See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
— Matthew 10:16
The old theologians used to speak about prudence as one of the four “Cardinal Virtues” (Justice, Courage, Temperance, and Prudence). These were meant to be the four touchstones toward which we were to aim our lives. Like the 4 points on a compass, they give direction and help us navigate life. Prudence is understood to be the ability to discern the appropriate course of action to be taken in a given situation at the appropriate time. It is about balancing the various calls placed upon us. In so many ways, it is about finding that place of wisdom and innocence.
At 5pm today, we enter phase 1 of the governor’s plan to return life to some semblance of normalcy. The restrictions are lessened and the options are increased. The thing is, this virus is still with us. We can do more, but how much more should we do? Even without Coronavirus, there are dangers in life. We drive down the road, knowing that thousands die in car crashes every year. On the other hand, we wear seatbelts and put our children in car seats when we do. We seek a balance in the things we do, that balance of wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.
I can’t promise you easy answers to that balance, and I can’t promise you the church will always find that balance. I can’t tell you that all of us have the same place of balance. Some of us will be more “adventurous” and some more “cautious.” Some of us have more to worry about that others — family with risk factors, jobs that require contact, etc. Whatever place of balance you find in this next stage of our time with Covid-19, I hope you will view with tenderness those who find a different balance. I hope that whatever you are comfortable with, you will remember that others have other situations.
The hymn, “Jesu, Jesu” speaks of serving one another, may the words of this hymn guide us as we find our next stages:
Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love,
show us how to serve the neighbors we have from you.
Kneels at the feet of his friends,
silently washes their feet,
Master who acts as a slave to them.
Gentle master, you have loved us in all our weakness and love us still. Grant that we may hold one another gently and serve one another. Make us wise. Make us innocent. Make us yours. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.