The End of the World

by | Apr 7, 2020

So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

John 16:22

We are entering into Holy Week, and I have never felt the emotions of this week more than now.  There have been many parallels between the experience of Jesus’ disciples and our own lives in this time of Coronavirus. 

Now some of the symmetry might be in opposites as well.  The disciples were living their own lives, for good or for bad, until Jesus appeared and disrupted their lives with grace and challenge—telling them to leave their homes and families, and they witnessed amazing signs and wonders in this new life.  But then, things went terribly wrong when their leader was arrested and executed, and they were gripped with fear and confusion as their dreams were crushed.  Even though they were sure they were doing the right thing, the world seemed to stop when their savior died on the cross.

We were living our own lives, for good or for bad, until Coronavirus appeared and disrupted our lives with menacing challenge.  We were told to stay in our homes and families, yet through our faith and thanks to technology we witnessed some amazing signs in this new way of doing worship and caring for each other.  But now, we look ahead to a week when we are warned that there will be “a lot of death,” the worst week that we will have experienced in our lifetime.  We hear about the horrors of death and overwhelmed hospitals, and we are gripped with fear and confusion as millions of people lose their jobs, children lose their schools, trips are cancelled, and we have no idea how long this will last or whether we will be hit by the virus.  Even though we are trying to do the right thing, we are coming to the realization that even as we get through this crisis, it is likely that the world as we know it will never be the same.

When this crisis began, I noticed how folks responded to the situation in their own way, depending on their particular backup behaviors, and that was actually a good thing, because we could help each other through this.  I would liken it to grief, and how we all grieve in our own way, and we can’t and shouldn’t expect people to grieve along our own timelines.  A friend suggested that in fact we ARE experiencing grief now.  Some people have had their dreams stopped—lives lost, graduation ceremonies cancelled, restaurants closed down.  But for all of us, we wonder how we will be changed permanently by this forced and sudden world coma.  When we come out of it—and we have no idea how long it will last—what will we wake up to?

So in some ways we are more like Jesus’ disciples this Holy Week than in most years.  So much of life as we knew it has been taken away, and we don’t know what it will look like when the virus passes.  The trust we put into the pillars of our lives—the economy, the government, the healthcare system—has been sorely tested if not destroyed.  And the terror we see is unlike anything we have experienced, so we have few historical precedents to learn from.

But we are also like Jesus’ disciples in that we have been given signs of hope.  Jesus has told us that there is new life, which requires the end of old life.  Jesus has warned us that there will be suffering, but he also promised that he will protect us, and ask God to give us the Holy Spirit, and he offers us peace.  And Jesus gave us a job to do:  to love one another, just as Jesus loves us—which means we love until the end, and love never fails.

Even as we walk this very cold, rainy, menacing week—even as we know that when that first Good Friday came, the world did come to an end—may we also remember the promises of hope, and peace, and new life that have been told and shown to us our whole lives.  Let us remember that the rain brings green and protects us from drought and fire, which were recent cause for fear.  Let us love one another, and learn new compassion, as our energy dips and our tensions rise as the monotony of this homebound life sets in.

And most of all, let us hold on to our loving God, and give thanks with our whole lives to Christ who gave up his life for us.  And may we be open to the healing balm of the Holy Spirit, even as we are reminded of the frail mortality of our physical bodies.  As we continue to love and care for each other in spirit, not in physical proximity, as we yearn for reminders of Christ’s resurrection and ours, we declare—with confidence and conviction!—the words of brother Paul:

When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
      Where, O death, is your sting?”          1 Corinthians 15:54-55

As we walk this Via Dolorosa along with our Lord, let us never doubt that the power and wisdom of our God is bigger than anything we will face.  May the life-giving love of Christ infect your hearts and heal your minds and bodies, now and always.

In Christ’s peace,