I know that many of you are looking forward to things getting back to normal. This period of social distancing is hard and scary. I want things to settle down as well. However, I question whether there will be normal again. The 1918 flu pandemic lasted into 1919. That pandemic killed 675,000 Americans. The people who lived through that were never quite the same again. I pray that this pandemic is nowhere near as deadly. But even with a far less deadly pandemic, I wonder if we will ever be the same. In many ways we won’t. The phrase “social distancing” has now become part of everyday speech. I see people wearing masks and gloves in the grocery store, and that is new. I have never seen that outside of a hospital or doctor’s office before. I can’t erase what I have seen. I don’t know that things will ever go back to how they were before. But is that a bad thing? Sometimes it is through trial and tribulation that our faith grows. Our hearts go out to those who are sick, suffering, and mourning. Would we have had this chance to cry with those who cry if things had stayed the same? Would we have had the conversations with our family that we have had if we weren’t confined together in our houses?
Isaiah writes, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19) Are we so insistent that things be normal that we miss a new thing? Are we so tied to how things were always done that we miss opportunities?
Jesus certainly didn’t. We read in Luke’s Gospel, “After this He (Jesus) went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.’” (Luke 5:27-32)
The Lord God made man was calling tax collectors and sinners to follow Him. What a wonderful unexpected thing. Churches still call sinners. Now, because of this pandemic, many churches that would have never considered a digital presence are reaching out online. God’s Holy Word is spoken, and The Holy Spirit moves through it.
In this pandemic we need each other, and those who are God’s children can reach out to each other and support each other. Where food is needed food can be provided, where an ear to listen is needed an ear can be there to hear. A member of Faith told me that they have never heard from so many people from Faith before! The bonds of Christ’s body are strengthened, and we will celebrate when we gather together again. Let’s put aside the way things have always been done and look for new ways to tell others about Jesus. Jesus tells us, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35) Let this time apart be a reminder to love each other, and love each other enough to share Jesus. Let’s reach out in any new way possible, teach and baptize. We are Jesus’ Church. Our future is assured through His death and resurrection. We are safely buried and resurrected in Him through baptism. We have the assurance of His absolution and Holy Communion. That is our reality. With that security we can be ready for new things.