As a follower of Jesus, I take great comfort in his teaching that we will not know the time of his return and the end to this life as we know it. Based on the response of many of my fellow followers during our current world health crisis, I don’t think that I could bear to be around them as the day approached … and I certainly wouldn’t want to be in Costco with them. Allow me to elaborate. Currently, our county has the dubious distinction of being an epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, and with that goes absurdity that even those of us in Seattle are not used to. Yesterday my wife and I, beyond all logic and sensibility based on the rumors we had heard, ventured into the home of crisis chaos known as Costco.
Now I am not a complete idiot. We did not go there with any illusion that we might find the basics of crisis … bread, eggs or milk. We didn’t expect to find any cleaning supplies, which might be considered legitimate purchases during a health crisis. I wasn’t looking for water. Every ounce of that has been gone for days because apparently, I guess, the entire city water infrastructure might collapse. Never mind that there had previously been little, if any, rush on water when we were warned of an imminent catastrophic earthquake and the real likelihood of an actual collapse of our water system. Good news is … If the “Big One” were to occur during this outbreak, at least we’d be covered. What we were actually looking for, among a few other items, was chicken. We were confident … or naive. Chicken didn’t appear anywhere on the CDC’s list of must haves to survive this. Surely that would have been overlooked in the mad rush for survival. Imagine our surprise to realize how wrong we were. Apparently they began with the packaged chicken … beginning with the organic and then when that was depleted, out of desperation, they took all of the steroid injected and caged type. Finally, when all of that was gone they turned to the rotisserie chicken … some with the panicked expression of people who truly thought they’d never see another chicken again. This I witnessed first hand. I can proudly say that, against all odds and logic, we got one of the last remaining rotisserie chickens to be found in Costco’s flagship store.
So what am I really saying? Do I believe that Costco was suddenly overrun by panicked Christians desperate for water and chicken? Not likely … however, statistically speaking, if it is true that about 20 percent of this area claim to be Jesus followers, this means there were over 200 of them among the 1100 plus waiting at the door Sunday morning when the store opened, desperately searching for some semblance of security in a cavernous warehouse. For people who claim to place our security and sense of peace beyond this time and place, we certainly have a strange habit of hoarding stuff to keep us securely hunkered down here. So what should our response be to a global pandemic? Should we take this seriously? Absolutely! Should we take (reasonable) precautions? Certainly! I am just tired of panicked and reactionary behavior from people who are supposed to be assured of their future with little regard to anyone else’s.
I’ve been privileged to lead well drilling teams into remote Central American villages in countries that, if one were to read the State Department warnings, you would never rationally decide to travel to. We didn’t do it because it was safe … we did it because our faith compelled us to. Time and again we were greeted by people claiming that their prayers had finally been answered, simply because we disregarded what others feared, because our faith compelled us to. This is a chance, once again, for people of my faith persuasion and community to stand up and live fearlessly, because our faith compels us to. We’d certainly stand out of if we did. This is a chance to love your neighbor, beyond the fear and panic. Loving your neighbor during a moment like this isn’t as difficult as you might think. All you have to do is look and listen to what’s happening around you. What are the fears, what are the needs, how might I respond? Here’s just one example that I’m sure is not unique to us… according to many reports here in the Seattle area the Asian community is suffering personally and economically because of bias and fear. This past Sunday, while hundreds were preparing for the latest Armageddon, we were enjoying an amazing meal from a neighborhood Vietnamese restaurant. Being a neighbor is often not a burden. Our book claims “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). This is a time to believe it. I am encouraged by the measured and thoughtful response by some of my fellow pastors and the churches they serve. They concern the health and well being of their people, but they are generally, as is our tendency in Christendom, church-centric…. how things will carry on within the walls of the community. What’s missing is a neighborhood response and responsibility. Our response says much more about our faith than our words, websites, and catchy instagram quotes. If we disappear behind locked doors with our bottled water and our chickens, who will enter in to the lives of our neighbors.