High River United Church of High River, Alberta


What Is God Revealing to Us During This Pandemic?

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How long, o Lord, how long?  Why is this happening to us, o God?  Those questions come easily to our lips as the weeks and months tick by since our world was turned upside down by this particular coronavirus.  We are struggling with being separated from loved ones and friends, with keeping businesses going and with trying to avoid catching the virus.  Our personal worlds have become very small, living inside a small bubble of safety.


Yet, the other question I believe we must ask is, “What is God revealing to us during this pandemic?”  Now I don’t mean that God caused this pandemic in order to teach us something.  What I do mean is that the wisdom of God can give us insights about what is going on and what is not working well in our world, things laid bare by this pandemic.


In Jewish thought, which forms the roots of the Christian faith, there is a concept of tikkun olam, which means the mending and fixing of the world.  Within Judaism, the understanding is that God invites human beings to partner with God in the mending, tending and repair of this broken world. This very much fits with my understanding of the invitations that Jesus gave to his disciples.  We are to be partners, friends, and companions with Jesus in sharing the compassion and healing love of God in this world.  We are part of the tikkun olam for this planet earth.


If we are to be part of this mending, tending, repairing, fixing and weaving back together of the fabric of the world, then we must ask, “What is God revealing to us during this pandemic? What is this pandemic revealing?”   I’ve named some of this in other ways in previous articles, but here are my reflections in answer to that question:


The Learnings


We can no longer see ourselves as individual people, groups or countries on this planet.  This virus has hit every country and every group of people.  There is nowhere that one can go to escape this virus. We are in this together. We must start to see that instead of drawing lines.


A positive happening during this pandemic has been scientists and labs around the world teaming up to work on vaccines and anti-viral medicines. Wouldn’t it be awesome if coming out of this pandemic those scientists and labs kept working together to address other diseases?  Wouldn’t it be amazing if we took this to the next step and worked together across the planet to address other worldwide challenges such as hunger, clean water, refugees needing safety and climate issues?


The Lacks & The Injustice


More than anything, this pandemic is showing us the places where the fabric of our society is worn thin.  It is revealing the injustices with which we have become complacent. Here are a couple of examples:


Seniors and long-term care is one of the areas that has shown itself as being particularly vulnerable. Now I must clearly state that the care workers in these facilities work hard and most provide exceptional care. I know because my sister is in a long-term care facility in Calgary.  The problem lies not with the staff, but with how we as a society have allowed long-term and seniors care to be handled.  We have privatized it (in Canada) rather than keeping it under the auspices of our provincial health systems.  This has led to part-time staff being hired, with no benefits offered, so that companies could make money off of those most vulnerable.  The analysis required is much more than I’m able to do here, but the fact that so many of the deaths in our provinces have occurred in seniors and long-term care must reveal to us something significant about the inadequacy of the set-up we have for these facilities.


We have heard for many years now that the top 1% of the world’s wealthiest people hold about 50% of the world’s wealth. During this pandemic, some of those richest people have hidden away on private islands or secluded themselves on large estates.  When we talk about opening up the economy, it is not these richest of the rich who are being encouraged to take risks to get the economy going.  It is mostly those who are earn the least, those who are struggling to pay rent and feed their families who are forced to go back to work, sometimes in conditions that put them more at risk of getting COVID-19 or spreading it to their families.  Again, the analysis needed is much more in depth, but this pandemic has laid bare the inequities in society.  We must end the assumption that those who work harder make more money.  That just isn’t true.  People living in poverty and on the edge of poverty work as hard or harder.  Our societal myth has been that if you aren’t rich it is because you are lazy or you haven’t tried hard enough.  May this pandemic end that myth!


What is Most Precious


This time of physically and socially isolating is taking its toll.  We need to be together.  We need to touch each other and gather together with others.  That’s what human beings do.  At first, when we thought this would just be for a few weeks, we dug in and embraced what needed to be done.  But now, we need to continue the physical distancing for an unknown length of time.  We are realizing that we can no longer take for granted our ability to gather, to eat together, to sing together, to hug and to hold each other.  This is especially difficult at times of death. It is especially difficult for those who live alone, who have no one inside their bubble. 


We are realizing who is most precious to us: our children, our families, our friends, our church community, and others.  When all that we thought we needed is disrupted, we are drawn back to what is essential.  That is our relationships.  We have discovered that some of those relationships are not as solid as we hoped.  Maybe we’ve been able to work on the mending of those relationships.  Maybe the stress and alarm has created irreparable rifts.  Yet, what is revealed is our need for compassionate, caring relationships that can hold us through alarm and anxiety.  Relationships are more precious than anything.


Finally, I pray that we are realizing how precious is our planet Earth.  Before the pandemic, we were being called to address climate change.  As human activity slowed down because of the pandemic, we saw a reduction in pollution which helped those suffering lung ailments (and prevented many deaths), we saw waterways and the atmosphere begin to clear. It has been revealed to us that we humans do have an impact on our environment.  This earth is precious to us – it is our home.  May we value that in new ways coming out of this.


What I have written feels so inadequate! I believe that God is opening our eyes and our hearts to the needs and the injustices in this world, needs and injustices that we could choose to address, together!  I believe that God is opening our eyes and hearts to what is truly the most precious in our lives.  There are days when I am hopeful that we will work with God in tikkun olam, the mending, tending and repair of this world.  But then there are days when I fear that we will just push to get back to what was normal before – and I feel despair.


We are at a pivotal point, a point where we can choose to truly see what has been revealed to us and to speak out and reach out to make changes.  I invite you to claim your voice, to write letters, speak with others, and share your concerns about this world, even if those actions seem inadequate.  For God loves this world. And God sent Jesus to invite us, once again, into caring for this world, with compassion. Let us mend and tend this world with God.


What is God revealing to us during this pandemic? May we dare to embrace that question and open ourselves to the answers.


May 21, 2020   ©Susan Lukey 2020

High River United Church, High River, AB    www.highriverunitedchurch.org

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