“Behold!  I am making everything new!”
“These words are trustworthy and true,” Jesus said.
 

A few months ago I read a book by New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright titled, The End of October.  It was a very timely book, serendipitously so:  though it was written in 2019, it is a novel about a previously unknown virus that emerges in a small corner of the world, and its global aftermath.  Wright had no way of knowing that his book would be published in the midst of a pandemic, which makes it even more riveting.  The main character is even a Dr. Fauci-like figure, though a bit more muscular.  I recommend it.
 
In last week’s New Yorker, Wright interviewed Dr. Gianna Pomata, a retired professor at the Institute of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins.  Dr. Pomata retired to her home town of Bologna, Italy, and one of her fields of expertise is the time of the Black Plague.  The University of Bologna, established in 1088, is the oldest in the world, and was for a long while the center of medical research (such as it was in the Middle Ages).
 
Dr. Pomata offers an interesting take on what followed in the Black Plague’s wake, and it may prove both informative and hopeful as we navigate our way through the present pandemic.  For what followed the Black Plague was, in a word, Renaissance.  As Wright puts it,
 
“Pomata told me, ‘What happens after the Black Death, it’s like a wind – fresh air coming in, the fresh air of common sense.’  The intellectual overthrow of the scholastic-medicine establishment in the Middle Ages was caused by doctors who set aside the classical texts and gradually turned to empirical evidence.  It was a revival of medical science, which had been dismissed after the fall of ancient Rome a thousand years earlier.  ‘After the Black Death, nothing was the same,’ Pomata said.  ‘What I expect now is something as dramatic is going to happen, not so much in medicine but in economy and culture.  Because of danger, there’s this wonderful human response, which is to think in a new way.’”
 
“Behold!  I am making everything new!  These words are trustworthy and true.”  After the Black Death came the Renaissance, a rebirth of scholarship and the arts, the emergence of modern languages and new ways of government, ethics and being community.  I find myself wondering in these days what you and I are learning about ourselves, our communities, our culture and our faith. How will we have changed when we emerge on the other side of the pandemic?  Will we have the perspective to understand the things we have learned and the things we can put aside for good?  In Dr. Pomata’s words, will we think in a new way?  At the end of the Bible’s story, in the book of Revelation, Jesus stands over creation and declares that something new is about to unfold.
 
I would like to think this is true in every age, and I pray it may be so for us all.

  Alan

Bulletin for Sunday July 26, 2020

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