A sign of the times

The end is definitely nigh

Writing about any crisis is difficult. I am not a medic, nor a scientist, nor a historian. I read a few reports, even the horrendous statistics in Spain (though thankfully improving) but have not talked first hand to someone in Spain who has had the virus. It is easy to write when it has not been in your home. I do know people who have had it and recovered, I also know (not know of, but know) people who have passed away from the virus. So at times writing seems a cheap and easy thing to do, and maybe it is.

I am glad I am not a politician. Open up, get the economy back; keep it shut down the risks are too high. It can be easy to say, typical money over people. But in this world life is a compromise. Choices are of what is the better / best choice looking forward. Or in more theological language ‘what is the most redemptive choice we can make.’ With faith in Jesus, and eyes and voice raised heavenward that is not easy, so for those who do not profess faith and probably do not really believe in any help from heaven this is a time of huge crisis that they are seeking to help steer us through.

‘It is a sign of the times’. Read Matthew 24, and that wonderful future predicting book, the last one. Read it and how can you not join the dots. The end is nigh, for sure, this time. Well it is not an unexpected response. Remember Y2k? Computers will crash, airplanes will fall. Stock up, make sure you have enough beans (did we ever get a thank you from Heinz?). I am glad for the prophets who later apologised. Yet it got many people. Add to the Y2k that the earth is 6000 years old (splutter, splutter!!!!!). 1000 years as a day and… oh yes there is that final 1000 years at the end. Quickly count the fingers. The year 2000 and a crisis.

In my youth the writer who explained all things was Hal Lindsey. His books were fascinating. But so many signs of the times, so much so that 1988 was going to be absolutely cataclysmic, and certainly he had no expectation of being around for the millennial celebrations as the year 2000 rolled in – the blessed rapture would have seen to that, the ultimate ticket out of here! [A cheap comment that is just that… but one I adhere to. The secret rapture was such a close guarded secret that not even a whisper got out to any New Testament writer.]

All of this signs of the times of course is not new. Martin Luther, Christopher Columbus… and the writers who lived when Napoleon was marching around Europe had a field day; not to mention the days of Hitler, the rise of communism… and so it goes on.

By all means refer to the Bible to get some guidelines as to how we should respond in a time of crisis, but I just don’t think it wise to try to get the pen out with a ‘look here it is, written here some x-thousand years ago’ and then draw a line to ‘and here is what was predicted’. A little reading of history and the odds are so stacked against anyone coming close to getting it right are so high.

But a sign? For sure. A sign that creation eventually calls a halt to the abuse that those who are responsible for it have messed up. Will we take note of the sign? (And I have for some time said there is something / some things combining that will have a far greater impact in 2022.

We have entered a new era, or maybe much better to suggest we are entering a new era as it is not happening in a moment, maybe over a decade there could be a clear before and after.

Scripture says that God makes all things beautiful in its time (Eccl. 3). Does not mean that all times are beautiful, but God is working to pull something through in all times. I do not see this time as some form of judgement in any sense that might suggest God has said, ‘I’ve had enough’. And it does not mean that this time is going to be easy.

For entrepreneurs it is such a new time. The journey for former entrepreneurs might be drawn on to find some pointers but the world is changing, and entrepreneurs now are not simply going to follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before, they are pioneering for a new world.

There are great surprises coming with regard to where we see the Spirit at work. A while ago I spoke of three phases of any outpouring: immediate, generational and then those ‘afar off’. I think it can also be put into the big picture of Asuza Street (and the immediate years before), the charismatic into the historic churches some 60 or so years later, and then another 60 years on and here we are. Surprises, and some of what has got us here (‘we have never eaten anything unclean’) will be challenged, and not challenged in a gentle manner.

My post then is hopefully gentle. We are not exempt from difficulty. Those who survive are not the ‘goodies’ and all other ‘baddies’. We are all contributing to the future in these days. There is an era passing and a new one here. I think it is fruitless to look back to find these days in the Bible, and as we look forward we can only see as if we are looking through obscure glass.

A Catholic Theologian responds to the virus

Tomás Halík is a Jesuit priest, philosopher and theologian based in Prague. He has written a reflective response to the virus here:

https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2020/04/03/christianity-time-sickness

It is a lengthy article but worth the read. I would have liked to put it up in full here but here are a few extracts:

[The church] has a diagnostic role to play (identifying the “signs of the times”), a preventive role (creating an “immune system” in a society in which the malignant viruses of fear, hatred, populism and nationalism are rife) and a convalescent role (overcoming the traumas of the past through forgiveness.

… and then soon things would all return to the way they were. But as time passes, the reality has become clearer: They will not. And it would not turn out well if we tried to make it so. After this global experience, the world will not be the same as it was before, and it probably should not be.

I am not just referring to the coronavirus pandemic, but to the state of our civilization, as revealed in this global phenomenon. In biblical terms, this all-pervasive sickness is a sign of the times.

I cannot help but wonder whether the time of empty and closed churches is not some kind of cautionary vision of what might happen in the fairly near future. This is what it could look like in a few years in a large part of our world. We have had plenty of warning from developments in many countries, where more and more churches, monasteries and priestly seminaries have been emptying and closing. Why have we been ascribing this development for so long to outside influences (the “secularist tsunami”), instead of realizing that another chapter in the history of Christianity is coming to a close, and it is time to prepare for a new one?

Maybe we should accept the present abstinence from religious services and the operation of the church as kairos, as an opportunity to stop and engage in thorough reflection before God and with God.

It looks as if many of our churches will be empty at Easter this year. We will read the Gospel passages about the empty tomb somewhere else. If the emptiness of the churches is reminiscent of the empty tomb, let us not ignore the voice from above: “He is not here. He has risen. He has gone ahead of you to Galilee.”

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