First Presbyterian Church of Perth Amboy
45 Market Street, Perth Amboy, New Jersey
As we progress through the month of November in 2020, life goes on. The normal ways of doing things-‘normal’ being in the pre-pandemic world-have given ways to adjustments and precautions and a new way of doing church, school, our jobs, gathering together, and being humans.
COVID 19 is an epidemic of global proportions. Thus the name is upgraded to ‘pandemic’. It is a natural disaster and our response needs to be appropriate to responding to a disaster. For me, hearing the arguments over ‘rights’, as in the right not to wear a mask, is ridiculous and disheartening. It ignores the reality that right now, cases are on the rise, hospitals are full, and it is not going away any time soon.
One of the terms in disaster response is ‘the new normal’, people have to adjust to a new way of doing things after a disaster. Normal becomes what we can get used to living with. Unfortunately, it feels like we are trying to establish a ‘new normal’ right now, where the risk of infection is secondary to ‘getting on with things’.
Trying to find a Biblical lens for the pandemic is hard. The reason for that is because disasters, both natural and man-made, were in the realm of ‘divine punishment’. The plagues in Egypt before the Exodus, the epidemics and large die-offs of Israelites while on the Exodus, the invasions of the Promised Land, all of those were backed with a divine seal of disapproval.
It is not that Jesus did away with all of those disasters, natural or manmade. They certainly exist. If anything, they have grown more powerful. But in Jesus came the fulfillment of God’s law. Why were there plagues and wars and other disasters throughout the Old Testament? Because the people did not follow God. This is the religious world-view out of which notions like ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ find roots in certain theological branches of Christianity.
But all that punishment, it piled up on Jesus. And it killed him. He laid down his life for his friends. He took upon himself the punishment for our sins. He was the final sacrifice as laid down in the law of Moses. That moment of his death carries so much meaning. That when he rose again from the dead, it was as he died. He died for all, now, in his new life, all may life, if we accept the free gift of salvation.
So disasters happen. But God still loves us. Disasters will hurt and kill us. But God is there to receive us. In Jesus, there is a New Normal that is above anything in this world or the next that might seek to pull us from the love of God.