God is establishing a new rhythm

May 7, 2020 by Rev. Philip Beck

“God is rhythm. I think, without rhythm, you can’t create – there is no art” ~ Alejandro González Iñárritu

My son, Joshua, is a jazz pianist. Many nights while I am making dinner, he is playing the piano. I have come to love the genre listening to Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck and more modern jazz composers like Avishai Cohen and jazz pianist, Tigran Hamasyan. As you listen, the unique sounds and different rhythms become embedded in your mind and body.

When I first wrote this, it was December of 2019 and I was projecting that in May of 2020 the busy season of Lent and Easter celebrations would have passed (this is still true) and that our rhythms would change as we headed into a summer season similar to those in the past. I was going to encourage you to embrace the rhythms of summer, go on vacation, put your electronic devices away, read a book just for you, and seek out a really good home-grown tomato. I would still encourage that: rest, self-care, vacation and sabbath.

As I was writing in December, I remember reading a story about a mystery illness in Wuhan, China. Pride, ignorance, even folly made me think, whatever is happening over there will never come here. Those kinds of things have happened before and we are the U.S.A. and while we have our issues, that mystery illness is not our problem. I was wrong. Forgive my sinfulness, O Lord. Life has changed. What once was, is no more.

One of the most difficult challenges for our family since the “Stay in Place” order came has been finding a new rhythm. Our family of six seems to stumble over each other in the house. There are challenges around bandwidth, internet use, and the amount of time individuals are spending in the bathroom.

We have found some rhythms. We all sit at the table together every evening for dinner. Our four high school and college-aged children gather in the living room afterwards to play a board game or cards. Josh still plays jazz piano every night while I am making dinner. I try to go outside and tend to my small garden patch. We wave at neighbors as they walk along the alley, all of us keeping an acceptable distance from one another.

This summer season will be different. Truth is we do not know what it holds. I suspect we would love to have some normalcy. A summer vacation somewhere. Some time off to recharge. We would love to preach to people who are seated in pews rather than on screens. We would love to go back to those rhythms we have had before. We also know in our hearts that this will not be.

I keep thinking of the Israelites as they wandered the desert wilderness. There was a rhythm to their days that was very different from when they had been in Egypt. Collect manna in the morning, tend the flocks, perhaps pick up camp and move along. Do the same thing again the next day. Always present was the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. God was in their midst.

God is in our midst as well during this COVID-19 wilderness, binding us together through the Holy Spirit, establishing within us new rhythms and new possibilities. The prophet Isaiah proclaims, “Behold, I am doing 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 43:19 ESV).

God is doing a new thing, making a new way in us, establishing new rhythms.

Thanks be to God.

Rev. Philip Beck

Rev. Philip Beck is pastor of First United Presbyterian Church in Tarentum, PA. Phil recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of his ordination in the PC(USA) on April 1 (no fooling). He received his B.A. from West Virginia Wesleyan College and M.Div. from Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Phil, his wife Christa, and four children enjoy traveling and time spent in Chautauqua, N.Y. In his spare time, Phil likes to work in his small garden and helps run a local community garden.