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The Deserted Village and Covid-19



Many years ago as a freshman in an English literature class, I was introduced to The Deserted Village written in 1770 by Oliver Goldsmith. At that time I thought the poem was a waste of words given to me by an egghead professor deeply obtuse and out of touch with life.


I thought that he had given the class useless academic garbage that we never needed as wisdom for then or for later years in life. So I did not study the poem for depth of meaning but only halfheartedly to wait for an assignment that would be more interesting I did not know that I was short changing myself by seeking instant intellectual stimulation.


As a young man with energy to burn, I refused to decipher the vocabulary of older English writers looking for the new and the exciting. I was turned off by Oliver Gold Smith who said: ''I love everything that's old, -old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine'' As a young man aspiring to become more than a jack leg preacher who had good lungs and lazy brain I did not know how lost I was. In the darkness of my ignorance, little did I know that older than the deserted village was the book of Lamentations. It said:'' How lonely sits the city that once was full of people! How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations.'' I regret very deeply that I never preached from this text. But now living in this pandemic with covid-19 no text in the 66 books of the Bible better describes living in the city, state, and nation and the cities of the world than this text from Lamentations '' How lonely sits the city that once was full of people! How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations! Verses 1. The 4th verse reminds us that our inability to worship together we mourn. We lament our inability to congregate for concerts, classes, and sporting events. Verse 4 says:''The roads to Zion mourn, for none comes to the festivals.'' The Bible has texts older than the birth of our nation, modern science, and technology. If we take time to read these texts slowly and thoughtfully, we may discover that the ancient texts old as they are, are also as new as the daily morning news.


They are the living word that not only matters but is the living word matters most. Verse 7 says ''Jerusalem /America remembers in the days of her affliction...all the precious things that were hers in days of old''. Our busy lives that were required for survival in our fast moving world have been forced by covid-19 to come to a traumatic halt.


Some are at a loss as what to do in our involuntary sheltering. In the deserted village Some of us are bored and bothered with living with ourselves or a family member who irritates us like cold air kissing a cavity in a tooth. May we get better acquainted with ourselves, our family members, and above all with our Creator. Psalm 46:10 says:'' Be still and know that I am God''


The English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer said: 'Flee from the world and dwell with truthfulness' For fear of not peaking to friends, family and neighbors readers who have an Islamic orientation, I quote from your scriptures ''For those who have faith, it is guidance and healing, but for those who are faithless, there is a deafness in their ears and it is lost to their sight.


They are >as if they were>called from a distant place. < The Quaran, Surah Fussilat, verse 44.> C Bishop William Temple said: "Religion is what we do with our solitude." I conclude that if we remember that life is a fragment between two eternities and if we make each moment of our lives productive and positive, we can lie down for the last time in peace knowing that all is well. Be safe and blessed and be a blessing!


J. Alfred Smith Sr.

Pastor Emeritus,

Allen Temple Baptist Church,

Oakland, Ca.


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