Saturday, March 14, 2020

A Pastor and the Coronavirus

(Redeemer sanctuary, where this Sunday I will be with many of my people.)

I have been a pastor for fifty years.

A pastor is a shepherd of people. A shepherd stays in close contact with the flock. 

A pastor loves the people. A pastor connects with the people. This includes, many times, being with them when they are sick. A pastor does not avoid the sick, or isolate themselves from the sick.

I was taught this in seminary. We all took training in caring for hospital patients. I was assigned several months in the cardiac unity at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. I will never forget one patient. He was a man in his twenties, facing life-or-death open heart surgery. I spend many hours in his hospital room - before and after surgery. He survived. We became friends. I was his pastor. I am so thankful God placed me there!

I have been called into the homes and hospital rooms of countless sick people. Sometimes I've had to wear a protective mask and gloves. The rare times I do not get close to the sick is when I am sick. I don't want to infect an already-suffering person.

I have done many international trips. Once, in India, I was speaking to two thousand people. After my sermon, I called people forward for prayer. Hundreds came forward. Then, out of the mass of bodies, a hand reached out and grabbed my hand. The hand was blotched. The fingers were gone. It was the hand of a leper.

What do I do with this? All I could think of was that Jesus got close to lepers and prayed for their healing. Am I not to do this? I had read stories of missionaries who contracted diseases and died, all for the sake of bringing Jesus to people. While the religious leaders in the time of Jesus isolated and quarantined lepers and stayed clear of them, sick people flocked to Jesus for healing and hope. A pastor is like that. This is part of my calling.

At Redeemer, we pray for sick people all the time. They come forward at the end of the service, and many pray for them. We get close to them. With their permission, we touch them. (This is called PIP - proximal intercessory prayer. See Dr. Candy Brown, Testing Prayer: Science and Healing.) 

Before and after praying for sick people, I sanitize my hands. But I am a pastor, and I must sanitize my heart as well. The prayer of a sanitized heart is powerful and effective. So, I go to my people in their need. I love them, and they need me. I've been doing this for fifty years, and am not about to abandon them now, even if they may have the coronavirus.