We’ve noticed how this strange new world in which we find ourselves, courtesy of COVID-19, has brought us to a relative standstill, though some places are standing still more than others. Each of us has taken notice of that reality, sometimes in quite trivial ways. (I was alarmed when the NHL suspended its season! But the alarm has turned to elation since they have decided to have the playoffs!)
Banu and I were discussing certain realities in the church. We are aware that we’re in an in-between time. (Never has interim pastor training been more spot-on!) What is happening now? What will happen when “this” is all over?
In my Easter sermon, I addressed this very thing. “There has been much discussion about getting back to normal (post pandemic) and how long it will take before it happens. I don’t believe it will ever happen. If we somehow pretend to go back to the way things were, we’ll be fooling ourselves. These events are happening; there’s nothing we can do to change it. The question will be if we learn from this—if we allow the Spirit to teach us.”
Has a reset button has been given to us? What would it mean to hit it? One of the scripture texts for Trinity Sunday is the conclusion of 2 Corinthians. In 13:11, the apostle Paul says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order…” It’s probably best to read that as a passive instruction. “Be restored to order.” Be restored. Permit yourselves to be set straight.
It appears to be increasingly certain that this coronavirus is here to stay. We need to make long term plans, not simply knee-jerk reactions. Unless we are prepared for chaos around the globe (okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit!), our economic, political, and even spiritual mindsets need to change.
Is there any wisdom we can glean from Paul’s use of that single Greek word, καταρτιζω (katartizō)? Surely “be restored to order” can be seen as applying, to not just our relationship with other humans (be they in the church or not), but to our relationship with the earth itself. It better be—no, it must be—if we are to live within our calling to be stewards of God’s good creation.
[, awesome coach of the San Antonio Spurs, calls timeout]
Maybe hitting the reset button will become a daily exercise. And to be honest, doesn’t that reflect teachings handed down through the centuries? For example, the prophet Jeremiah wrote to the exiles in Babylon (who were facing their own strange new world), “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (29:7). Every morning, when they woke up, they had to hit the reset button. They had no choice. Still, the prophet of God encouraged them. He assured them that was the way to life.
If human history—if church history—is any guide, the changes we need to make are usually the ones forced on us. But so be it. May the Spirit lead, by any means necessary, the restoration required to live and to prosper in this crazy new age unfolding before us.