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By Bishop C. Joseph Sprague, United Methodist Church

“Take these deeds…and put them in an earthenware jar…that they may last for a long time. For thus says [the Holy One] ‘Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land’.”–Jeremiah 32:14-15 NRSV

Jeremiah bought the field at Anathoth at a dire time. He dared to embrace hope in the midst of seeming hopelessness.

As the current pandemic spreads its silent invisible tentacles, I find myself re-visiting memories from early childhood. Born in 1939, these memories are fraught with a youngster’s experiences of the second world war. 

I am bombarded with recollections of ration books, limited travel, palpable scarcity, blackouts, sirens screaming, star-laced window flags denoting sons and daughters away at war, relief visible on my grandmother’s face when letters announced Tom and Bill were yet alive, even as Josie’s scream still resounds at the news of her son Mickey’s death over the Sea of Japan.

Most of all, I remember Aunt Alma. While her husband, Tom, followed front-line troops across Europe in the Jeeps and trucks he skillfully helped to keep running, while experiencing the worst of war’s atrocities, Alma kept his little Southeastern Ohio gasoline station functioning for five years by donning her overalls, pumping gas, adding oil, filling radiators, checking batteries and washing windshields. All this with little complaint as she awaited the war’s end and her beloved’s return.

Like so many of that Greatest Generation, Aunt Alma simply kept-on keeping-on, while quietly trusting “Houses and fields and vineyards” would again flourish in the tiny coal-mining village, which was her home.

Like you, I do not know what the future of this pandemic holds, but with Jeremiah, and like Aunt Alma, I invite you to join me in faithfully preparing for the long haul, while trusting “Houses and fields and vineyards shall again” flourish, not only in this land, but in the whole created order the Holy One loves. In the long run, Sacred Mystery will prevail. Count on it.