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A new way of being: A Biblical history

By Scott Baker

On Sunday, Emmanuel Episcopal church was able to gather together for in-person worship for the first time since mid-March. Doing so during a pandemic meant having to put into place many safeguards and precautions to mitigate (as best as we can) the coronavirus. It was strange indeed to look out on a congregation spaced six feet apart and all wearing face masks. Whereas before quarantine we were all able to share in a common loaf of bread and common cup of wine for communion, on Sunday everyone received their own hermetically sealed, individual serving-sized portion of bread and wine — distributed all the while maintaining social distancing. Surreal is the word that comes to mind to describe our worship experience on Sunday. Furthermore, it becomes even more surreal when we realize that this style of worship will be the new way of being for the foreseeable future.

As I drove home from church I began to reflect on times of transition in the Bible and where God was in those times. Although God may not have been the instigator of those times of transition, nevertheless God was there helping to them to ease into them. Looking back in holy Scripture what comes to mind is Adam and Eve leaving the garden of Eden. They went from a paradise and a (presumable) life of ease to one of toil and pain and struggle. However, God was present with them through it all. Fast-forward to the Hebrews in Egypt crying out for emancipation and release from their lives of freedom. Through Moses, God delivers them with a mighty hand to lead them to the Promised Land. The Promised Land was a place of milk and honey, which symbolized food that was acquired with the least amount of work — in short, a land that stood in stark contrast to the lives of hardship, toil and forced labor.

Again, the Israelites transitioned from being a people lead and ruled by judges and transitioned to a monarchy. It was during the monarchy of king David that Israel reaches the zenith and pinnacle of their existence as a nation. Indeed, this will be the golden age they will look back on years afterward longing to return to the “reign of the house of David.”

Finally, and perhaps the greatest transition came in the advent of Jesus of Nazareth. The people of God were being invited to enter into a whole new existence with God and with each other and the world in which they lived.

In each of these transitions I realize that there must have been significant growing pains in order to live into their new normal. Just as some are reluctant to wear face masks, maintain social distancing and other measures, we look back in Scripture and see similar behavior. No sooner had the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and began their long trek to the Promised Land, when many among them longed to go back and resume the “old normal” even if that meant being in slavery again. Through all of these transitions to “new normal” ways of being, God proves time and time again that God is with them. God proves that he is with his people through the most difficult times of a new ways of being. As life unfolds in the time of COVID-19, I am sure God will do so again. And our response is resounded in the last words uttered by Emmanuel Episcopal congregation as we departed church on Sunday, “Thanks be to God!”

THE REV. SCOTT BAKER is the rector at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Franklin. Contact him at 562-4542.