Romans 8:38-39- For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all of creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Announced on March 29th was a precaution taken against the Corona Virus. What was that precaution? Longer social distancing that’s not supposed to end until April 30th which is a month from now. They’ve closed beaches, parks, and many other recreational areas that we all enjoy. While we are able to go out and scavenge for toilet paper, water, and bread what we ultimately crave is each other. We want to be with each other and not socially demarcated. Staying at home isn’t easy and we as humans aren’t wired that way. We need to be in connection with each other in order to survive. As I write this, I think about two questions: What if quarantine isn’t what we think it is? What if it serves a greater purpose?
We can see quarantine as a way of social anxiety endlessly scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or we can use this time, not creating a prison within our own minds, to get closer to the One who made us. Facebook, Instagram and other social media have been used beautifully during this time to connect us and make us feel like we aren’t alone. We are not alone because we have each other. But most importantly we have God and specifically God in Christ. I put up Romans 8:38-39 because we literally can’t be separated from the love of God. While all of our circumstances may seem grim it’s God who comes in the present-tense in love during quarantine. So as the title of the article suggests, how can quarantine be considered a gift? The gift itself is Christ and also each other. As we love one another during this time it’s also Christ’s love that we are producing. Being in quarantine and allowing God to love us is important. With this time we can better understand ourselves and each other.
The late Toni Morrison, who passed away last year, in her novel A Mercy illustrates this relationship in literary form. A Mercy tells the story of American slavery and its horrendous act towards a female slave named Florens. Florens moves from relationship to relationship seeking love from everyone without realizing the love that situates itself in front of her and for her benefit. The relationship I want to illuminate is the Reverend Father (a priest) and Florens herself. The Reverend Father acts as an allegorical Christ figure. In the midst of a system that objectifies Florens’ very being, the Reverend Father comes as gift to Florens. The prolific author writes, “Finally he takes rags, strips of sailcloth lying about and wraps my feet. Now I am knowing that unlike with Senhor, Priest are unloved here”(8). The Reverend Father who comes to wrap the feet of Florens is reminiscent of Christ washing the disciples feet. In the same way Christ comes as gift to wash us and pour his spirit in us. Ironically, the Reverend Father was unloved because of an ideological way of thinking that suppressed Florens’ being. Further, the Reverend Father was unloved because he sympathized with the American slaves. Christ was unloved but gave himself up for us as gift. To illuminate further, Morrison makes another beautiful point by saying, “Very quickly I can write from memory the Nicene Creed including all of the commas. Confession we tell not write as I am doing now”(6). The Nicene Creed goes like this:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only‐begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate…
There’s more to the Nicene Creed but I wanted to stay focused on just this part. The Reverend Father wanted Florens to understand what’s outside of her which is Christ himself. Since God is the maker of all things her very being is in him and he deconstructs the systematized world that constructs their ideology of who she is. The Nicene Creed addresses Christ’s death which are in the sacraments of bread and wine. Bread being his body and the wine his blood. The Reverend Father reminds Florens’ of who she is in Christ through words, bread, and wine. All of which are in the Nicene Creed. In the same way, Christ comes as gift in words, water, bread, and wine. He comes to wrap our feet with sail cloth(washing our feet) and he comes to deliver the Nicene Creed which is himself, the Word. The beauty of Morrison’s caricature of theology points us to the cross and she address the present-tense of the Gospel that the Reverend Father brings to Florens. Christ comes to us in the present-tense in bread and wine.
So during quarantine, as we are separated from each other, we are not alone. Again, we have each other. Pray with each other, love each other, worship together. Take the sacrament together. Every time you come to the bread and wine that’s for you, it annihilates everything that stands in God’s way of getting to you and also loving you. Your negative thoughts, self-deprecation, anxiety, worry, or anything else has no place at the table of bread and wine. At the table is love and the forgiveness of sins. This is how quarantine is gift. For anyone who is feeling lonely or unloved:
There’s nothing wrong with you.
There’s nothing wrong with you.
There’s nothing wrong with you.
You are loved beyond what you can even comprehend.
You are a Gift!
So as the Great Lion Aslan says, “You doubt your value. Don’t run from who you are”(C.S. Lewis). You are valued more than you will ever know. You are loved more than you will ever know. Your value and identity are in the words, water, bread, and wine that come as gift for you. Your identity is in the bread and wine. There’s nothing that can be said about yourself or by others that the bread and wine cannot destroy.