At a time when many of us are anxious, and indeed are actively attempting to use the COVID-19 protocols as a time for us together or alone to discern and shape the “new normals” of our institutions and lives.
It is a time to usher in the new and implicitly better “thing” prophesied in Isaiah chapters 43 and 65, Ezekiel chapter 47, 2 Timothy chapter 1, and Revelation chapter 21.
And let’s not overlook the profusion of familiar lessons in Genesis chapter 37, 1 Kings chapter 19, and Matthew chapter 14. Here are four examples (some with sub-parts):
• Genesis chapter 37 warns us yet again how easy but dangerous it is to harbor and manifest different degrees of love for our children. It especially warns against favoritism as in the case of twins like Rebecca’s Jacob (Israel) and Isaac’s Esau. Of course, this might seem obvious, as we are all called to love everyone unconditionally.
Later, Jacob’s son Joseph is rescued from his brothers’ murderous plot when one of them, Reuben, suggests instead that Joseph be tossed into a pit, which turns out to be a deep but dry well, another brother, Judah, later suggests that Joseph be lifted out of the well, and sold into slavery, to their distant kinsmen, Ishmaelite traders, as they were passing by on their way to Egypt.
God’s hand of mercy is seen at work over and over.
The agents in God’s acts of mercy are seen to be the two brothers, Reuben and Judah, who model godliness for us.
The Ishmaelites were themselves recipients of God’s mercy earlier by Abraham and Hagar.
We too are called to extend God’s mercy, as agents of the Divine, even if we know but little of where our merciful intervention for good will make a difference in the affairs of humankind.
• 1 Kings chapter 19 tells us that the prophet Elijah, after winning the famous contest on Mt. Carmel and routing the prophets of the pagan god Baal (who had been under the special protection of the wicked Queen Jezebel) is fearful for his life. Yet he still takes God’s instruction and stands boldly and faithfully at a cave entrance atop Mount Horeb (Sinai.)
A great wind sweeps by, but no word of guidance comes from God. Then an earthquake, but still no word from God. Finally in the “sound of sheer silence” (translated in the King James text as a “still, small voice”), God joins Elijah.
Elijah complains to God that “I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”
God replies, “I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
We are never alone, but always have the company — the love and saving grace of the Divine — to guide and support us.
This comfortable omnipresence is also commended in Matthew chapter 1 where the Great Apostle Peter, attempting to walk obediently on the turbulent waters of the Sea of Galilee, experiences how important it is to be faithful “to a fault,” enabling him and us to overcome any impediment with God’s help.
— The Rev. Dr. Wesley S. Williams Jr., K.St.J., is Cathedral Priest Scholar and Chaplain at Washington National Cathedral. He previously served as Bishop’s Dean for St. Thomas and St. John and Priest in Charge of various congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of the Virgin Islands (U.S. and U.K.)