Thoughts from the Pastor

“Learning to Live with It”

     After two years of a pandemic and yet another wave of a new COVID variant over the holiday season, it is understandable that people are fatigued. A sentiment I am hearing more often from individuals is that when it comes to COVID, we need to simply “learn to live with it.” By that what is most often meant is that we need to be done with many of the safety precautions. People are tired of quarantines, masks, of talks of vaccine mandates, and people just want to move on. “Learning to live with it” for many people means getting back to normal, of treating COVID like we treat the flu or common cold.

     The medical community assures us that one day COVID will no longer be a pandemic but endemic – it will be something we can treat like the flu or if we are lucky like the common cold, but that day has not yet come. I am uncomfortable with the current push to “learn to live with COVID” when I still see so many individuals suffering or dying. Personal fatigue and inconvenience do not negate our faith calling to love and care for one another.

     Therefore, I propose a new understanding of the sentiment, “learning to live with COVID.” I invite us to consider what God told the people of Israel after they had been conquered by the Babylonians and carried off into exile to live in a foreign land. “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29: 4-7).

     God understood that the people of Israel faced an uncertain future. They would be mourning what they had lost and afraid of what might come next. God promised that one day the people would be restored to their homeland, “to normal”, but that in the meantime they needed to learn how to live and to thrive in this new time of exile. Even instructing the people to seek the welfare of their captors!

     Over the past two years I have often referred to this time of pandemic as a different type of exile. We have not been forced from our homes but our routines, worship practices, and daily living have been disrupted. The yearning for “normal” is understandable and I know that one day we too will return “home.” However, I believe our faith calling is like the one God gave the Israelites in the book of Jeremiah. We cannot act as if we are no longer in exile, we cannot ignore what is happening around us, and we cannot force our way home. We are still in a pandemic, there are safety precautions and sacrifices we must continue to make to seek the welfare of those around us.

     “Learning to live with Covid” cannot mean we act as if this exile moment is over. It must mean a willingness to name that we are in an uncertain, messy, difficult, and foreign land. We will find ways to thrive in this new temporary home. We will wear masks, get vaccinated, make changes to worship because that is what it means to live in this new land. We look with anticipation to the day we return home, but we acknowledge that we cannot control when this day comes.

     There is still joy, blessings, and abundance to be found in this moment, for those willing to see it. God did not want the Israelites to be so focused on what they lost, so desperate to return home that they missed the blessings in their midst; God wanted them to learn how to live as people of faith in exile. God wanted to reassure the people that even in exile, their God was with them. This is our calling too; this is what it means for us to live with COVID as a people of faith. We seek beauty, blessing, and the welfare of others while in this moment; we do not simply mourn what was lost or try and force our way home. So yes, let’s learn to live with COVID, let’s learn to thrive while in exile, and above all else let us continue to seek the welfare of one another. Amen.

                         ~ Pastor Nathan