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Posts Tagged ‘Covid-19’


Image result for pandemic gameA few years ago at a game night in my house we played Pandemic. We successfully squashed the pandemic. Today we have a pandemic ravaging parts of the U.S. and Europe. There are still cases in Asia but the hot zones are currently in the “Western world”.

Earlier in the year my greatest fear was the political season. A group of pastors gathered to talk about ministry in a season of great political division. It was very helpful in understanding why people are so polarized.

I think this helps understand the different perspective on the “data” of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Imagine a graph (because I lack the skills to put one together. On the horizontal axis we see the tension between Left <=> Right. Down the center of that on the vertical axis we see the tension between Modern and Postmodern (top to bottom).

Image result for political graph

It is like this, but not this one I’m using for illustrative purposes.

Upper Left Quadrant (Left & Institutional/Modern): Progressives. They represent a creational mandate concern for improvement or change. Change can be an idol when you pursue it at the expense of the other 3 aspects of the creation mandate. The poster child for political progressives are the Clintons.

Upper Right Quadrant (Right & Modern): This focuses on personal responsibility and freedom. Liberty is a biblical good. When isolated it can be idolatrous. These calls people to put themselves up by their bootstraps (forgetting that some people don’t have bootstraps to pull). The poster children are Ronald Reagan and Captain America.

Lower Left Quadrant (Liberal & Postmodern/individualists): This is the focus on equality reflecting the fact we are all made in the image of God. The farther you get from center the farther you likely get from biblical equality with a focus on equal outcomes rather than opportunity, and equality for various non-traditional minority groups. The poster child is AOC with the Berne lurking around there somewhere.

Lower Right Quadrant (Right & Postmodern/individualists): They prize security. Part of the creation mandate was to subdue and rule, keeping the Garden. Again, this is a good thing but the more you pull away from the other biblical values the more dangerous it can become and more ideological. This seems to be what MAGA is about with Iron Man and Steve Bannon as recognizable representatives.

Personally, I’m not sure if the ones on the right should be swamped. Reagan was not about institutional power but the security people need institutional power to have … security.

You can probably see some of your idolatry as a reflection of your voting patterns. I value liberty. I am a Reagan and Captain America guy. Freedom comes with risk.

Into these polarizing ideologies and idolatries comes Covid-19. Responses to this crisis reflect your idols.

Progressives see this as an opportunity for change. This change is instituted by the government. Greater government power seems to be the solution to this and we see the Progressives in Congress pushing for plenty of change in the economic stimulus package.

The representatives of equality are largely critical of those who differ. They see this as an opportunity to being Green New Deal stuff.

Image result for captain america fighting iron manThose are more political and not really the person on the street at the moment. Most people are torn between liberty and security, and unlike Captain America and Iron Man, this fight is taking place largely in social media instead of an airport in Europe or Siberia.

Some, valuing liberty see the economic destruction our response is causing as worse than the disease we are fighting due to the length of recovery, the increase in income inequality, long term changes to the standard of living, and equally shared by the whole nation instead of just in hot zones.

Others, valuing security want the world to shut down because people will die. Stopping the spread of the virus is most important.

Own your idolatry! Admit that you are not balancing out change, liberty, equality and security but that you are putting one above the others. It’s okay, the vast majority of us are doing it.

In other words, get the log out of your eye before you deal with their speck. The reality of the matter is that no one knows what the right course of action is at this point. None of us have time machines or perfect predicatability. Honest scientists will admit that computer models aren’t perfect, and can’t account for unforeseen factors. There is that struggle between personal responsibility and government responsibility, between liberty and security.

You love one of those more than the other. You are willing to sacrifice on at the expense of the other. We’ve been here before. We were here after 9/11. The Patriot Act sacrifices liberty on the altar of security. At the time I was “okay, I’ve got nothing to hide.” I was wrong in that opinion. Whether I have anything to hide is irrelevant. It is also about how the government uses it, manipulates it or sees it in line with its own bias.

We have these differences about how best to address the pandemic because we have different idols. It is not because the other person is stupid, they just value things differently than you do. And the sooner we all see that the sooner we’ll stop throttling each other on the internet.

 

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Covid-19 has changed all our lives. For now it is changing the face of the church.

Live streaming used to be for big churches. With CDC recommendations and cities limiting gatherings, corporate worship has ceased in many places.

Many have opposed this on the basis of Hebrews 10:23-25. In the context of the letter, some were avoiding corporate worship due to persecution in their region. The stoppage of corporate worship due to a pandemic is different and should not be confused with disobedience. However, we still need to stir up on another to love and good works. Technology allows us to “meet” and worship, to hear the word of God preached by our own pastors who love us, rather than some celebrity pastor.

This week our congregation joins the time of the live stream worship service.

Photo by Joelle Smith

One question has arisen this week in the wake of “virtual” worship for the next unknown number of weeks. In our county we initially made the decision to track with the schools which were out of session for two weeks. Today I heard it would be another two. So we anticipate live streaming for the next month, minimum.

A number of the Facebook groups I am in have been grappling with this question. It is a pertinent one. People have taken some pretty hard stances (surprise!).

I want to briefly lay out how our Session has processed this question. This is not an indictment of those who disagree. It is simply the rationale we use for our decision for the time being. As time passes it is possible we may change our minds.

There is something about the corporeal. We are a body-soul union. As a result place matters to us. So do people.

then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. Genesis 2

We anticipate some level of awkwardness as we worship via live stream. We won’t see each other, put hands on shoulders or shake hands. More, we won’t hear each other sing. There is something about a singing congregation. Ours sings well, and as the pastor I find it encouraging. This will be missed, and missed greatly by many, particularly those in smaller churches where you know most of the congregation.

16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 1 Corinthians 10

There is much about communion that is corporal. We use bread and wine (scripturally and confessionally) with juice available as an accommodation for others. In 1 Corinthians 10 and 11 the instruction regarding communion assumes a corporate context. We see this in the misuse of the Table in drunkenness (11:21)). The one loaf represents the one body (10:17), our union with Him and one another. It is meant to be a participation in that union, from which we derive the term communion (brought over from koinonia).  One loaf and one cup representing not only one Savior but one body- a corporeal entity.

17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. 1 Corinthians 11

Virtual communion, with the one body spread out seems to be a repudiation of our union and participation together (11:33). Yes, we still hold to the “communion of saints” and “one holy, catholic (universal) and apostolic church”. This is meant to be an affirmation our our universal union with Christ, not an excuse not to participate in local communion or congregation. Communion happened when the local congregation gathered together.

Photo by Joelle Smith

I suggest that many of our churches could do a better job of living in light of this reality. It is more than partaking of the elements at the same time, but not less than that. Our communion is not supposed to be just with Christ, but also with one another as alluded to in 1 Corinthians 10-11. Virtual communion, in my opinion, moves us even farther from that spiritual reality.

33 So then, my brothers,[when you come together to eat, wait for one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come. 1 Corinthians 11

During the Babylonian exile, the Jews began to worship in synagogues. Their worship changed. No longer did they have access to the temple. They longed for temple worship even as they gathered to hear Torah. Their communion with God was different. They sensed loss. And longing.

I think we are entering a season of longing. Deprivation is not a bad thing, or should I say delayed gratification is not a bad thing. Exile creates longing, a longing that was eventually satisfied.

This week I read through 1 Peter. One of the oft repeated phrases is that we are “strangers and aliens” or “exiles”, depending on the translation used. We are “elect exiles” (1:1) living in a time of exile (1:17), as well as sojourners and exiles called to abstain for evil desires (2:11). They didn’t have a sense of belonging to their culture anymore.

In many ways we have lost that. We fit in too much. It is as though we’ve entered a time of exile to learn how to be the church, just as Israel had to learn to be  the assembly of the Lord (assembly is translated in the Septuagint with ekklesia, the word we translate church). We are likely in this ‘exile’ to regain our identity, similar to how God called Israel into the wilderness to speak tenderly to her (Hosea 3).

Perhaps we are entering a time of deprivation because not only does He love Christians but loves His church. Just as the God often withdraws from individual Christians so they experience temptation and even sin (WCF 5:5) so He withdraws His countenance so we will begin to realize just how much we really need Him. That doesn’t happen when all things continue as they were.

5. The most wise, righteous, and gracious God doth oftentimes leave, for a season, his own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and, to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends. WCF, V

We do hold to a high view of communion. It is not merely a memorial, but a means of grace when received in faith. But it is also not magical. We should not separate our theology of communion from our practice of communion. If it is about our unity and fellowship with one another it should be practiced as a part of our unity and fellowship with each other- when we are together.

So, communion seems inappropriate to me when we are not together as a body to partake with each other. The absence of communion falls under the providence of God and may be a way to stir up our holy longings for a deeper understanding and experience of communion when we are able to celebrate together again. Let us not run from our discomforting experience, and a call to delay gratification but embrace it.

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