There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3 New International Version
And so it is that our time has come. The entire planet is now affected. Covid-19 is changing the world forever. We just are not sure how. Right now, April 6, over 40 percent of the world’s population is on stay-at-home orders or something equivalent. Over 90 percent of the world’s children are not attending school. The infections number almost 1.3 million world-wide, resulting in 70,000 deaths. In the US we are approaching 350,000 infections and 10,000 deaths. And we are told it is only going to get worse. A lot worse. There may never have been an event in human history where so many lives have been–or will be– affected. While we are nowhere near the infections or fatalities of the 1918 flu, at least not yet, the quarantine and distancing orders are impacting virtually all of us. Yes, the pandemic will pass, eventually leaving in its wake misery and suffering beyond measure; but beyond that, the world economy we are told is likely to take years longer to recover.
Our time, that is, our collective time on the planet Earth, has come.
For Christians this is Holy Week. Easter comes in just six days. Easter historically has been a time of renewal and hope. Many churches will be empty this year due to the pandemic. Passover begins on Wednesday and goes for eight days through the next Thursday. Whether we realize it or not, this moment in history has profound religious significance regardless of whether we are part of any religious organization and regardless of what we say we “believe.” It is religious because it raises questions about the meaning of life on this planet, reminds us of our fragility and our vulnerability, and forces us to look again at our own lives and at what is important and what is not.It is a reminder that we humans are not always in charge.
We will get through this, we are told by our leaders, and, of course, we will. We humans are resilient. But with how much suffering and sadness, this we do not know. Will this help us identify with our brothers and sisters all over the planet? Will it give us more compassion? Will it give us more wisdom? Will we use this to come together to save the planet and each other or to retreat into tribalism and despair?
This is one of those times, I suspect, that whether we are religious or not, believers or not, we fall back on the wisdom of the ages like the words in Ecclesiastes 3, looking for a glimmer of hope, and realizing that the mysteries of life are beyond human understanding. Many will simply say the prayer, “God help us.”