The COVID-19 pandemic felt at first like a spanner in the works.
Major parts of normal life seemed to grind to a halt from COVID-19. At times it all felt quite surreal, something out of a dystopian movie. This ugly virus has caused catastrophic medical, economic and social reverberations around the world.
The global scale of the suffering and upheaval has caused many to ask what it all means.
- Is it more proof of the randomness and meaningless of life?
- Does this COVID-19 pandemic force us to conclude that either there is no God or if there is a God, God doesn’t care?
These are deep questions that do not have easy answers.
For my part, I have become more convinced of the truthfulness and relevance of the Christian faith in the face of this demanding time in our history.
Let me expand. Christian faith is a communal faith. Some eastern expressions of religion give great stress on the individual and do not call for communal expressions of faith. Similarly, our secular culture stresses the importance of the individual and tends to see community life as an optional extra.
Many of us no longer know our neighbour and talk over the back fence.
Christian faith however is constantly reminding us of the importance of community.
Jesus made it very clear we are to love our neighbour; that means knowing and caring for the person next door and down the street and in our neighbourhood and beyond.
During this COVID-19 pandemic belonging to a caring community is a must.
The Christian emphasis on life together has never been more pertinent.
Alongside community, the Christian faith stresses generosity and self-sacrifice.
The Christian church has faced pandemics before and puts faith into action. Lyman Stone, a research fellow at the Institute for Family Studies writes “historians tell us during the terrible Antonine plague of the 2nd century, which might have killed off a quarter of the Roman Empire, Christians cared for the sick”.
A century later the pagan Emperor Julian complained how “the Galileans” would care for even the non-Christian sick people. This habit of sacrificial care reappears again and again throughout history.
The German Reformer Martin Luther refused the call to flee and protect himself from the bubonic plague. He stayed and ministered to the sick and dying at some personal cost, the death of his daughter Elizabeth.
Stone’s article concludes that the early Christians created the first hospitals in Europe as hygenic places during epidemics.
In many small ways across our nation, Christian communities have found creative and compassionate ways to care a wide variety of people, especially the elderly, the lonely and those battling to put bread on the table. Behind these gospel values of community and care stands Jesus, the Galilean, founder of our faith.
When I first heard the word “corona” I learned that the word corona is the Latin word for crown.
A crown is the symbol of authority and power. Over the past six months, we have seen the enormous power of this virus over humans.
We are forced to face our own vulnerability and mortality. This does not need to lead us to despair.
There is another “corona” that points the way through the darkness and suffering. This corona is the crown of Christ.
The Crucifixion stories tell us that Jesus wore a crown of thorns. It is the Christian conviction that Jesus was God’s incarnate Son and took upon himself the evil and suffering of the world, “the Crucified God” as Moltmann put it.
Beyond community and compassion, there is the living Christ, who in love bears our pain and loss. During this season of uncertainty and doubt and the search for meaning, I have been upheld by a loving community of faith.
I have also been hope-filled by Christ whose love reaches into the darkest places, bringing meaning and purpose to all who would come under His sway.
In this pandemic, with all its challenges, I have found my faith in Christ very relevant, it has given me a calm center and firm hope.
May this be your experience too.
Rev Steve Francis