Dear St. Lukers,
It’s hard to believe we have been in this COVID moment for ten weeks. Some of us have been reading an excellent article about leading through these times, recommended by Bishop Carter and written by Andy Crouch. You can read along with us if you are interested by clicking here. He writes to give leaders a metaphor of this moment to understand how to lead by thinking of this moment in three phases: a blizzard, a winter, and a mini ice age.
Ten weeks ago, we began a journey watching the information and seeking hope that this would be like a blizzard, or maybe a better analogy for us, a storm weekend. If we purchase some food and toilet paper to hunker down for three weeks, we can get back to life as we know it. As time passed, and we began to see numbers declining just a little, we realized this is not just a moment, but a season we will experience. And like the winter that follows a blizzard, or the storms, heat, and humidity we feel during hurricane season, we realized we needed to adjust our expectations for a few months.
Reality is now hitting many of us. Weeks and months will stretch much longer. As life begins to inch its way out into the streets again, routines and patterns have been altered indefinitely. And it’s hard. It’s hard to change. It’s hard to admit we may have lost some old ways, and it’s hard to remember doing things in new ways. But I’m trying to consider each new routine and habit an act of prayer. As someone who experienced for a short time a highly altered immune system in the former world of push and shove, expressive “touchers,” and overcrowded aisles, this is my chance to offer a gift of grace, and to put first those who I may or may not know are most vulnerable as I proceed through my day. A quote from Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis has helped me consider my encounters with others in this way. He writes,
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.
Recognizing my trip to the store or gas station will lead me to an encounter with another immortal and feeling the weight of interaction with unknown beloveds of God, gives me new pause about my actions. And so, like you, I carry hand sanitizer in my pocket, and pray every time I use it for the people who pass by. I stand aside in aisles and try my best to go the right way, realizing each extra moment I have to take is a gift of pause the Spirit gave me to lift my head from my list and regard Gods’ others. I wear a mask tucked under my glasses, and each time they fog I try to not get annoyed, and instead give thanks that I have breath in my body unaltered by sickness. When someone points to their ears to motion they cannot hear or understand me, I step back so to be able to slip down the mask and speak, and I realize in doing so I give them the floor spiritually as well as physically. And when I see others doing things differently, when fear or frustration rises, I let God whisper the word “grace” in my ears, reminding me that division will not heal this world, and everyone is bearing burdens I do not understand.
Please know, I am not perfect in this practice of active prayer. But I’m trying. I’m praying for the sanctifying grace to keep warming my heart as God did for John Wesley on May 25, 1738. I’m trying to see the world full of God’s beloved immortals and realizing my actions bear weight in helping them to be the light they were made to be. I pray it’s my new normal, and try to consider this is God’s way of helping me love and see others like Jesus sees me.
This Sunday, as we celebrate Wesley’s Aldersgate moment of heart warming, where all he knew of Jesus’ grace became real to him personally, we do so with the three general rules Wesley gave Methodists to live by. Rules that govern my actions and re-shape our calling to be in this world of new normal: Do no Harm, Do Good, and Stay in Love with God. Join us for online worship Sunday at 9:30 a.m. on Facebook, and let’s reclaim our collective call to heal the world with God’s just love.
Grace, peace, love, washed hands, and warm heart,