Walter Brueggemann: God's New Thing: Is God with us in the COVID-19 crisis? (Isaiah 43:18-19)

By Walter Brueggemann

Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:18-19 NRSV

It is possible to trust that the God of the Gospel is in, with, and under the crisis of the virus without imagining that God is the cause of it. As God often does, in hidden ways God may be amid this crisis to do the hard work of checking arrogance and curbing hubris. Amid the virus we now face an alert about the indifferent exploitative world of global self-sufficiency we have been making that some of us mightily enjoy.

We now see curbed the absolute world of technological certitude that faces a mystery beyond calculation.

We see that our immense power is unable to fend off threat that is for the moment beyond our explanation.

We see that our great wealth is not able to assure us of security.

We are pressed back to basics!

The God of the Gospel, however, not only curbs and checks our excessive ambition. We may imagine God doing a new thing among us. Perhaps we are arriving at a new neighborly normal:

Imagine, we are treating prisoners differently, even releasing some who constitute no threat

Imagine, we are mobilizing generous financing for needy neighbors who must have resources in order to survive.

Imagine, we are finding generous provisions for students and their debts.

The new thing God is making possible is a world of generous, neighborly compassion. It is before our very eyes! The God who does this new thing has also said, “Do not remember former things.” We have so much we will do well to forget

We may forget punitive measures toward outliers.

We may forget parsimony toward those in need.

We may forget predatory policies toward the vulnerable.

The good news is that we need not go back to those old ways that are punitive, parsimonious, and predatory. We can embrace a new normal that is God’s gift to us!

Used with permission. Originally posted on Church Anew, a ministry of St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie, MN.