It is common for people of faith to respond to tragedy and threat by affirming: “God is still on the Throne!” I take this to mean that whatever has happened or is happening has not defeated God, nor surprised God, and has not called into question God’s ability or willingness to help. What has happened is not a problem for God.
But, when we say this, it is often precisely because it is a problem for us. We are surprised. We feel threatened if not defeated. And, we do not (yet) see anyone doing anything about it, such that it calms our spirits. So, it can help to declare our faith: God is still on the throne. That is, God is no less God than before, no less aware, and no less at work to rescue and save the world than before. Still on the Throne!
I think it would be more helpful to adjust the emphasis or stress to say: GOD is on the Throne. Everything depends upon “God.” Upon what sort of God sits enthroned. Upon how God rules and fights and achieves victory. On the one hand, whatever the threat—let’s say a menacing pandemic and whatever havoc it brings, it could never unseat God—as though a rival had pulled off a successful coup of the Kingdom of God. No, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords reigns constantly and everlastingly.
What matters most is who and how God is and what and how God acts in our world. When we get and keep these in mind our spirits can calm, and hearts settle into deep ongoing trust.
Who and how God is—creator, sustainer, lover, healer, provider, protector and guardian of all creation. God is love and God is holy. God is almighty—powerful enough to create everything in the beginning, and powerful enough to re-create everything by raising Jesus from the dead and thus defeating the pandemic death and evil that has threatened all created reality from nearly the beginning and from time to time ever since.
What and how God acts—by reaching for, stooping low, and in Jesus ultimately emptying self to enter the world to reveal, restore, and renew the good plans God has had for all people. God acts to establish a Kingdom and Governance that corresponds to who and how God is. God acts from within the world God has made, and God will redeem and heal. What and how God is and God acts has at least two consequences for us in the face of pandemic threat.
First, within creation itself, even in its fallen and broken condition, God has embedded and encoded properties and processes which can reveal much that has gone wrong and provide insight for its remedy and correction. When the current pandemic has been analyzed adequately so that a vaccine can be made, and treatments developed and offered—it will trace back to the God who is on the Throne. In fact, God has not abandoned the world, but God has created it in such a way that potential disasters can be understood and remedied if not averted. Of course, there will be experts in the sciences, executives in multiple spheres of endeavor, and leaders at every level who played their parts and who may well step forward to claim the credit. But their wisdom, training and expertise work because God made and loves the world a certain way. The healing and corrective remedies will come only because God created and sustains and blessed the world in this way. God is on the Throne.
Second, in the meantime, God continues to act everywhere and all the time in other ways that fully correspond to who and how God is. God entered the world in Jesus our Lord. Through Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, enthronement over all, and gift of the Spirit God has formed a Body, a here and now presence in the here and now world, tasked with the ongoing mission of Jesus. In other words, God has agents of Royal Governance positioned, embedded everywhere who speak, act, and react as Jesus would if Jesus were there. Thus, Jesus is there fully embodied, prepared and at work.
In the face of our current pandemic we affirm God is on the Throne. We can have confidence that long before the twisted and deadly pathogens could have formed, the basis for understanding and treating them was already there, waiting to be discovered and stewarded in healing ways. From our present position, as we wait in this hope, we are the people God has placed as Kingdom agents who bring Jesus’ love, touch and healing wherever we can, whenever we can, and however we can.
All because this, our God, is on the Throne!