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A Time for Restoration

- Preacher Timothy Ho (Bukit Batok Presbyterian Church)

The current Covid-19 pandemic has affected routine lives of many across the globe. Temporary shutdowns of cities and countries, stay-at-home enforcement, work from home arrangements, closure of many establishments, social distancing rules, etc. have caused disruptions which require many adjustments, inconveniences which we accept in stride, for the sake of public health and slowing down the spread of the pandemic. We anticipate the economic impact these measures will cause, on a global scale.

In times of crisis, the dark sides of human nature surface, often overwhelming news of charitable acts. Themes in our biblical worldview in such times also become amplified. Issues such as: creation, rule/stewardship (creation care), fall/sin (death/decay), God’s judgment and grace, divided humanity, call/purpose of the church, and hope in ultimate restoration/rest/shalom after Christ’s return come to the fore. We’re reminded that much of the mess in this world is a result of humanity’s own doing. And sin is at the root of it -- pride, self-centredness, and greed.

Below are poetic words from Sarah Bourns, a pastor serving in New York City, taken from her Facebook post, highlighting how we’ve all been exposed by the novel coronavirus.

We’ve all been exposed. Not necessarily to the virus (maybe...who even knows🤷🏼‍). We’ve all been exposed BY the virus.

Corona is exposing us. Exposing our weak sides. Exposing our dark sides. Exposing what normally lays far beneath the surface of our souls, hidden by the invisible masks we wear. Now exposed by the paper masks we can’t hide far enough behind.

Corona is exposing our addiction to comfort. Our obsession with control. Our compulsion to hoard. Our protection of self.

Corona is peeling back our layers. Tearing down our walls. Revealing our illusions. Leveling our best-laid plans.

Corona is exposing the gods we worship: Our health Our hurry Our sense of security. Our favorite lies Our secret lusts Our misplaced trust.

Corona is calling everything into question: What is the church without a building? What is my worth without an income? How do we plan without certainty? How do we love despite risk?

Corona is exposing me. My mindless numbing My endless scrolling My careless words My fragile nerves.

We’ve all been exposed. Our junk laid bare. Our fears made known. The band-aid torn. The masquerade done.

So what now? What’s left? Clean hands Clear eyes Tender hearts.

What Corona reveals, God can heal.

Come Lord Jesus. Have mercy on us.

Despite the global challenges the pandemic brings, it buys us some time for restoration of sorts, at different levels and areas. At the personal level, we have opportunity to mend strained relationships, be it with family members at home, or with relatives, colleagues, or friends we have fallen out with through virtual means. Stay-at-home measures have also given us opportunity for physical and spiritual rest. Sabbath rest is very important to God, and He has given us the mandate to observe it.

How are our mental and emotional states in such times? Do we have healthy ways to cope with anxiety, fear, depression, or loneliness? From a spiritual perspective, are we connecting with God, not only to have proper pespective on the pandemic crisis, but also to take our mind off it and focus on God’s character and promises? Let us abide in the Lord, and seek what He is showing us in this time. Reading and reflecting on Scripture is quite helpful. Revisiting the book of Ecclesiastes is highly recommended, as it is quite an appropriate book to reflect on in this time. If you’re short on time, focus on Ecclesiastes 3.

At the church level, abrupt and dynamic changes could lead to more united or divided leadership and ministry teams. How we come to collective decision after seeking the Lord is tell-tale sign of our spiritual maturity. Even as we’re mostly stuck at home during circuit-breaker period, are we seeking creative ways to be agents of Christ’s love, bearers of His truth, and encouraging one another in the Lord despite social distancing?

From the corporate and governance level - governments, industries, and corporations ought to take responsibility in regards to environmental concerns, for the welfare of future generations. The current industrial and economic slowdown has shown temporary reduction in pollution, allowing Earth to have a bit of breathing room. Unabated economic advancement and capitalism do have many negative consequences: environmental degradation, global warming, corruption, sentiment-driven markets, rich-poor disparity, neglect and abuse towards poor, and many others.

And at the international level, collaboration rather than political wars will help with forward progress in mitigating the immense global impact Covid-19 already has on all of us, and for some time to come. The rise of nationalism, contrasted to compassion for foreigners and challenging immigration issues in a globalised world surface with international tensions.

A pause/reset button of sorts gives us time to reflect on these issues, to anticipate how things might change for the better, post Covid-19, lest we easily forget and just go on, business as usual. Change for the better is always needed for spiritual growth, and lasting change is key. The time is ripe to work on changes towards restoration in many areas, as the Church looks forward in anticipation of the ultimate Restoration of the whole created order after Christ returns to judge. True shalom awaits, but we have responsibility under God’s sovereignty. Family of Christ, let us be agents of reconciliation and restoration in this time and beyond (1 Cor 5:11-21).

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