April 22, 2020by Reverend Dan on April 22, 2020
These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also.
Well dang if this last month ain’t been a fine howdy-do! Talk about the world being “turned upside down”!
Actually, the thought of the world being turned upside down isn’t a new thing. In fact, us native Virginians are very familiar with the phrase. Back in 4th grade in Mrs. Haynie’s Virginia History class, we took a few field trips to places within an hour of where I grew up. Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown; all important places not only to Virginia history but to the history of our nation when it was in its infancy
It was at Yorktown where our class first became familiar with the phrase. Yorktown was where the Revolutionary War ended when Lord Cornwallis surrendered his British army to General Washington and his rag-tag colonial army. Military custom said that the British army should have played an American tune in tribute to the victors, but Washington refused them the honors of war and insisted that they play a British march. It was then that they played an old British ballad aptly entitled, “The World Turned Upside Down”. The thought that thirteen upstart colonies could win a war against and gain independence from the vast British empire, so large that the sun never set on it, was something they had originally believed could never happen.
But where did that old ballad come from? Back in the 1640’s the song was written as a protest against the policies of Parliament when they said Christmas was to be celebrated as a solemn occasion and outlawed traditional English festive Christmas celebrations.
But where did they get the idea? That goes all the way back to the early church. It seems there was this fellow named Jason, and the authorities got wind that a bunch of Christians were gathering at his house (which is how and where the first churches met – not all at Jason’s hose but at people’s homes). Some Christians had gathered there, along with some people from Thessalonica who wanted to find out more about this “Christianity” thing, and a few “spies” showed up. There was a raid on the house, and the people were violently dragged out of the house kicking and screaming and taken before the civil magistrates (the judges). Some of them started yelling how the apostles had “turned the world upside down”; had thrown it into disorder, making disturbances in kingdoms and cities everywhere they went, and had turned men from their old ways of worship to a different and newer one.
Every once in a while, you meet someone who is labeled a “visionary”. When someone says that what they mean is that person can see past the way the current society and culture lives – its norms and traditions – and envision new and different ways and directions the world may go. It’s not that they are “prophets”, they simply know that the world is constantly changing, and they are able to admit their culture and their wisdom is not the be-all, end-all goal of the world. In his presidential campaign in 1968 Robert Kennedy paraphrased a quote from a George Bernard Shaw play which described a person like this: “Some folks look at the way things are and say, ‘Why”’ I dream of things that never were and ask, ‘Why not’?”.
We have a challenge ahead of us. Once this pandemic is over, the world will never go back to “like it was”. You can’t have a major event like this virus “turn the world upside down” and then expect things to go back like they were.
But that doesn’t mean things can’t be even better. Different isn’t bad. We will hopefully be smarter, safer, and more aware of the effects of germs and viruses and bacteria and what they can do to the entire population. We can better prepare ourselves for similar future events. And we can remember that it was love and hope and belief in a sovereign God and a new and better tomorrow that brought us through this “upside down” time for our world. Then we can live with that knowledge every day, and not just on days of crisis.
We can all be better. This last month has proven that. We just need to find a way to make it a habit, and not simply a response in times of crisis.
“Father, make us ever mindful of the way we see and treat others every day of our lives, not just on days the world is upside down. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.”