That might sound strange to some ears, God speaking through Covid? Can he? Does he? Is he?
I don’t intend for one moment to say that God orchestrated it, or that it’s God’s judgement, but as C. S. Lewis said, “Pain is God’s megaphone.” Yes, God has a way of using the events we are caught up in to get our attention, to speak to us, and it is with that in mind that I’m asking, what is God saying, if anything, via Covid 19 and the effects of the various restrictions/lockdowns? What is he saying to you, me, the church, the churches? What is he saying to the world at large?
I’ve recently been looking again at Walter Bruggemann’s, Sabbath as Resistance. In it he talks about the gods, the powers of this fallen world, that seek to gain control of our lives, and enslave us to their ever increasing demands, resulting in ever increasing restlessness, weariness and anxiety as we strive for the promised success and accumulation of things that we are told will lead to our fulfillment and satisfaction.
God or god’s? Now you may or may not be a believer but the reality is we are all serving either one God or another, none of us is an entirely free agent and you don’t have to look far. It’s evident in so much of what we see and hear on our televisions, in our newspapers, and explored in films. The power of the media, of advertising, with all the various expectations and demands, telling us how we should live and what we should have. The gods of this world are tyrants demanding evermore of us, just like the pharoughs of Egypt who demanded more and more of their slaves. The tyrant gives us no rest, more is always the requirement, satisfaction is always just beyond our reach. We are not neutral, we are either serving the gods of this world or the One true and living God.
This was not how God sets things up. Yes he put desire, ambition and creativity in the heart of mankind. He gave them a job to do, to steward creation on his behalf as co-regents. But he was never a slave driver and continually demanding more. He gave them boundaries for their protection and renewal. It was never about a constant drivenness, leading to ever increasing anxiety, stress and burnout. Life and work was never meant to be tyrannical.
Rhythms. From the very beginning God set things up with certain rhythms, like day and night, not permanent day. After he created Adam and Eve, and instructed them in their sphere of responsibility, he set it within a time frame of a seven day week, with a day off in each week from the responsibilities he had entrusted to them. A time when the focus wasn’t on them or what they could do, but on God their creator and sustainor. A time of receiving rather than giving, of partaking rather than than performing. A time to hear. A time to be renewed and replenished.
Distorted rhythms. Sadly that was distorted by the Fall when everything was turned on it’s head and life took on a momentum all of its own. Suddenly it became demanding, tyrannical, and it has been a challenge for humanity ever since to live according to the rhythms that God created and to know the rest and renewal that he intended. Suddenly life was filled from dawn to dusk seven days a week.
That question. So, getting back to my question, is God saying anything through Covid 19… One answer must surely be in how it has challenged and shaken our understanding of what we think about life, what normal is, and left us uncertain as to what the new normal might be. The schedules that used to dominate out lives, the people to meet, the jobs to do, the deals to be done, and the places to go, are all up in the air. There’s uncertainty around. And we are not comfortable with it. It throws up the question, what is life? What should it look like? Not bad questions to ask of ourselves.
So, I wonder is God using it to get our attention? Are there things he wants to say? Are there things that he wants to change? Is there something about us he wants to change?
Interior Recalibration. For some, if not many, I believe he is wanting to recalibrate our interior lives. They have gotten out of kilter, they are empty spaces rather than filled. They’re driven rather than led. They are bound rather than free. God seems distant distant rather than present. Inwardly depleted, running on empty, and with it the thought, how much longer can I keep it up. Its time to come aside and seek the renewal of the Spirit, to be replenished. The well known story of Mary and Martha comes in here. When Jesus arrived at their home Martha was distracted by many responsibilities, Mary though, not shirking responsibility, recognised who was with them and the need to stop and listen and learn. Maybe, just maybe, this is just such a time for recalibrating our priorities, of a forced stop so that we can draw near and being renewed. How is your life with God?
Exterterior Recalibration. It’s also time to recalibrate our exterior lives. We have fallen for the way of this world, and the gods of this age have had more influence over us than the one true God who made and redeemed us. They’ve played with our ‘algorithyms’ as it were and as a result have gathered a life of their own, work, school, clubs, leisure, and like the hamster on a wheel going round and round and round they seem to have gathered a momentum all of their own, over which we have no control… quite different from what we intended. As a result we are in danger of burning out and those around are not being loved, cared for, listened to, served… But now the wheel has stopped… Its time to recalibrate. That recalibration involves a reclaiming of our lives, a reorganising and reframing of them. It means a recalibration of our priorities to kingdom one’s involving your spouse, your family, your friends, your neighbour, the church. Now is the time to take stock and ask, God, what action do I need to take? People after all are more important than things. What do you need to do? What will you do?