As I write to you this week, I am sitting listening to CBC Radio’s The Current and their discussion on essential workers in Canada. Guests from a variety of sectors are sharing their stories of working during the pandemic: health-care workers, long-term care, grocery stores, food delivery, education and so on. Many are talking about the appreciation and pay increases they received during the early months of the pandemic, and how those had mostly disappeared by the summer of 2020. At the same time, many employers took the opportunity to increase responsibilities and duties, to work in unsafe circumstances, to continue to work while sick, to suffer through threats of job loss and so on.
At the same time, it has been hard this week to ignore all the news reports about the “Freedom Convoy” that is rolling across the nation in protest of vaccination mandates for cross-boarder truckers.
Add explosive numbers of Omicron cases that may or may not be flatlining (we just cannot keep track) and inflation not seen in decades, and we can see that we are being squeezed as a society.
This week in my sermon, I talk about how edgy we are these days. Quick to become frustrated and angry with those around us.
The lofty visions of getting through this pandemic together that we held onto back at the beginning, are giving way to pulling back, looking out for number one and venting our frustrations with our neighbours.
All these things, all these parts of life that show us just how little control we have over world are hard to take day-in day-out. Of course that is certain point of privilege, as the vast majority of human beings in history have lived under oppression, during wars and famines, pandemics and conflicts.
But we are not used to this life. We have become accustomed to lives that are our mostly our own, and that we only share with our neighbour when it suits us. We have not known what it means to be beholden to our neighbour and vulnerable to the world every time we step outside our homes.
You can probably guess that I would support things like Universal Basic Income and a higher minimum wage, especially for essential worker who have endured so much.
You can probably also guess my feelings about the Freedom Convoy (it is a waste of time and money, and only serves as a populist front for a White Nationalist agenda).
Regardless, I think there is connection between what our essential workers are feeling and what those who support the Freedom convoy are feeling. What we are all feeling these days.
The squeeze is on and it is revealing something broken in the world. The rich are getting richer, the poor poorer and we are all becoming more vulnerable. Life doesn’t need to be so hard, so many don’t need to struggle to make ends meet.
When people are squeezed enough, things tend to go sideways in societies. Protests (we are seeing those), violent protests (we can imagine those soon), revolts (January 6th, 2021 Capitol Hill attack) and revolutions. I wish I could say we will turn it around before it gets too bad, but the cycle of history suggests we won’t.
So what does this depressing situation mean for us, for people of faith?
The Church has born witness to the rise and fall of empires and kingdoms. The Church has walked beside the poor and oppressed in times of struggle, and called powerful to account.
But most importantly, the church has done what is has always done. We have continued to tell the story of Jesus, we have continued to preach the alternate vision of creation rooted in the Kingdom of God.
We know that what is going on around isn’t the way things are supposed to be. We have a name for all the troubles – original sin. The reality that human beings have never and will never bring about paradise… we are only good are ruining it.
But thankfully we also have this promise from God, that our version of the world is not the final one. Instead, God promises a new creation. A world where all belong, where all have enough, where all are welcome.
That promise, that vision is what we need these days, it is what the world needs. So we will continue to do what we have always done. We will keep telling the story of God, keep proclaiming the coming of Messiah, keep sharing God’s promises and visions for the world.