We are in soft shell crab season on the Outer Banks. Here on Colington, the shedders are being watched day and night, and crab harvesters are working under the hanging bulbs to capture these delicacies the minute they are ready. The dilemma is that the restaurants aren’t ready. So while the harvest is happening on its own timeline, there is not the usual demand. Friends of these hardworking folks are trying to help them sell their soft shells to locals to cook at home, and the community is responding. But this is just one small sadness in the midst of all that is sad about the economic impact the pandemic is having on our beautiful island.
What will you do first when we come out of this? Eventually we can go back to hugging, eating at a favorite restaurant with our friends, taking the kids to a real playground, getting on a plane…until then, this time of isolation and quarantine certainly feels like being in exile. If the pandemic ends in time, I would rush out and eat a fried soft shell crab sandwich at the Salt Box Cafe.
Today’s scripture invites us back to the time when Israel lived in exile. They had been overrun and carried away into Babylon, where they couldn’t live life as usual and were forced to adapt to a completely different culture. Jeremiah dreamed of the time when their exile would be over and they would return to a normal life:
Jeremiah 36 (Contemporary English Version)
At that time, declares the Lord,
I will be the God of all the families of Israel,
and they will be my people.
2 The Lord proclaims:
The people who survived the sword
found grace in the wilderness.
As Israel searched for a place of rest,
3 the Lord appeared to them from a distance:
I have loved you with a love that lasts forever.
And so with unfailing love,
I have drawn you to myself.
This picture of God appearing to Israel from a distance as they are returning from the wilderness is profound. We are immediately reminded of the story of the Prodigal Son, where the father was waiting at the edge of the field every day for his wayward son to return. God indeed has gone before us, and waits there to welcome us back to normal life when our exile is over. And notice the phrase “found grace in the wilderness.” Have you found grace in your pandemic wilderness? Can you list some “silver linings?”
4 Again, I will build you up,
and you will be rebuilt, virgin Israel.
Again, you will play your tambourines
and dance with joy.
5 Again, you will plant vineyards
on the hills of Samaria;
farmers will plant and then enjoy the harvests.
The hope in these verses make me tingle. God will build us up again. We will dance for joy again. We will plant vineyards and farmlands and harvest them again. We will have life as normal again. Gosh, I can’t wait for Again to begin. How about you?
6 The time will come when
the watchmen shout from
the highlands of Ephraim:
“Get ready! We’re going up to Zion
to the Lord our God!”
Hold on to these words. There will be a time when this virus is completely gone from this earth. Get ready! And in the meantime, look for grace in the wilderness.