I have always been a fan of delicious, post-apocalyptic stories and movies. My earliest memory of this fascination is watching the movie The Omega Man where Charlton Heston is the last person alive after injecting himself with an experimental vaccine during a world-ending plague. Sound familiar? I cried at the end when Dr. Neville, Heston, was pierced by a spear thrown by the ugly, infected zombie leader. But that act of sharing his life, literally sharing his life, allowed a ragged few to escape into a new future.
We all know the basic premise of the post-apocalyptic genre: Bad, infected people spend the entire story taking any life that remains so they can enjoy living a few more moments. Good, "normal", people end up giving or sharing their life for the sake of redemption and assuring the safety of the remaining few. Sometimes its the good who are walled off in compounds trying to protect themselves from the forces of chaos that run around - or drive around like in the movie The Road Warrior starring Mel Gibson. Sometimes the BAD people are the ones holed up in randomly constructed fortresses that a good Midwestern storm would disintegrate in a few minutes and the good people are simply trying to get by on a farm in the woods.
And then there is Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Road which winds itself between all sorts of genre-bending scenes as a father seeks to save a son. Since reading the book back in 2006 and watching the movie that stars Vigo Mortenson, I never view a grocery cart now as simply a grocery cart.
I mention post-apocalyptic stuff because there are people today that view this pandemic as indicative of the end of the world. The sky is falling, cries Chicken Little. The end is near! cries a local billboard. And, perhaps Kurt Vonnegut is on to something when he writes, "Let us be perfectly frank for a change. For practically everybody, the end of the world can't come soon enough."
And this is true for the earliest Christian community. For those early followers of Christ it wasn't a wish for the end of the world. They truly believed that the end of the world was going to happen within their lifetime. The earliest writing in scripture is Paul's letter to the the church in Thessaloniki where he soothes his readers, Don't worry. We who are alive will rise with the return of Christ. Is it any wonder that that first group of Christians shared all their stuff? They truly felt that they didn't need it. No pension plan required.
Times change. I imagine it wasn't too much later when they realized they were in this thing called Life for the long haul. Pension plan required.
We, though, some 66 generations later CAN learn from the example of the church in today's scripture reading. They structured their household economy based on their perception of how they should best use their resources given their beliefs. It is no different for us today. In the study Resurrection Now, Richard Rohr states, that our theology is best understood by how we spend our money and our time. Not by what we profess but by what we spend our time with and what we spend our money on. Look around. What do you see? How is what you see around you a reflection of what you believe? Where do you spend your money? Thanks to EFT, electronic funds transfer, I don't have to see what I spend my money on; except for my discretionary use of my debit card. Sure, I see contributions of my time and money to serve others. Outside a roof over my head and food for my belly much of my spending is on aesthetic goods; goods that are beautiful and stir my creativity as a human being.
Regardless of whether or not you consider this pandemic the end of the world, I hope that you can affirm with me that the structure of our household economies significantly contributed to the mess were in. We cannot go back to spending our money in the same ways. We cannot go back to giving our time and attention to our same pursuits. A pandemic is like the weather. The wind blows and the weaknesses of a structure are illuminated and made known.
We could do what I'll call a Re-burying of Our Heads in the Sand. WE can hope and pray and yearn for the same-old-same-old with everything open as it should be as if there will be a world without end. We can. But then we wouldn't be heeding the call of Jesus Christ to "Keep awake!" Maybe the early church was really on to something. Truly believing and living your life and re-ordering your priorities as if the world IS going to end at any moment. Foolish? Perhaps. But isn't a bit of foolishness...and certainly a change of the ways that brought us to our current mess...worth a risk for that reward here on earth. There was not a needy person among them.