Easter is the high point of the Christian calendar, a season to focus on Jesus’ sacrificial death and glorious resurrection. It’s a time of worship, adoration and praise to the king who saved us and a time to follow his example of sacrificial love.
Yet this year, for the first time in living memory, physical church gatherings are closed.
Why do I single out the care of older people?
This Easter will be remembered as Corona Easter: an Easter of queuing and rationing of critical supplies, an Easter of fear, mourning and anxiety. Aid this pandemic, there is a real temptation to focus on me and mine. Hoarding, or breaking quarantine to party (on the basis that coronavirus is a low risk for those involved), has rightly been condemned as selfish.
But as Christians, are we focusing upon how we continue to love God and love our neighbours this Easter? Specifically, how are we loving our older neighbours?
Why do I single out the care of older people? Should we not love all our neighbours? Yes, of course we should, but we live in a culture which devalues ageing and older people. I have heard the phrase ‘Boomer remover’ being bandied around in reference to coronavirus. Additionally, older people are disproportionately affected by coronavirus (directly and due to the impacts of quarantine).
If these reasons are not enough motivation, consider the Biblical commandments regarding how we care for older people:
- “Honour your father and your mother …” (Exodus 20 and Ephesians 6:2). This commandment is not primarily directed to people under 18.
- Care of the older neighbour always has been central for God’s people (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).
- After the apostles, the first team of leaders appointed were charged with the care of widows (Act 6).
- Religion that God accepts is to look after widows and not to play favourites (James 1and 2). The latter could refer to overlooking older people.
It is clear from reason and scripture that we have a responsibility to love older people sacrificially. So how can we worship God this Easter by loving older people?
This question is perhaps best answered with two responses. The first engages with our inner selves and the second examines our care of older people.
Growing spiritually through difficulty
It is right for us to grieve the loss of Easter gatherings in 2020. For most in Australia, attending a church gathering is usually easy; multiple times, styles and formats are readily available. Coronavirus has given us a taste of some of the challenges faced by many older people (and the persecuted church) when it comes to gathering as God’s people.
Thankfully, quarantine gives us the opportunity to develop our prayer life.
Perhaps one of the changes coronavirus will bring is an experiential awareness of the challenge of not being able to gather as the church. This might motivate us to better love those for whom missing out on the church gathering is normal. Indeed, loneliness and isolation are common for many older people. The need for quarantine is hitting older people with disproportionate strength. The higher infection rate means they need to be more isolated than most. For example, many nursing homes are in total lockdown, allowing no visitors.
I think that, sadly, our busy lifestyle – coupled with our confidence in our health system – has eroded our prayer life. In truth, our health system is a blessing and we should give thanks for it, but our real hope is not found in medicine. Coronavirus is scary, medically and economically; both should drive us to prayer. Thankfully, quarantine gives us the opportunity to develop our prayer life.
Practical ways to caring for older people this Easter
While our Corona Easter is challenging, it can help to develop our personal Christian walk. This growth in our personal relationship with Jesus should manifest in how we love those around us.
Older people are around us, as direct relatives, friends, neighbours or members of the local community. Here are five practical ways we can show and share Jesus’ love to older people this Easter, during coranavirus constraints.
1. Treat quarantine seriously. Yes, if you are younger and do not have chronic illness, the chance of you dying from coronavirus is low. But your engagement or dismissal of quarantine will literally save or cost lives. You may not be a front line worker, but the home front is where this war will be won. Medicine can only respond to COVID-19, but isolation prevents transmission.
2. Care for older family members. The Apostle Paul reminds us we have a specific responsibility for our families (1 Timothy 5:8). Many of you (like me) live a significant distance/across borders from family members. However, this does not mean you cannot care for them this Easter. You may actually be able to provide better care than in previous years. Use your phone, Skype or Zoom to call older family members. Are you struggling to entertain your kids? Encourage them to call older family members. Challenge your kids to make a video which you could then email to family members (perhaps playing an instrument, dancing, or putting on a play). Such intergenerational activity will be a blessing for the whole family. Where appropriate, consider how you can include Christian content in this type of intergenerational engagement. Could your twelve year old read the Bible over the phone with grandma? Could you celebrate communion together over technology?
Please consider how you can use your finances this Easter to love older people.
3. Love your neighbours. Literally. You may not be able to do the shopping for your grandmother but what about the older gentleman who lives down the street? Does he have someone to do his shopping or go to the chemist? Could you set up your tablet to livestream church, wipe it down with alcohol wipes and then lend it to your neighbour who is not tech savvy so they, too, can access virtual church?
4. Free resources. Encourage the older people in your life to engage with the free Easter resources. Yes, this includes internet resources (you may need to print them off) but some people may not have internet access or ability to easily access online resources. However, very few people don’t have a radio or TV, both of which have good Christian content available.
5. Spend some money. Yes, many people are out of work and many more are scared they, too, may lose their jobs. However, please consider how you can use your finances this Easter to love older people. Are there older people in your world who cannot use a normal phone? Could you buy them a phone which they can use? There are both landline and mobile phones designed specifically for older people. Perhaps you could purchase an mp3 player and download appropriate content and then give it to an older person. There are mp3 players designed specifically for people living with dementia. Could you purchase some Easter material and have it delivered to someone in need. There is a huge range, as well as specific material for older people and those living with dementia. For example, a book I co-authored, Jesus Loves Me, is designed to share the message of Easter with people living with dementia. Purchasing resources has the double function of caring for the recipient and supporting Christian resource providers, many of who are facing the financial strain of coronavirus.
Sisters and brothers, in the midst of Corona Easter, may you know and share Jesus’ love, peace and joy. Christ is Risen – He is risen indeed.
*Ben Boland is an aged care gospel advocate, author and chaplain. The views and opinions included in this article belong to the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of his employer. His employer takes no legal responsibility for any comments or opinions expressed in this article.