Chapter 5: Where do we go from here?
As we have seen over the last four chapters, the questions about God and the pandemic don’t have easy answers. I think that N.T. Wright has done an admirable job navigating these questions, and that leaves us in the position of having to figure out the Church’s response to the pandemic. Considering Jesus’ call and his ministry, how are we to be acting during this time? What do we do?
As the shepherd of a flock of beloved people, this has been the question that has kept me up for many many nights. As Wright puts it, “[God] called a human family – knowing full well that they were as flawed as the rest – to be his partners in the work of redemption and new creation.” At St. Timothy’s, our vision since the beginning has been to further God’s mission of rescue and redemption, so this speaks to us at a foundational and fundamental level. And as a part of this mission, we are firstly called to follow in the footsteps of “the Jesus who wept at the tomb of his friend, who agonized in Gethsemane, who cried out on the cross that he had been abandoned.” We are called to express our grief, turmoil, uncertainty, anger, fear, and anxieties to God. To pour out our lament to God.
But we are also called to hold fast to the Good News – although we are still living in a world occupied by sin and death, God has overcome the world through the death of Jesus Christ. Through him, all things are being made right. We strongly reject “an orderly universe in which ‘evil’ has an appropriate, allowable place.” As Wright succinctly puts it, “Evil is an intruder in God’s creation.” Although it may be possible, we don’t hold to the idea that God created the coronavirus to punish us or call us to repentance. If we want to see God’s judgement or his call to repentance, we are invited to gaze upon the cross.
And rather than saying the world is ending, we
act in ways that are pragmatic. Wright points out that Paul, in his earliest
letter, called us to “do good to all people, especially the household of faith.”
What this means is that first we are to turn inwards to our community and make
sure our brothers and sisters have what they need. Do they have their food and
drink provided for? Do they have their shelter taken care of? How can we
support each other through this time of distress and turmoil? And once our
community has been set, we are to look out into the world for the places that
we are being called to act.