March 12, 2020 by Jesse Lebus
St. Luke’s, friends and family:
Today marks the feast day of Gregory the Great, Bishop and Theologian (~540-March 12, 604). When I write about a saint for this newsletter I usually read a few brief biographies and then, if available, I take a look at things they had written. Gregory wrote a lot, but his most well known work is The Rule for Pastors. It’s a four volume treatise that offers quintessential guidelines for priests and bishops; it’s basically the 6th century version of “Clergy Leadership for Dummies.” So… I’ve referred to it a lot.
Throughout, Gregory emphasizes that those in leadership should model a way of being they hope to inspire in their congregations. This week, however, I came across a sentence in Book II whose metaphor hit close to home. I’ve paraphrased for the sake of impact:
"The pastor should always be pure in thought, word and deed... for the hand that would cleanse from dirt must be clean, lest, being itself sordid with clinging mire, it soil whatever it touches all the more.”
As a pastor - as much in our church as online and in our village - I communicate with people all the time. This week I have heard and felt very different responses in regard to the spread of Coronavirus. Just walking down the street yesterday I met someone who, with a dismissive air, said the whole world had gone crazy with paranoia. Less than a minute later I was talking with a person wondering whether or not to cancel an event they were hosting. Then, at the end of the block, I met a friend who was genuinely concerned about their own health as well as the stress this is putting on communities across the globe. How do you respond when you meet these people?
I assure you I’m washing my hands with regularity. I hope that all of us are. After this week, though - after my conversations and study, when I stand over the sink - I hope to wash away more than just bacteria and viruses. I will ask God to cleanse me of fear and arrogance that I may encounter every person with compassion and common sense. I will ask God to cleanse me of fear and arrogance that I may uncover the confidence and clarity necessary to lead our congregation through a new and trying situation.
All Christians are called to serve as pastors. We are called to reflect Christ in the world, both as healers and bearers of peace. Let the absence of fear and arrogance be a sign to those whom you encounter that you care about them and want to see them also cleansed of anxiety and conceit. Gregory the Great called himself the “servant of God’s servants.” To serve one another is to serve God.
St. Luke’s will continue its regular schedule of services and formation: Sunday at 8 & 10AM and Tuesdays in Lent. We will continue to receive communion, in the host only, as well as refrain from physical contact during the peace and before and after the service.
Please note. Just because the doors stay open does not mean that you have to come. They’re are plenty of good reasons to stay at home: you have compromised health, you’re caring for someone whose elderly or infirm, someone in your house works or attends school in a place that is closed due to infection concerns, or you are feeling ill. Maybe you just want peace of mind. Remember, one of the primary fears that we must wash away is the fear that someone will dismiss us because we took a precaution.
Be faithful, be smart, be compassionate, be humble. Be cool.
Yours in Christ,