The other night I found myself having thoughts that were……. apocalyptic. I know the news is constantly talking about potential worst-case scenarios as the entire world adapts to the novel coronavirus. But, my thoughts were a little different. Let me explain.
My 3-year-old Joaquín was being his usual goofy self, playing with a foam airplane that our next-door neighbor gave him.
I found myself overcome with gratitude. For Joaquín’s giggle that keeps growing until it fills up the room, for the timely gift of a thoughtful neighbor, and mostly for what this moment revealed. Against the contrast of all the stress and anxiety swirling around, I felt like his joy was a revelation, an unveiling that I usually miss amidst the normal busyness and distraction of my everyday life. After all, the meaning of the word apocalypse is simply a revealing or an unveiling. I know it’s usually associated with end times disasters, but give it a quick google and here is what you’ll find:
Apocalypse (ἀποκάλυψις) is a Greek word meaning “revelation”, “an unveiling or unfolding of things not previously known and which could not be known apart from the unveiling”
When you read the word this way, it feels pretty clear that we are living in apocalyptic times. And this makes me think of so many of you, of your pastoral call, and of what this moment might reveal to us together.
The disorientation and pain of this global pandemic is revealing foundational longings so many of us pastors have been betting on all along – That we can never disconnect love of God with love of our actual neighbors. That we long to see a movement of faithful love and care at the grassroots level. That being present in our neighborhoods and then connecting across places with our stories and experiments can fuel a movement today that began with the earliest Church we read about in Acts.
I would imagine that for many of you, these longings fueled your journey to become a pastor in the first place. For others, the growing desire to help our congregations reach out in creative ways to their actual neighbors might be how the Holy Spirit is leading you now. This is our time to gently and faithfully live into these apocalyptic days, because even though many of our postures and practices will need to adapt, our central mission of being the Church has not.
My hope and prayer is that your pastoral call will be renewed and strengthened even in these dark and storming days. In the meantime, within all the swirling chaos, confusion, tragedy and anxiety, let’s not forget what we can do as the Church:
We can have the courage to discern God’s dream for our neighborhoods in this moment of heightened fear and loss.
• Write down real people, places, and stories from in your actual neighborhood where you are confined right now and ask God to reveal His dreams for these people and situations
• Pray to see the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of your neighbors, with special attention to the needs who are most vulnerable right now.
• Reach out with a text or call with at least one other follower of Jesus in your neighborhood. Check up on them and invite them to consider how God might be leading you to reach out creatively to your neighbors together.
Pastors, your faithful presence in the everyday life of our neighbors is more important than ever. Thanks be to God we are called to such sacred work in such a time as this.
Tim Soerens is a pastor, social entrepreneur, co-founding director of the Parish Collective, and author of the new book “Everywhere You Look: Discovering the Church, Right Where You Are”