These last couple of weeks with this coronavirus pandemic has brought no shortage of extremes from great generosity, service and sacrifice to epic examples of stupidity, selfishness and just utter evil. Which validates a theory that people don’t change because of crises – but rather their true nature is more fully revealed. We have been hearing heroic stories of doctors and nurses working round the clock; first-responders who don’t have the option to work from home fulfilling their responsibilities – to the opposite – idiots who have been (thankfully) arrested and charged for terrorizing other people by saying they have the Covid and then coughing on them – others buying out every hand sanitizer they could in a geographical area with the hopes of selling them for a jacked up price once the supplies were out of stock…
One very public example that came to mind of the different extremes was when last week, the President had designated Sunday, March 15th as a Day of Prayer. It was moving hearing leaders of our government and different religious leaders unite behind this proclamation that said:
In our times of greatest need, Americans have always turned to prayer to help guide us through trials and periods of uncertainty. As we continue to face the unique challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, millions of Americans are unable to gather in their churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship. But in this time we must not cease asking God for added wisdom, comfort, and strength, and we must especially pray for those who have suffered harm or who have lost loved ones. I ask you to join me in a day of prayer for all people who have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and to pray for God’s healing hand to be placed on the people of our Nation. It goes on for a few more paragraphs, which you can read here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-national-day-prayer-americans-affected-coronavirus-pandemic-national-response-efforts/
While in this overly divisive – political time we’re living in, some negative reaction was sadly a political response – which was disappointing that some could not see past seeing someone they disagree politically or even dislike personally but would still unite in something that is of urgency not just to the nation, but the world – but I digress. That didn’t necessarily surprise me.
What was jarring was hearing, seeing and reading so many outright dismissive and just blasphemous things said about a call to prayer, about seeking God’s aid and looking for His assistance through this pandemic, asking for God’s comfort and healing to those who are sick and those who are attending to the sick just unsettled me. One person said something along the lines of you people can have your God, I’ll take Dr. Fauci (as if anyone were proposing an either/or scenario)
That came to mind when reading today’s first reading from Exodus [readings can be found here] The Jews – who God had saved from Egypt, gotten them out of slavery – sustained them on their journey out of Egypt en route to the promised land with manna, with water… they seem to have really, really short memories… Moses had been called by God up Mount Sinai where the Lord was explaining in detail what this new covenant between Him and His people would look like. The very people he had created, and now had saved, the people He had chosen to reveal Himself to … what was their response? What happened? The people got impatient. They got frustrated saying to Aaron, Moses’ brother we don’t know what happened with that guy Moses – so you Aaron – make us a new god. Which they did – they pooled together any gold they had, melted it and molded it into a golden calf – which they started attributed to with saving them from Egypt and began worshiping. (They also were engaging in widespread orgies, but we’ll leave that aside for now).
You need that background to understand why God sounded a little bit put off at the start of today’s reading. You can hear the hurt as God plans to wipe them out and honor Moses’ faithfulness and fidelity in raising up through him a new people – a new nation that God will make “great.” This is where people say “the Old Testament God was mean… unlike the New Testament where God is love” (No… that’s a heresy – Old Testament and New Testament is the same God).
Words mean things. The Israelites had experienced the wonders and miracles and holiness of God. Now because 40 days and 40 nights had passed with Moses still talking to God, they had completely abandoned God and were putting their faith into something they had created in their own image. Something they could have the illusion of control over. But Moses reminding God – and thereby reminding Moses himself of God’s love and care for his people is what saves the Israelites despite such depravity.
Words mean things… We can and should have great respect for Dr. Fauci – and for all the medical people and scientists working round the clock to try to beat this thing. But he alone is not going to save us. Social distancing, quarantining, stay at home orders alone can’t save us. Even if a vaccine is discovered tomorrow that innoculates us from corona 19 and corona 20 and whatever other coronas or other viruses are still to come – that alone can’t save us. And as a people we can’t make these individuals gods or these things new “golden calfs” for us to worship.
We need to worship God. We need to pray to God for his continued blessings and favor demonstrated in all those potential possibilities and the people gifted by the Lord with the creativity and intelligence to try to discover them. We need to thank God the Father for His merciful love the fullness of which is found in His son, our Lord Jesus Christ that when we become similarly “stiff necked” as the Israelites were, His anger is abated by His love – with Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross as the ultimate sign, the ultimate witness, the ultimate victory. We need God to save us, both now from this present trial and for all eternity. In Jesus we have assurance of that salvation. Now is not the time to be shy about our faith and belief in Him. Now is not the time to allow the world around us to idolize individuals or things and mock the one who created those very people and things. Not because we have to fear God will destroy us – but because if we do, we end up destroying ourselves.