Readings for George Herbert
“Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it—not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:1 – 3)
Today, February 27, we remember George Herbert, a priest, who died in 1633. “George Herbert is famous for his poems and his prose work, A Priest to the Temple: or The Country Parson. He is portrayed by his biographer Izaak Walton as a model of the saintly parish priest. Herbert was unselfish in his devotion and service to others. Izaak Walton writes that many of the parishioners “let their plow rest when Mr. Herbert’s saints-bell rung to prayers, that they might also offer their devotion to God with him.” His words, “Nothing is little in God’s service,” have reminded Christians again and again that everything in daily life, small or great, may be a means of serving and worshiping God. Herbert died on March 1, 1633.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for February 27)
These dedicated priests, St. Peter and George Herbert are among those I consider my heroes. I try to emulate their dedication to our Lord Jesus as Peter exhorts me “to tend the flock of God that is in my charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have me do it—not for sordid gain but eagerly.” And as Herbert was unselfish in his devotion and service to others realizing that nothing is little in God’s service.
The message today is that we don’t have to be clergy to be the elders of our community. In fact clergy can learn to be better clergy from non-clergy, from the laity. There are good, God-fearing people woven throughout our lives. I see them in homes and hospitals and stores and yes, in the pews at Church. They are doing God’s work realizing nothing is little in God’s service. These people are truly hidden figures. In many cases we don’t consider them for clergy positions because we don’t want to be without them even for the short time of their training. And, we can’t stand the thought that when they are ordained, we might lose them to another community. All this is kind of selfish. But let’s not get hung up on ordination.
While Peter and Herbert were ordained, the “why” of their lives is really what moved them to do the Lord’s work. The “why” of their lives was not limited to ordination. These men prayed. And God heard them. God hears your prayers. Herbert was unselfish in his devotion and service to others. One does not have to be ordained to be devoted to the welfare of others. I see the loving support our parishioners extend to one another all the time. And while they may not have any ordained title here in our time, I am certain that they are already saints on the roster of heaven.
Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through the saints of God and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do. John