The topic that won't go away

"... everything exposed by the light becomes visible..." Ephesians 5. 13

Apparently in China many more lives have been saved through improved air quality, on account of the lockdown, than have been lost to Covid 19! I cannot vouch for the origin of that information but it's one of those arresting statistics that reveal the mixed impact of what we are going through - on a global level. That impact is being felt in at least three ways:

Firstly there is the way it has affected us all. It has been observed that "we are all in the same boat", to which a wiser commentator has responded: "No! We may be in the same storm but we are in different boats." The experience of a low income family in an inner city flat, or a health-worker on a busy hospital ward, has been far different from a tycoon self-isolating on their luxury yacht in the Mediterranean or Caribbean. And inequality is just one of the many symptoms of brokenness which the crisis has revealed, alongside racial tensions and domestic violence &c.

To be fair, there have been benevolent impacts too: the recovery of nature being one; and the blossoming of old friendships another; not to mention the re-emergence of community spirit, which many thought we had lost through our obsessive individualism.

The second effect of the crisis has been to hold up a mirror to society. For a long time the reflection was flattering: as we worked together to protect the NHS, found ways to shelter the homeless and became increasingly inventive in our use of technology - to keep in touch and lift spirits. Then an uglier side began to emerge: first it was criminals manipulating the unfamiliar circumstances to their advantage, then it was the reluctance of some of the affluent to play their part in fighting the virus and the failure of some leaders to address the problem seriously, particularly as it affected the more vulnerable under their responsibility; finally, the eruption of violence in the wake of George Floyd's death which quickly spread to express a host of other grievances. Mirror, mirror, on the wall...

Thirdly, the global pandemic has raised some vital global issues: the state of the environment, the continuing problems of forced migration, slavery and conflict, and the crisis of identity which is transfixing emerging generations. These are issues which deserve our attention and demand our immediate action, as we chart our course out of lockdown and towards the "new normal". Failure will either take us back to the bad old normal or towards an even worse future.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called for "the resurrection of our common life." This is surely more than a summons to be cosier neighbours (though that be a good start)? It must be about a deliberate departure (death) to the sins of the past and a coming alive to a quality of life which is in the unique gift of that pioneer of resurrection, the Lord Jesus Christ. For this to happen, the church must arise, rediscover our "first love" (Revelation 2. 3-5) and, heeding the lessons of lockdown, continue our mission with renewed and enhanced creativity and commitment - in the power of the Spirit...

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