Saturday, April 4, 2020

The World Turned Right-Side Up for a Moment

If you have been reading the first chapter of John but not following my messages and updates this week, you might be wondering, “How did he get to chapter 12?”

It’s Palm Sunday, and next week you will get a message of Resurrection.  Those were always headed your way, but this year both will come from John’s gospel.

I just don’t want some of you to think you missed the boat in this alternate format.

As you might have surmised, things have been a little different lately.  I finally picked up my car from Altus.  Yes, this is the car that I hit a building with.  It’s all fixed now.

While I was in Altus, I went to pick up my medicine at the base pharmacy.  I have crossed international borders and entered secure classified facilities with less screening.  One airman took my temperature with a phaser.  It must have been set to mild stun because they let me pass.

They didn’t require me to wear a mask.  I had one in my coat pocket just in case.  I was going to go to the commissary while I waited for the pharmacy to fill my scripts, but it was closed to all but active duty personnel and those who lived on base or worked on base.

So, it was off to the Altus Walmart.  At least I would save a trip to Elk City sometime later.  Altus was more fun that the Walmart I’m used to.  The parking lot was full. You could enter only on the market side.  Shopping carts had been laid on their sides and connected with crime scene tape to make a channeled and theoretically controlled entrance.

Next week they might go Disney on us and put up signs that say, 1 hour from this point.

There were still a bazillion people there, about a third of them masked.  If anyone ever wanted to rob a train or a bank, now would be the time.  A couple people were walking around with face shields.  The Walmart music was from the Dark Side of the Moon album. 

Some of you know that I like both Star Trek and Star Wars.  I didn’t feel obliged to have to choose between the two.  You also might know, that I don’t collect any paraphernalia from either, but I would have loved to have owned a Darth Vader mask to wear in Walmart that day.

And there were plenty of new employees, most of them guarding the entrance with Lysol and hand sanitizer.

As I entered, I reached to grab a shopping cart, and the Walmart employee at the other end of about 45 carts yells, “Those haven’t been sanitized.”  I can see the two jugs of Round Up set aside to spray the carts and, on a shelf, up above them, a can of Lysol and some wipes.

I sprayed and wiped and said, I’m doing the self-service check-in.  I don’t like the self-service check out, but save 10 minutes checking in, that’s another matter.  I think the guy was in shock, but he felt obliged to warn me that you’re shopping at your own risk. 

I was not up for the conversation that would have begun with, “I’ve lived most of my life at my own risk.”  You should be proud of me though; I still had the can of Lysol in my hand but did not do the underarm deodorant thing.  It crossed my mind, but there were enough stressed out people already.

Of course, nothing in the Altus Walmart is in the same place as the Elk City Walmart, so it was Game on!  I think I hit 95% of the items on my list.  That’s not bad considering sometimes you don’t know if you are looking in the wrong place or if it used to be on that 20 yards of empty shelves.
The two paper towel limit is strictly enforced.  Be warned.

So I get my cart full of stuff and head to the checkout.  It’s a full cart.  Realize that when we go to Altus to shop at the commissary, we make a list for a month, so I had a full cart.

Also realize that Walmart must have had 50 extra employees working all over the store, except the checkout registers.  There are three registers open.  All of the self-service ones are open and there’s a unsocially-distanced mob over there, but there are only three regular registers open and lines at each one.

I had one of those obscure thoughts that one way to spread out the people would be to open more registers.  Just when I thought I was going from satire to cynicism as I viewed the Shakespearean tragedy play out as a comedy all around me, an associate came up to me and said, would you like to go to register 4.  We will open it as soon as we wipe down the belt.

What a blessing.  Let the surreal come to an end!

The kid at the register came and wiped the belt and then said, that’s all I can do, I have come out too long.  I guess there was some sort of invisible shield around the register.  So, I put my groceries on the wet, but clean belt that would move them to the cashier.  After the belt had moved a couple feet the part of the belt that had been underneath was now on top. 

I don’t think the cashier quite knew if I was serious or not when I asked if I should wait for the clean part of the belt to come around again.  I think he was wondering, why did hey send this guy to me?

I got my stuff and headed out to the car.  It cost much more than I expected but we had groceries in case everyone was truly locked down, which is an impossibility if you want to continue to have electricity, water, gas, gasoline, and even food, to include feeding hungry people who can’t afford to go to Walmart. 

But I am thankful that Walmart and other places are open and doing their best with procedures that we hope will reduce the effects of the contagion.  I am thankful that our logistical systems are functioning, and most shelves are replenished.  I am thankful that so many people are taking reasonable precautions.

I love proactive but won’t do panicked and one day we are all going to have some stories to tell our grandkids.  We can tell them how the world we knew got turned upside down, at least for a while.

Jesus came into a world that was upside down, wrong-side out, and pretty much living contrary to the ways of God.  Even the religious hierarchy didn’t know which way was up. 

As Jesus went around the countryside, he amazed people with miracles, challenging teachings, and the fact that he spoke with authority.

Not everything he said was easy to understand.  Sometimes he used figurative language such as hyperbole, simile, and extended metaphors.  The disciples often had to have the parables explained.  Their minds were still governed by the models of the world in so many ways.

He used concepts such as being born again and even the teachers of Israel couldn’t grasp what he was saying.  When your world is upside-down, the one living right-side-up seems to be out of place, out of sync, out of touch.

But for a moment, surely less than an hour, the world or at least a piece of it, was turned right-side up.  Jesus rode into the Jerusalem during Passover week.  He had been anointed while in Bethany and was coming into the city as foretold by the prophet, on the colt of a donkey.

Only a short time before, he had raised Lazarus from the dead.  People were excited.  Yes, some were plotting to kill him as well, but this hour belonged to the people who saw and tasted and knew hope for the moment.  They cried out:

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the King of Israel.

In that moment, the blind spoke.  What?  The Pharisees who were surely oblivious to who was coming into town, were talking about how this guy was a wrench in the works.  He was messing up their normal, but they spoke truth as well.  They did not realize it, but they did.

Look how the whole world has gone after him.

They did not realize what they just said which essentially was:

Look, for this time, the world has been righted.  For now, we are right-side up.  In the moment, things are right and harmonious and full of joy.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the King of Israel.

In that moment, the hearts of the people sought after the Lord.  We know there is more to the story that unfolded over the next few and very full days. 

We know that cries of Hosanna will turn to Crucify Him.  We know that blood must be shed for the forgiveness of sin.  We know there is much that Jesus has to teach his followers in these last days before his death and resurrection. 

Looking forward from this point, he will really turn their world upside down when he washes their feet.  There is so much more.

But for now, the world is right.  The people seek Jesus.  The whole world has come after him.

That’s our commission now, to bring the whole world to come after him.  This time, it’s more than shouting Hosanna.  It’s leading people to the salvation and Lordship of Christ Jesus and cries of Hallelujah as they realize their freedom from sin and death.

Hosanna.  Hosanna in the highest.



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