Posted by: jaimemwsanders | March 16, 2020

In view of the impending crisis

When I read the lessons for Morning Prayer, I have to admit that I rarely linger over the reading from the Epistles. Paul’s culture-bound lawyer’s reasoning is more irritating or impenetrable to me than it is illuminating. But today’s reading struck me as uncomfortably apt. 1 Corinthians 7:25-31:

“Now concerning virgins, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. I think that, in view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not sin. Yet those who marry will experience distress in this life, and I would spare you that. I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.”

“[I]n view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are.” While the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic is full-fledged in much of the world, here in the United States it is impending. Oregon today has 39 confirmed cases, but because testing has been so inadequate, that is only a fraction of the actual cases. The travel and hospitality industries are collapsing; the stock market is crashing; elder-care facilities are in lockdown; schools are closed.

And we are, to a great extent, frozen in place, perforce remaining as we are. People who were planning weddings are having to cancel. People looking for new jobs are out of luck. Those of us who normally go out to buy, must remain at home, as if we had no possessions; those of us who normally go to jobs in the world are isolated, as though we had no dealings with it.

“The present form of this world is passing away.” Paul, we think, had an imminent expectation of the parousia, the second coming of Christ at which all would be made well. I am not one of those Christians who thinks we have been given a roadmap of end times. Nor do I think that God sends plague as punishment for sins. What I do believe is that there is no crisis from which God is absent. Nor any state of affairs that is immutable or unredeemable. The world mid-pandemic will be better if we follow God’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves. The world post-pandemic will be better if we carry into it a story of resilience and caring and shedding of obsessions with material acquisitions.

At times like this, I take comfort from other words of Paul:

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39.


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