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I am fortunate that I am able to continue my daily work from home. The pace has not slackened one bit as I am on conference calls, participating in Zoom meetings, dealing with more emails than before the crisis, and am in touch with people all over the world throughout each day. 

Everything changed on September 11, 2001, and now everything has changed once again. After 9/11, even mystery writers changed their style and plots because of the new reality. I wonder how mysteries written from now on will read? It’s already odd to see television shows in which people are in close quarters or are touching their faces. 

Every cough and sneeze, every tickling at the back of my throat, every ache and pain, makes me wonder if the virus has afflicted me.

Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary

Even my daily Bible reading feels different. Recently, I have been reading Jeremiah. In the 39th chapter, King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon conquers Jerusalem, captures King Zedekiah of Judah, and takes captives to exile in Babylon. The book is filled with references to ‘pestilence;’ perhaps I am noticing these when I didn’t before.

Nebuchadrezzar leaves a remnant in Judah and appoints Gedaliah as governor over them, but soon Ishmael leads a plot to assassinate Gedaliah. The entire situation—the defeat of Judah, the exile of the most prominent leaders, the assassination of the governor—contributes to a sense of desperation among those left behind. 

The remnant decides to flee to Egypt, the very land from which God delivered them from slavery centuries before. Jeremiah pronounces the word of the Lord to them, “All the people; who have determined to go to Egypt to settle there shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; they shall have no remnant or survivor from the disaster that I am bringing upon them.” (Jeremiah 42:17, NRSV)

Not only do the people reject Jeremiah’s warning, they assert he is lying. They go further and say that it was when they were making offerings to a false god, ‘the queen of heaven’, that things were all right and they vow to “go on making offerings to the queen of heaven and pouring out libations to her” (Jeremiah 44:19 excerpt, NRSV). 

May I humbly suggest that those who assert the coronavirus isn’t that serious, that we need to get back to work, to university, to church, that those who are fleeing to upstate New York and other rural areas, risk ignoring the pestilence and expert advice in the pursuit of mammon and false security and could place all of us in danger?

I, too, wish I knew where to go to find safety. Every cough and sneeze, every tickling at the back of my throat, every ache and pain, makes me wonder if the virus has afflicted me. What will become of me, of my family, of those I love? 

Although Jeremiah repeatedly warns Israel that hard times are ahead, so too does the prophet proclaim God’s promise: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built” (Jeremiah 31:3-4 excerpts, NRSV). This is the promise to which I cling.