They shall bear you up in their hands, lest you strike your foot against a stone. (Psalm 91:12)
We recently heard these words from Jesus, “and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” The gospel lesson, of course, was Matthew 16:13-20. Peter had just blurted out, “You are the Messiah, son of the living God.” Jesus responds by acknowledging Peter’s affirmation of faith and promises the disciples the keys of the kingdom. In the time of COVID-19, it may feel like we are sometimes being assailed by the forces of Hades. But still, we need to hear Jesus’ promise and to believe it.
There are many in Christian churches that are still in denial about the impact of the pandemic. I have even heard some pastors preach that God would protect the flock from this often-lethal germ. When I hear that, I am put in mind of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness – and Jesus’ answer: “Thus it is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord, your God.’” To me, such thinking seeks to manipulate God into a position of showing his power – to prove us right. This is the heart of the temptation to what is classically called hubris or “pride.” I hope that no one in our community thinks that way.
On the other hand, there are those who still believe that the threat is overblown, and that this will all go away soon. History teaches that this is the kind of thinking that led to the Great Depression. It was the same mental process that led to the appeasement before the start of WW II that led to its outbreak. Quite frankly, I would rather be accused of overreacting rather than not doing enough to keep danger at bay.
Why do I bring all this up now? We’ve been living with this “COVID thing” for over five months. Surely, we have weathered the worst of it. Well, yes and no. Just like the world in the aftermath of the Depression and WWII, our world is being changed as each day passes. I am trying to brace myself for the reality that nothing will ever be the same as it was pre-pandemic. I am not sure what the world, even our little piece of it, will be like once a global vaccine and effective therapeutic medicines are in place. One thing I can be sure of, it will not look much like what we knew at the end of March 2020.
I hope that by then we will have learned many lessons. I hope that we will continue to reflect on what is genuinely important and valuable. I hope we will have acknowledged how essential it is to look beyond ourselves and our own well-being to the “other” in our midst. Hashtags like #inthistogether are only words, unless they represent a real shift in our thinking – a shift away from the self-centeredness that has become part and parcel of our culture – toward the other-centeredness that is at the core of Jesus’ teaching, where the well-being of our neighbor becomes one of our highest priorities.
As we prepare to return from summer activities to the more settled routines of work and school, we take yet another step away from “normal”. Even now, we are being reminded that it is not and will not be the same, ever again.
This is no cause for despair. Far from it. Scripture testifies that when God’s people trek through the worst, they are better able to recognize the hand of God at work among them, whether it was in the vast desert wilderness of the Exodus from Egypt, the exile to Babylon, or the seemingly unending hours between Jesus’ death and resurrection. What we need to remember is that God’s ways are not our ways and that for God’s faithful people, there is alwaysa way forward.
Source: Rector’s Blog