of praying together. I believe in the Christian Easter, a universal symbol of rebirth that everyone, whether they are believers or not, truly needs right now.”
His words speak to the hunger of the human heart for God, a theme that is being illustrated in many ways every day across this pandemic. The darker the room, the more compelling the light.
When we are afraid of offending others
One of the perennial fears Christians face is that we will offend those with whom we seek to share our faith. Intolerance is the cardinal sin of our age. A culture that considers all truth claims to be subjective and personal views our declaration that Jesus is the only way of salvation to be bigoted and prideful.
As a result, it can be intimidating to tell people that they need what only Jesus can give. But their rejection of truth makes truth no less true. And like a patient who refuses treatment and only becomes sicker, the more they discount the gospel, the more they need to hear it.
The good news of God’s love is especially urgent in these difficult days. Psychologists are warning of increases in depression and anxiety as a result of the pandemic. The crisis could lead to an escalation in suicides as well. Everyone needs to know that God loves everyone.
The key is to depend not on ourselves for strength and wisdom but on the risen Lord who lives in us by his Spirit. It is a mistake to serve an Easter Christ as though it were still Good Friday. As Paul noted, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). Unfortunately, many of us attempt to serve this risen King in our futile ability.
If we are afraid our words will fail, it’s because we are not speaking words inspired by God. He says of his word, “it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).
If we are afraid we won’t know what to say, it’s because we are not depending on the Spirit of God. Jesus taught us, “Do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:12).
We have a risen Lord who will empower and lead us as we share the good news of Easter Sunday on Monday.
“Our wounds become visible sources of hope”
As we serve the risen Christ in the power of the risen Christ, let’s remember that every moment is his gift to us. We are alive on this planet for no purpose except to love our Lord and our neighbor (Matthew 22:37–39).
Our Father made us for fellowship with himself and sent his Son to die that we might be reconciled to him. The fact that he has left us on earth rather than bringing us to be with him in heaven means that we have a purpose left to fulfill on earth.
C. S. Lewis is right: We “can neither make, nor retain, one moment of time; it all comes to [us] by pure gift.” So ask yourself this afternoon: Why am I alive this afternoon? What does the risen Christ want to do with and through me today?
And know that he will use you as you are. It’s not ability but availability that he seeks. And he redeems even our struggles by using them to reach others in their struggles as well.
Henri Nouwen once described a small Easter gathering at which the group “spoke together about the resurrection.” Referring to the wounds which Jesus displayed to Thomas (John 20:27), one of them observed: “It is such comfort to know that Jesus’ wounds remain visible in his risen body. Our wounds are not taken away but become visible sources of hope for others.”
Will you ask Jesus to make you such a source of hope today?