While it’s true we haven’t been given theological data to understand exactly why this is happening now, we should be sufficiently “steeped in God reality” to perceive at least some general meaning:
Then [Jesus] turned to the crowd: “When you see clouds coming in from the west, you say, ‘Storm’s coming’—and you’re right. And when the wind comes out of the south, you say, ‘This’ll be a hot one’—and you’re right. Frauds! You know how to tell a change in the weather, so don’t tell me you can’t tell a change in the season, the God-season we’re in right now. (Luke 12:54-56)
Following Augustine’s lead, I gather that the arrival of large-scale trouble means three things to a few groups of people. Here are two: #1 – To those outside of Jesus, calamity is a “severe mercy” presenting a grim preview of their journey’s end. It’s a megaphone to direct people off their present path and toward the shelter that God offers with Christ. “Rock of Ages…Let me hide myself in Thee.”
#2 – For the children of God, the small and large discomforts of life are to be reckoned as discipline from a loving Father. #2a – Specifically to those children who are enamored of the world, pain is a bright signal alongside the road leading to the age to come, flashing: Come out from her, my people.
But we’ve already discussed that. Let’s move on:
Whether they’re worldly or not-so-much, naturally those under the Father’s regimen of discipline will soon wonder what He wants to finally accomplish by all this pain. The author of Hebrews provides an answer: The Father disciplines all His children that “we may share his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10).
And a little later he expands this idea. Under the Father’s training, we are on the way to becoming people who are:
…brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God (Hebrews 12:28).
And then, to underline that God doesn’t deal out this pain casually, the author continues: For God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God himself is Fire! (Hebrews 12:28,29)
Thus, the final meaning of coronavirus we’ll consider. #3 – By means of the discipline of coronavirus the Father is seeking worshipers. (Here the sense of ‘seeking’ is not ‘looking for’; but rather ‘attempting to achieve.’) With coronavirus God is forming us into worshipers.
And to that proposition, a predictable response: That ain’t no good! Too high cost for such a miniscule, wispy return!
But the complaint comes because we don’t understand worship. Utter the word “worship” and the mind spontaneously moves to scenes remote, serene, strange, antiquated…and definitely sectored off from ‘real life.’ Robes, candles, and arched roofs. Ok, throw in some praise music too.
Now, (we think) I do like to occasionally remove myself to that lovely, inspiring, and calm worship zone. But most of my attention is spent in the province of “What’s in your wallet,” and CNN and test scores and homework and Brady is in Tampa Bay and pants are too tight and commute to work and check e-mail and…
We suppose that worship covers around 5% of our lives:
What I’m describing isn’t just one more mental phenomenon to casually note. It’s actually something really messed up! Segmenting the notion of worship from “the real, practical world” displays a deficient understanding of worship. But far more importantly, this bifurcation of spiritual and secular betrays a small theology. As the book title has it: Your God is Too Small.
Brothers and Sisters – hear how the only God reasons. This is what He’s after:
Everyone, from east to west, will know
that I have no god-rivals.
I am God, the only God there is.
I form light and create darkness,
I make harmonies and create discords.
I, God, do all these things. (Isaiah 45: 6,7)
God is on the hunt to be taken seriously in every way, to be All in all. And He won’t be thrown off scent with a few cheesy smiles and pious words on a given Sunday. Thus, every one of His children are being trained (by fire!) into attending to the truth: God is God of heaven and earth, light and darkness, harmony and discord, and any other merism that expresses all of life, including your oil change.
What is the message that coronavirus carries to the children of the Heavenly Father? Our God won’t be sequestered.
Our worship, that is, our ideas of and attentiveness to the Heavenly Father, is ever inadequate, which is why we’ll be disciplined as sons until the end. However, there is progress! How do you know that the Father’s training is having its effect? What does it look like or feel like to come into the good that God’s discipline was aiming for? What are the actions of those who are learning that their Father is God of heaven and earth?
That’ll be the subject of the next post on this topic.