09 April 2020

Reflections on Easter and COVID-19

The word ‘apocalypse’ does not mean ‘catastrophe’, but rather ‘unveiling’. Events like this pandemic are revelations – they expose things about us and the world that we have made that we had forgotten or would rather hide. 

Whether COVID-19 is contained, how quickly we can develop a vaccine or effective antiviral treatment, how deep or how long the economic shock will last, and what the full political and social ramifications of rolling lockdowns are, are things that we will discover in the coming months and years. These are matters for prayer and wisdom, not worry or fear.

What is clear is that this ‘revealing’ is an historic event for our global society. Even if we are somewhat sheltered in New Zealand, its aftereffects will shape the rest of our lives.

What does this mean for us as Christians in Aotearoa in this time? How should we as members of Laidlaw College respond – as a community seeking to renew communities in light of the Gospel?

As it has throughout the ages, Scripture is food to sustain our imaginations as we grapple with these questions, and two themes that I have been particularly drawn to in the past couple of weeks are Exile and Aποκαλυψις (unveiling).

Exile is particularly poignant, because it is the common human experience of the brokenness of our world since we left Eden. We are all more aware of suffering in the world now than we were months ago. From the griefs of loneliness and separation, loss of jobs and finance, to the appalling scale of the death that COVID-19 is causing. It is right to grieve for our world, our neighbours and ourselves. As the Psalmist cries, “How long, O LORD? Will you hide yourself forever?” (89:46a)

In Jeremiah’s Letter to the Exiles (29:1–23) he encourages God’s people to plan for the long haul – not to anticipate an early return home, but to seek God and to seek the prosperity of the city in which they are captives. Our bubbles are smaller, but can I encourage you to adopt the same postures and practices – to continue to pursue God and his voice, and to seek ways to bless those around you. Our engagement in the world that develops from here should grow out of how we live in our bubble. 

As we approach Easter, we prepare ourselves to remember again Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection – events that the Gospels present not only as redemption, but as an unveiling of a new world. Because of Jesus, the Christian hope of the rising New Creation is always present, though not always very visible. Our awareness of it can be drowned out by the noise of busy work, consumption, and chattering entertainment, but when the busyness is cleared away by pain or lockdown, we do well to take the chance to look with careful attention to the real world revealed in Christ. 

Looking at the world in light of Jesus is central to our vision at Laidlaw (“a world shaped by love, compelled and informed by the Gospel”). Living out the path that Christ blazed through death to life is a painful reality, but it is the only source of hope – and it is hope that we must proclaim and live out of.

These weeks and months to come will change much about our world and our College life together, and it is unlikely that the old normal will fully return. I am grateful to be surrounded by the students and team at Laidlaw, as a community of intelligence, courage and faith who can navigate the changes and challenges ahead together. 

I hope all is well in each of your bubbles. Thank you for all you are doing to faithfully live in this world, including as we move teaching, learning and community life online. Our student support team are contacting all of you to ensure that you are supported, so if you haven’t heard anything, or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email [email protected]

As we grieve and celebrate this Easter, let us gratefully remember the deep roots of truth and imagination that we have as Christians, to sustain us as Exiles and guide us in hope and wisdom through this period of unveiling.

Ngā mihi nui,