Isaiah 43:16-19 (NRSV)
16 Thus says the Lord,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters,
17 who brings out chariot and horse,
army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise,
they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
18 Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
19 I am about to do 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.
It seems that right now, in America, there isn’t much we can agree on. One place we can all find common ground is the upset the pandemic has caused in our lives, no matter what we believe about it.
Social scientists say that in times of great upheaval, interventions and behavior changes are more likely to stick. In other words, whatever “new” emerges from the disruption created by COVID-19 may have staying power.
“New” isn’t easy. “New” disrupts us and upends the comfortable and familiar. Instead of plunging ahead, our first instinct is to dawdle, actively or passively resist, and feel nostalgia for what is passing away. As the pandemic wore on, we no longer had the luxury to resist. The circumstances of our lives were changed.
A global pandemic forced you and me out of our usual habits. Staying home, we accidentally nurtured God’s creation. Before the Great Pause, it was hard just to imagine a clear, pollution-free sky. We nurtured one another, we took time to check in on our friends and family, and showed love and concern for neighbors we may not have met or would not have reached out to otherwise.
We were—and still are, despite the end being in sight—at a moment that calls to mind John’s vision of “a new heaven and a new earth” in Revelation and of God proclaiming, in Isaiah 43 “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”
If what social science says is true, these new habits of caring for creation, and caring for one another may be more likely to stick. As vaccines become more available, and we are free from the constraints of this virus, let us not fall back into the former things, let us go forward, embracing the new thing that God is doing.
Prayer: God of all things, old and new, help us to perceive the new thing you are about to do. Give us strength and courage in these times of great upheaval, guide us toward the actions that help make the new things stick. New ways of being a part of your creation and your community. Let our patterns of living reflect the love you have for the world and for all of us. May these actions help us and our neighbors forget the former ways of racism, violence, hatred and division. Let us go forth in the new ways you make in the post-pandemic wilderness. All this we ask in the precious, holy name of Jesus. Amen.