Public health experts have asked us to protect one another from the Coronavirus by wearing a face mask when we are out in public. Some of our fellow citizens see this as an example of some enemy trying to take away our civil liberties. They are up in arms about it. Literally. Although the data says that 84% of the population are willing to wear masks, all the sound and fury makes it appear that is the other way around.
This is an opportunity to take notice of and commend the 84% who are willing to wear masks. It is evidence that when something really matters, most of us will discipline ourselves to take care of it. For example:
- In relationships that matter, we make time for others, stay in touch, remember birthdays, give gifts.
- In work that matters, we arrive on time, do our best, take pride in the product or service, maintain loyalty.
- In regard to the environment, we conserve natural resources, refrain from polluting, use recycled materials.
- In regard to family, we show up for meals, we contribute, we encourage each other, we protect, we provide, we help each other grow physically, spiritually, and intellectually.
- In athletic competition, we wear team logos and apparel, attend games, tune in for broadcasts, cheer without restraint, and, if we're on the team, we show up for practice, train, and do our part for the team.
- In regard to our health, we maintain an exercise routine, get plenty of rest, avoid foods and other substances that are harmful, have regular checkups.
Why are we willing to discipline ourselves? Because these things matter and we are human beings. Humans have this amazing ability to take care of what's important. Christians call it "stewardship." We believe we were given this ability by our Creator in the very beginning.
It is often easy to discipline ourselves. But sometimes it is difficult. When we experience the difficulty, it is an opportunity to fully engage the gift of stewardship that other creatures do not have. Other creatures are limited mostly by instinct and conditioning. Humans are not. Humans have the ability to create something new, to act with purpose, to agree or disagree, to decide how to respond, to have complex two-way communication with each other and with the Creator. To be "only human" is to be the crowning glory of God's creation! To be "only human" is to be a member of the only race that has the vocation and privilege of stewardship.
I officiated at the funeral of a gentleman at a church I was serving as an interim. He was a top-flight accountant, churchman, family man, and community leader throughout his long life. On the way home from the cemetery, his family shared a photocopy of a card they found in his wallet. The card contained this prayer:
O Heavenly Father, who by Thy Son Jesus Christ hast taught us that all our possessions are a trust from Thee: Help me to be a faithful steward of my time, my talents, and my wealth, and gladly consecrate to Thy service all that Thou hast given me; and may I have grace to give myself to Thee. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
By this prayer, this man disciplined himself to be not just a steward, but a faithful one.
Let us take inventory of all that has been entrusted to us, especially those things that matter most. Then, let us ask God to help us be disciplined in how generously and faithfully we take care of this sacred trust. When it comes to the precautions we have been asked to take during this pandemic, my discipline protects you and your discipline protects me. It's a way to love one another and we all agree that love for one another really matters.
The Very Rev'd Ron Pogue
St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church