By Merv Birky, Regional Conference Minister
Conference Minister Team
How quickly life has changed! I hope you and your loved ones are staying well and wise, caring and cared for in these days.
We hear many things being said about what we are experiencing—some insightful, some misleading.
We hear: “We are living in unprecedented times. It must be a sign of the end-times.” Yes, and No. Perhaps unprecedented in our lifetimes, but certainly not in the experience of humanity through the centuries.
The first recorded pandemic was in Greece, 430 B.C. Over half the population died. There was the Bubonic Plague of 541-42 in Europe—25 million people died. The Black Plague ravaged Asia, Africa and Europe in the mid-thirteen hundreds—200 million deaths. The Third Cholera Epidemic of the mid-eighteen hundreds—1 million deaths. The world-wide Flu Pandemic of 1918 took over an estimated 75 million lives. There have been many. (ref: Master of Public Health website)
We are reminded that we live in solidarity with other human beings, not just in 2020, but all throughout history. And, yes, we are living in the “last days,” and have been for a long time. (See Acts 2:17 & Hebrews 1:2.) Yet today, the promise of Jesus still stands: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
We hear: “God is in control / God is in charge.” This is often said, understandably, as an attempt to bring comfort in times of uncertainty. But it can also lead to making God the One responsible for where, when, and who suffers or not. However, consider that Jesus, as the full revelation of God in the world (Hebrews 1:3), was about bringing healing & wholeness to humanity, especially in the face of all that is wrong with the world. John writes, “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5)
Pressed too far, the idea that “God is in control” has God behind the ill events we experience, with Jesus then working to bring wholeness to it. That sets up God the Father and the Son of God to be working against each other. Jesus paints a different picture in his parable of the weeds (Matthew 13:24-30). When we see “weeds” among the good in our world, Jesus says, “An enemy as done this” (vs.28). The good “grain” and the “weeds” are intermingled in our world, but the resurrected Jesus is present with us to the very end.
In the midst of all that we are experiencing, we are called to be the church, the body of Christ in the world. That is a call to love, as Christ loved us, and as we love ourselves.
We may have fears, but love overcomes fear—all kinds of fear. Fear moves us to stock up on toilet paper, sanitizer, and piles of groceries, leaving the shelves empty. Love moves us to take only what we need for a time, leaving some for others to meet their needs.
Fear moves us to cut ourselves off from everyone (or to pretend to be strong by getting out among others anyway). Love moves us to practice physical distance that protects ourselves and others, while remaining socially close by connecting through non-physical means.
Let us live in these days trusting in the reality that, come what may, “neither life nor death…nor anything in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:18-19).