St. Mark’s Corner  by Richard Watkins

I like to think myself a pragmatist. However, I am not so pragmatic that I refuse to believe in God’s higher and mysterious powers of working in our lives. So, when I read that Hobby Lobby is remaining open during these unprecedented times of recommended shutdowns of business because Barbara Green, the wife of Hobby Lobby founder David Green has been assured by God that everything will be okay, I had mixed responses.

First, I don’t discount that God may have communicated with Mrs. Green. And I don’t discount that He may have assured her in some way, everything will be fine.  What I do question though, is this premise of going about one’s business and not taking rational, logical or pragmatic steps to help oneself.

As we all know, God saves. It says as much in Acts 2:12: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” And there have been a lot of “calling upon the name of the Lord” these days. But it says it right there, “…everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord…” We’ve got to do something first. In this case, that thing is call. That’s because God doesn’t save without faith. And not just the inner faith of belief, but rather faith in terms of putting your trust in God and doing what He asks us to do in order to be saved. This is what’s so hard for us. We want the saving, but we don’t want to put in any effort. We have seen it countless times throughout the Old Testament.

The People: “Save us, Lord.”

God: “Okay. Do This and you shall be saved.”

The People: “Uh…can’t you just save us?”

God: “No.”

The People: “Okay, okay. But hear me out. I think You’re gonna love this idea instead…”

Instead of just doing what God wants us to do we negotiate, bargain, haggle. We try to set the terms according what we think; what we want; and expect God to acquiesce to us.

All around the country people are ignoring the clear and unmistakable directive to social distance themselves from other.  Coronavirus Parties are being thrown from the beaches of Half Moon Bay to Kentucky where young adults purposely and intentionally got together ‘thinking they were invincible’ and defying the state guidance.  And, of course, someone who attended that party now has the virus. It’s like Mrs. Green who believes her employees will be saved by doing what they normally do: going to work instead of staying home. Or Rodney Howard-Browne, pastor of the River at Tampa Bay Church who was arrested after holding two Sunday services with hundreds of people in violation of a county “safer-at-home order”. And not to be outdone by Pastor Howard-Brown, Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge was arrested on a misdemeanor summons for six counts of violating the governor’s executive order barring large gatherings after holding church services with hundreds of members.

The whole country has been advised by leading professionals and experts in the health field that the best way to remain safe from this virus is to not be around people who may it. This includes Dr. Ezekiel Emmanuel, Senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and Vice Provost for Global Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania and chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy.

Wait…who? Ezekiel Emmanuel? Ezekiel as in God will strengthen and Emmanuel as in God is with us? Really? Can we get any more of a wink from God that we should listen to this man?

And if you’re still not convinced that this is right thing to do, let me give you three of examples of why it is: Noah, Lot and the enslaves Jews of Egypt.

God told Noah to build and arc, take shelter in it and stay in it until He said it was okay to come. He did and was saved from the flood.

God told Lot to leave Sodom and Gomorra, not to look back and take shelter in the mountains to be spared the impending fire, brimstone and destruction of those cities. He did and was saved from the wrath (with the exception of his wife but we’ll leave for another time).

The enslaved Jew of Egypt were going to be free by God through Moses. But before that could happen, they were instructed to take shelter, mark their homes with lambs’ blood and not to come out until the morning lest the spirit of death kill their own first-born sons along with the Egyptians. They did, and they were spared and set free.

Three incidents of God telling people to take shelter and they would be saved. Three instances of people obeying God’s authority and thus being saved.

Folks, we are in midst of our own flood, fire and brimstone and our own Passover all at the same time. Many of us have asked God to save us. And what has he told us in return? Take shelter to  save ourselves.