And Jesus said, “so is the Kingdom of God as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and he should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring up and grow…he does not know how: (Mark 4: 26,27).
This quotation from the Gospel of Mark is found in a book written by The Rev. Louis L Perkins. He wrote about the pastoral nature of Christian Ministry. Rev. Perkins died in 1993 at the age of 91. Much of his life was dedicated to ministry among the rural people of Eastern Oregon. His point was to tell us that we are continually surprised by the grace to be found in the person to person happenings of everyday life. He titled his book.“You Never Know.” His book tells us much of the vicissitudes of life as he found between 1926 and the time of his death in 1993. It was a much different culture in eastern Oregon during his life. He experienced the great depression and World War II. These were hard times. People were hungry, often without health care. Families were separated, and men went off to war and never came home. In spite of the hard times the Grace of God showed up in surprising ways. We did not emerge from those times as just survivors. We emerged changed. We learned that caring for each other is an essential part of our life. We learned that we have an amazing capacity for destruction and an amazing capacity to build up. As a Baby Boomer, I grew up hearing the stories from my parents and grandparents about those times. It seems that God is able to take our struggles and turn them into victories and we have an endless capacity to turn our victories into struggles.
As I write this I am aware that this is a time of huge social and political contention. We have allowed our differences to be the basis to fracture our capacity to personally get along with each other. Now those political differences seem to pale in significance when we consider the potential outcome of the pandemic we call “COVID-19.” In fact, the novel coronavirus simply does not care if you are Republican or Democrat. We are as likely to contract it as a wealthy person or a poor person It is no respecter of our differences. The color of our skin, the language we speak, belief of our faith, our sexuality and more are differences that do not make a difference to the world of the virus. Yet, the virus is part of the created order just as you and I are.
So now we are advised to create “social distance.” Social gatherings of many different stripes are being cancelled or postponed. This social distance is no respecter of who we are or think we are. No one is outside the need to be aware of the dangers inherent in a global pandemic. It seems to me we have been given a wonderful gift in being reminded that we are equal in the eyes of the one who created us. Though we are experiencing social distance we are also experiencing an absolute need for social harmony and collaboration. Our survival is clearly dependent on one another. This helps us to understand the need to love our neighbor as we do ourselves. Indeed, we are to “Love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our mind and with all our soul. And we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Luke 10:27).
Of course, this universal love has been taught for many centuries. It is a lesson that we seem to have trouble keeping in our minds. Could it be that in keeping our “social distance” we will discover a new “social proximity”? You never know.
Father Jim Mosier is the retired rector at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Ontario. He can be reached in care of The Argus Observer, 1160 S.W. Fourth St., Ontario, OR 97914. The Argus Observer weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.