Noah and a smart phone

Published 3:23 pm Tuesday, April 21, 2020

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Father Ard

Holy Cross Church

“Hear my cry, O God, and listen to my prayer. I call upon you from the ends of the earth with heaviness in my heart; set me upon the rock that is higher than I. (Psalm 61:1-2)”

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I promised myself and a few other people throughout Polk County that I would write something humorous. I wanted to write something crazy about Crys Armbrust, Ned Dick or Dean Trekas. They’re easy marks, and everyone in town knows them. Alas, Crys is no longer waving his hands around like a lunatic in front of the Bottle, Dean isn’t playing boogie-woogie piano at some local watering hole pretending that he is the Greek Ray Charles and Ned Dick is hiding behind a Corona Virus mask. These are all wise and sober decisions that they have made.

I don’t blame them one bit for going a little underground. In fact, I applaud their decisions; however, life is a lot less interesting during quarantine time. I know that I have spent an inordinate amount of time reading the Bible in Greek and pointing out the grammatical eccentricities of St. Paul to my wife. I think by this time she has heard enough about St. Paul’s use of the genitive absolute in subordinate clauses.

I wish I could just flip a switch and make all of this virus stuff go away. I wish school would start again, immediately! My daughter has never been so excited about the prospect of going back to school. “Learning is important,” she says, “but it’s a whole lot more fun when you get to be with your friends.” I couldn’t agree with her more.

I’ve missed my lunches with my parishioners and with my friends throughout Polk County. I know it’s good to eat salads and oatmeal, but it’s a whole lot more fun having my friends laugh at me while I eat salads in front of them.

Community is essential to whom we are, and I ache at the thought of not knowing when I will be with my friends again. I think to myself, “How many more important conversations can I have with my mother? She’s a delight and all, but I think I’ve heard every interesting story that she can recollect and I am definitely not interested in the next best place for her large round rug.”

I think about Noah in the ark. He was in there for forty days and forty nights. He had to resist the temptation of jumping overboard with all of those animals and all of his family. I don’t know how he made it without allergy meds and a smart phone with noise cancelling headphones.

I think about the Israelites in the wilderness for forty years. They had forty long years of discomfort and complaining and no social media on which to vent sarcastically about their fearless leader, Moses.

I think about Elijah alone in the wilderness for forty days wondering if his work was all in vain. I think of him being angry at the Israelites and God. I think of him beating himself up emotionally without a good therapist or at least a good barber not only to listen to him but also to make him look good for the journey to Mt. Horeb.

I think about Jesus stuck in the wilderness for forty days having to listen to the Devil and his insane and vapid temptations. I can imagine Jesus thinking “Just bread? Really? You’re going to tempt me with just bread and no cold beer? I don’t need hot carbs out here. I need ice cold carbs and some good conversation. I wish the Devil would get his temptation game together and at least make these forty days interesting.”

I know that our “forty days” will eventually come to an end. I know that this feels like dead space in between the important stuff. I know that our lives feel as though they are on hold, but I think that even in the midst of the sickness, separation, anxiety and frustration there is also blessedness and time to be who we are truly called to be. I don’t want to be out in the wilderness any more than the Israelites, Elijah or Jesus, but while we are there, we might as well pay attention and listen to what God is trying to tell us.

I can envision my good friend Bernie Dunlap finishing two or three books during Corona time. I’m sure that he’s already finished a book on the concept of pathos in Greek Tragedy and its implications for a fractured virus ridden modern world. I think about him creating a lyrically beautiful translation of the Divine Comedy. Then I think about all of the time that I have frittered away in worry and lament, and I think, “Use what is given. Cherish what is given. Pay no mind to the hollow laments of what is not.”

“So will I always sing the praise of your Name, and day by day I will fulfill my vows. (Psalm 61:8)”