Most people are saying that they cannot wait to get back to normal, and I understand that impulse. There are so many ways in which I wish things were different this April. I wish we could travel off Cape for things other than medical help. I wish we could see our relatives, and take our vacations, and mingle more easily. I wish we could worship again, of course.
But I continue to wonder if we are not missing the point if all we hope for is a re-set of the world’s computer of life. I believe that the apostle Paul was right when he said that God works through all things for good. And I agree with the Bible when its writers continue to ask the question - “What are the lessons in the Exodus, or the Exile or life of Christ?” It is a religious impulse to seek the gifts in adversity. It is people of faith who have always avoided the temptation to plod through life’s peaks and valleys without seeking meaning.
In his column in Sunday’s New York Times Ross Douthat writes, “There is a religious duty to interpret the present moment, not just seek to endure it or escape.” What can we learn from this time when “our elite lifestyle of international travel is grounded, our consumption is cut to a minimum, our days are occupied with basic responsibilities to our families and immediate communities, our resources and economic hopes are reduced and we are made more dependent upon one another? What does it mean that our nation states suddenly seem less potent and our armies are infected by an invisible contagion...and that the most technologically advanced countries face the humility of their limits? “
I don’t pretend to have the answers to these big questions. But I do want to wrestle with some of these issues.
This spring I am preaching a sermon series on the “Gifts of the Pandemic”. Now I don’t want to romanticize this public health crisis and I understand that for many of you it might be a little premature as we face into the worst week in Massachusetts to try to find something good about all of this. But I do believe that people of faith have a tradition of looking at our lives through the prism of questions like these. What can we learn here? What does this public tragedy and it economic fallout tell us. It takes a lot of faith try to search for the gifts that come to us unbidden or in strange packages. It is always too much for one person to pretend to know these things. But perhaps together, we can begin a conversation.
I wonder if the pandemic has allowed us to re-boot. When your computer doesn’t work sometimes the only way to address the issue is to turn it all off, shut it down and start over. Maybe, just maybe this is one of those times. with apologies to Simon and Garfunkel, I hope we can get in touch with the powerful impact of silence on our souls.