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03/22/2022 10:28:31 AM


How do we continue to live with faith

Thus the Eternal saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great work that the Eternal did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the Eternal and believed in the Eternal and in his servant Moses. 

The Book of Exodus verses above, especially with the mention of "Egyptians dead on the seashore," show that the slavery in Egypt tragedy did not end slowly but quickly and dramatically.  It was a "hard ending," a final, once-and-for-all conclusion of a long-standing problem: the many years of slavery in Egypt.

We would like such an ending to be what happens with the COVID pandemic but don’t count on it.  It's likely to be with us in some endemic form in an ongoing way long into the future, researchers say.

In Exodus 15, the chapter immediately following the account of the Red Sea crossing, Moses and the Israelites launch into a song of celebration because of the ending of the "Egyptian problem." But even before getting out of that chapter, the Israelites change their tune, now singing, "This is all too hard". And so begins their next long-haul problem: life in the wilderness, an experience that lasted 40 years. 

Life is rarely like the end of the “Egyptian problem”. It is usually more like the 40 messy years in the desert.

It’s not that progress against COVID has not been made in these past two years.

We now have vaccines that help keep people alive and out of the hospital when they encounter the virus.

At present, COVID cases are rising in the UK, New Zealand, and Hong Kong. In Latin America and the Caribbean, more than 248 million people have not had even a first dose of the vaccine. But in the United States, hospitalizations from the virus are down and the number of new deaths with COVID as a factor has dropped as well.

But when will it all actually be over? It is hard to say for what does “being over” even mean? Will we struggle with COVID as an endemic, meaning that there's a baseline level of the infection within the population of a given geographic area? We have lots of research on how epidemics -- an outbreak of a disease in a certain geographical area -- begin, there's less on how they conclude. Most likely it's a drawn-out process with different types of endings that do not occur simultaneously.

One past pandemic disease, the flu of 1918-1919, ended as more people developed immunity.  There are still some new seasonal variations of that illness, but most are now blunted with annual vaccines. Flu still kills some people, but not the numbers that died when it was at epidemic levels. Flu is now endemic in the United States. 

The question I would ask us to consider is this: if life is a series of problems, many of them never solved, then how do we continue to live with faith? How do we practice gratitude when we are in an ongoing wilderness of uncertainty and doubt?

Perhaps the ancient Israelites give us an answer: praise God but keep complaining.

Not divine, but certainly human!

Wed, February 21 2024 12 Adar I 5784