Whilst pandemics are frightening things we dread, when one strikes it can send a bit of an adrenaline rush can’t it? That’s why we have been hooked by films and TV dramas like 28 Days Later and the Last Ship. Did the adrenaline kick in for you just a little bit back in February/March when we heard the Pandemic was coming? Did you go into self-isolation expecting to emerge to a post-apocalyptic world with bloodshot eyed zombies roaming the street, civil government having collapsed and you having to fend for yourself, looting local shops before heading to a remote safehouse until someone in a military outpost single handedly -and defying all the laws of science and medicine – came up with a vaccine.
Well, if that is what TV and cinema has prepared us for, then we prepared wrong. Instead of the adrenaline surge, rapid collapse of society and highly visible symptoms, we have been witnesses to and party to something different. Civil society hasn’t collapsed but we have had demonstrations that no-one knew quite how to police. Shops remain open but there has been panic buying. Businesses are still operating but with people working from home and bankruptcies and redundancies are beginning to happen. Meanwhile, those who have caught the virus don’t turn into comic book zombies but quietly get ill at home or are admitted to hospital. Most of us are generally okay and the risk is from a cough or contact with an asymptomatic carrier than from said frenzied zombie trying to bite your arm off.
I suspect that the lack of drama and the lack of visible danger has made the work of our public health workers just that little bit harder. We are more willing to take action when the danger is obvious. We are also more willing to take action when we can play the part of a hero, when it feels like, well like we are taking action.
“Grandad, what did you do in the pandemic?”
“Son, I stayed home!”
And this is true in other aspects of life too isn’t it? We expected persecution and suffering to involve the threat of prison or death. We thought that temptation would be full frontal, obvious and something to do with sex and drugs. We expected the church to be split by a serious heresy, not by some mild gossip or people taking sides on whether the pastor should get a dog.
Furthermore, we think of mission as being about heroics. Evangelism is about preaching to a packed arena, mission is about crossing the oceans and hacking your way through jungles to find a remote primitive tribe, urban planting is about going into the toughest, graffiti ridden, gang controlled estate.
The reality is far different. Temptation and spiritual assault comes in far more subtle forms and in amongst the more mundane day to day affairs of life. Similarly, mission is about being every-day church, faithfully sharing the good news about Jesus with friends and neighbours. Yet the lack of obvious and visible drama does not take away from the actual danger or the actual gospel opportunities. Just because we are not creating drama does not mean that we are not part of the most wonderful and exciting drama ever told.