These are strange days. The earth doesn’t seem to be spinning as fast, yet the moon rises and we rest awaiting another day and the wonder of what shoe will drop next.
It is a dreary Saturday with no sports on television, as the barbarians are climbing the walls, my retirement account is shrinking, and my daughter is texting me, “My world has been cancelled.” Join the club. Perhaps there will be a baby boom in 9 months.
And yet we laugh at small moments of lunacy watching our cat Caney, straddling the living room sofa with her claws extended, plucking the fabric like Earl Scruggs playing Foggy Mountain Breakdown. Without a water bottle to deter the cat from defrocking the chenille, Karen shouted, “Stop it Brandon!”
Our son Brandon is 150 miles away in Norman. We both busted out laughing. Setting aside normal recognition issues between a brainless cat and our son the meteorologist or parental dementia, most parents have shouted the wrong child’s name when they are guiltless.
I walked next door to check on my 84 year old parents who once called me by wrong names. Their car was gone. They were bored and went for a drive. They stopped at Szechuan and Dad ordered scallops. He has congestive heart failure and diminished lung function and he orders Spicy Kung Pao Scallops in the midst of the world being cancelled.
Good for Papa. He always has been a little countercultural. There is a strange sobriety, a dimming of hope that is normally illuminated by future plans, even if the future is simply dining out.
I asked my son recently about the most momentous event in his lifetime. He said it was the financial meltdown of 2008, which surprised me. Maybe he doesn’t remember 9/11. He was 8 years old at the time. It seems like everything changed on September 11, 2001.
But there was another day, Aug 24, 410, when an army of Goths came over the wall and sacked Rome. They did not occupy Rome. They simply came over the walls and stayed 3 days plundering, pillaging, and wasting, and then they left, as if to say, look at what we barbarians did to you. St. Jerome, living in Bethlehem at the time, wrote; “the city which had taken the whole world was itself taken.”
It was a shock emotionally, intellectually, physically, because the walls had been broken down and the question was, “What’s safe now?”
The unthinkable had happened. Christians had started moving up into influential positions and everyone thought that this is how God is moving through cities and civilizations. The Christian understanding of the world as manifest and glorified by the city of Rome had been shattered.
Augustin said that you are freaking out because you have confused Rome for the city of God. There is only one city that cannot be sacked. If you kill a city of man, you simply move up.
Augustin and Psalm 46 said the same thing: There is a river running through the city of God and it cannot be besieged.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God…
Rome became disordered. It broke down and never fully returned to glory.
However, the city of God continued. It was countercultural, an alternate city, as Christianity helped keep alive the arts, government, health care, economies, justice, love, learning…those things stayed, even when the earthly city of Rome was falling apart.
These are indeed strange and uncertain times. If you need anything, Karen and I are willing to bring you medicine, food, pie, whatever, if you can’t get out.