“Mom,” our eight year old said in a serious tone, “this is kind of like a zombie apocalypse, but without the zombies.”
We finally decided to take the kids somewhere away from our house to ride bikes on a trail after more than a week of staying home. They felt like they were breaking the rules to go away from our house and take the bike path by the river.
Sam, our eight year old, is our deep feeler, questioner, thinker. It occurred to me he had been thinking hard about something for a while, and I am pretty sure this was it.
Zombie apocalypse seems to be the wildest rage these days and in his eight year old brain that is the worst thing that could possibly happen.
What do I say to such a loaded statement?
In a very objective tone I tried to respond, “You’re right. This is an apocalypse. An apocalypse is whenever an epic disaster happens and people have to make hard decisions about what to do and how to respond. You’re totally right. I guess this is an apocalypse.”
Apocalypse really hadn’t occurred to me until then.
Suddenly all of the concern of our friends and family on Facebook who have been inferring to the end of times, and the signs and warnings became really real, inside our car. People everywhere are sure the world is ending, just like our Sam.
I guess it does feel as though the world is ending, because it kind of is…
Our world as we know it, as it has been, is coming to an end.
There is no possible way after this pandemic event (pan means all encompassing, demic means rare, therefore pandemic means rare and all encompassing event), anything will be and/or can be the same.
Every nation, every race, every family, every institution, etc. is or will be affected in such a way that to aspire to return to normal would actually do more harm for the future than to aspire to imagine how things can change for the best possible outcome.
But should that really be devastating news?
GRIEVING THE DEATH OF A BROKEN WORLD
If anyone has ever had to officiate the funeral of a seriously broken person, it is difficult. We usually do our best to only remember the best parts of who that person was and try really hard not to mention the broken and worst parts, at least publicly.
While it is an honorable approach for human beings and how we try to remember them, I am not so sure a broken world, a broken society, or a broken worldview deserves such pomp and circumstance.
We only grieve for the best parts of our dreams and aspirations or of what could have been because very few of us were satisfied with what was our reality.
Across the spectrum of society throughout the world we have not been pleased with the systems, institutions or infrastructures that will soon find themselves in such a state that they will never be able to return to “business as usual.”
If anything, this virus has exposed the inherent weaknesses in the promises of what the Bible calls, “the principalities and the powers,” as Walter Wink defines them in his Powers that Be they are systems that were created for good, but have been corrupted into becoming idols, false gods who have made an end unto themselves.
The promises of government, capitalism, consumerism, education, religion, and even nationalism have seemed to all be exposed for not being able to do what they promised: protect us, save us, make us successful, keep us comfortable, or even give us control over our futures.
When the institution of government decides that it is better to save the economy than to save the people, then the purpose of the government for the people is exposed because the purpose of the government to take care of the people and the purpose of the economy is to serve the people, not the other way around.
Time and again, when Jesus was confronted by the Religious leaders for his radicalism he would point out how the institution had changed from its original purpose of serving the people, to making the people serve the institution. Mark 2:27-28 “Sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the sabbath.”
At a certain point, our institutions who have been made for service to humanity seem to take on a life of their own, and this includes the Church.
Suddenly the purpose of the Church is to keep our church and its own micro-economy booming. When keeping people in the pews, money in the plates, and programs in our schedules so that our church grows and grows, is more important than staying home and keeping people healthy, the church has a problem.
I am reminded of the first hand account from a Church leader who told of a large church who decided to keep the doors open in the face of a major hurricane because they were afraid of not being able to make up for a missed Sunday’s offering. While this is a caricature of the worst part of what the church can be, it is a reality.
When the saving grace of Jesus, and the freedom and ever flowing gift of life through him is dammed up, walled off, or territorialized for the purpose of growing our church then the purpose of the church has been corrupted and made an end in itself.
NEEDLESS SUFFERING AND THE APOCALYPSE
The meaning of the Greek word, “apocalypsus”actually means, “unveiling of that which was not previously known and could not be known apart from the unveiling.”
I believe what we are seeing and are beginning to see in this apocalypse is all the ways our world and its systems cultivate a lack of empathy toward those suffering.
We can overlook pain and suffering, pandemics, and plagues, war, displacement, confinement until it’s happening to us.
People have needlessly died, because too few of us felt threatened enough to care. And I’m not just talking about COVID-19.
We have not cared about refugees, immigrants, the poor, the hungry, those without, because that would never be us. We think we control those things. This virus has exposed our callous nature.
However, the virus is indiscriminate, even the faithful church goers who dare to defy the warnings are getting sick. The virus doesn’t care who you are or what you believe.
POWER OF RESURRECTION
As I told my son Sam, this is an apocalypse, the world as we know it will never be the same, which means the world as we want it is right around the corner.
This Holy Week, may we remember that the God we worship is the one who makes a way where there seems to be no way. In the book of Revelation, called “APOCALPYSUS in Greek” the God of the Resurrection, the one who raised Jesus from the dead brings to us a New Heaven and a New Earth– a New Jerusalem, one that is not in some far off heavenly place but it comes down to Earth, our Earth.
There is an expectation of the New Creation here and now, not just after we die.
The Body of Christ, the Church is to help usher in the New Creation, that is our calling. We need to get started. MAY IT BE SO.