I had my first flu vaccination this week. It was a simple procedure and deemed particularly prudent in these times. One doesn’t want to catch or transmit any virus! I was intrigued by the name – more a description – Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine (split virion, inactivated) and yes, I had to look up some of the words. The thin paper that came with the syringe has very small print! What I discovered was the vaccine is composed of four flu strains – two type A viruses and two Type B viruses – yes, more research! (Isn’t the world a fascinating place!) Type A viruses are capable of infecting animals and people and is the one constantly changing. Type B viruses are found only in us and may often result in less severe symptoms, until they don’t. (And just for the record, COVID-19 is not a type of flue.)
Where am I going with all this? The names of the strains…I’m ignoring all the numbers….Guangdon-Maonan, Hong Kong, Washington, and Phuket. Places. I am restricted in travel and am being helped by virus strains that have come a long way to get to me! Ok, it is more complicated than that but…geography for names? I suppose it makes sense to name something on the basis of location. Our sense of what is right and normal is often shaped by the culture of the place(s) we’re in. Our accents often reflect location longevity. We are people of places and are affect by what happens there.
My second congregation had suffered an arson attack a little while before I arrived which caused major damage and it had all been repaired but I heard the story of the upset long after the paint had dried. When one’s place is violated, we are hurt. Hence the lure of nationalism. Hence the disrtuption of earthquakes both physical and psychological.
Advent should remind Christians that for now they are homeless! The place, the geography, the location are more camp sites where we pitch our tent and live. Jesus comes to us to supply us with what we need on the journey. In some ways being joined to Jesus – in baptism where we are joined to his death and resurrection and therefore are new creations in him – and through his word, Jesus shapes us – and in Holy Communion Jesus nourishes us with himself at his table (which the early church, 2nd century, called the ‘antidote against death’) – is all about making us aliens (foreigners rather than Martians) here on Earth. With Jesus we are at home and all other interactions with this world – not unimportant at all! – but they will not last – which is why when nationalism or patriotism or location or our possessions call for our complete submission, we must simply say ‘No”. We are Christ’s and here to serve others and not build empires here. Empires here are subject to the unknown, the unexpected, the corrupt, the stupid, the tiny (in the case of COVID-19) and can be easily thrown into chaos. Those in Christ will be in whatever storm befalls a place but not in chaos or despair – because Jesus comes to us – in all places and all times. Look for water, bread and wine – and listen for his word.