When the world begins to sink around us…
Let’s be honest. It is only in the hard times that we seek God’s face in earnest. Yes, of course. We may praise and seek God at all times. But when push comes to shove, our prayers become more intent and intense. And that’s fine. We are, after all God’s children. And, like any other child, whenever we are hurting or we are scared, we run to our parents loving embrace.
No matter what we may believe or support in our ordinary life, I guess that we all would agree that our present Covid-19 season continues to take its toll. First, because it has become the worst of all the unwelcomed guest that we ever had. This season has been unexpected and continues to stretch out with a mind of its own.
And second, no one has been or can be spared by reason of his or her social status, ancestry, money, education, religion, neighborhood, political affiliation, profession, or the color of one’s skin.
Family life, education, and all matter of projects have been disrupted. Dreams and plans have been shelved away. And many givens of our traditional and contemporary culture have been shaken. Like the disciples in our Gospel story were distressed by the fierce storm (Matthew 14:22-33), even when they were experienced fishermen, our own experience is unnerving.
Psalm 85, our reading for today (vs. 8-13) was a song that found its revival during the return of the exiles to their old ruined cities and a land filled with sad memories of glorious days long gone. Pondering about the task in front of them, they prayed and wondered, “Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations? Will you not revive us again, so that your people may rejoice in you?” (v. 5-6).
In the old kingdom, before the exile, the political, social, and religious power and wealth was concentrated on the hands of the few at the expense of those who had to sweat it out. Self-dealing, political expediency, and deceit had been the currency of the day. Now, would they return to their “Old Normal?” Or was it a time to seek a new future where righteousness and well-being would reign the day, and mercy and truth would foster a new prosperity shared by all people, rather than the few?
For those who had been in exile, the answer was easy, but the task ahead surely was not.
So, what God had to say to His people? To His people in need to brave the hard task ahead, God offered words of contentment, health, prosperity, and the tranquility that is embodied in “shalom,” the divine peace that only God can offer.
And to His disciples, caught in the storm with the world they knew beginning to sink around them, Jesus offered them the secure hold of a loving embrace.
God’s words are creative and transformative. The “New Normal” would not be the “Old Normal,” – the disciples had been transformed by the realization that Jesus was not just the best Healer, Teacher or Prophet, but He truly was “the Son of the Living God,” (v. 33).
The returnees would find the glory of the Lord not anymore in the splendor of the “good old days” of the ancient kingdom, but in that “Steadfast love and faithfulness would meet; and righteousness and peace will kiss each other,” (v. 10). The “New Normal” would be a new social compact that would reflect the glory of the justice, truth, righteousness, and peace that it is in God.
Those are the same words that I believe God is trying to communicate to us through the words of Scripture. In speaking words of liberating peace that we need in this our hour of need, when it appears that the world we knew is sinking around us, God invites us to lay our cares at His door, and to launch ourselves once again into the secure embrace of Jesus, “The Captain of Salvation,” (Hymn 542, Christ is the world’s true Light).
Prince of Peace, your Word calmed worrying storms and secured floundering hands. Embrace us in your unfailing love so that rather than sinking in fears and memories of old, we may be empowered by the Holy Wind of your Spirit towards the shores of the new future that you have prepared for us. Amen.