Pastor Nathan Strutz

Pastor Nathan Strutz

I remember in pre-calculus using all kinds of Greek letters for equations. Delta was a common letter to describe the rate of change.

Once again, Delta has really changed things — “I’m glad I can finally take off the mask,” has changed to signs saying, “Masks required.” “I thought I was safe since I’m vaccinated,” has changed to, “Vaccinated people can get COVID and pass it along to others.” “I’m so happy children will be back in school, in person, all the time,” has changed to, “Will my children be safe in school?”

We’ve seen so many changes in the last year and a half. We have family and close friends all over the spectrum on so many issues related to COVID. We are so tired of talking about this that I wouldn’t be surprised if half of those reading didn’t make it this far.

How afraid should I be? What measures should I take? How to best be loving? Who has the truth? Why is the advice changing, and so quickly?

One of the toughest questions has been, “To whom do you listen?” We’ve heard so many voices.

Is every Facebook post reliable? Probably not. Is every video shared from a trustworthy source? I doubt it. Do you even trust your own family? Seems to depend on whether or not they agree with you.

And with so many voices, from so many sides, it’s so easy to find a voice that agrees with what you already think, confirming your former opinions, rather than reading, watching, listening with an open mind and heart.

Something I’ve found to be greater than Delta is listening. Just listening. I’ve tried to spend lots of time listening. I know that’s not maybe the thought of what a pastor does. But that’s actually a big part of what I do: listen.

I’ve listened to news outlets and scientists, from across the spectrum. I’ve listened to family members wheeze with asthma made worse by COVID. I’ve listened to loved ones wince in pain as COVID has brought old injuries back to the surface.

I’ve listened as my own father spoke with joy that COVID meant a heart test, a test that revealed a heart problem he didn’t know he had. I’ve listened to friends in our community, as many people as possible.

As patient and respectful as many are trying to be, I’ve noticed attitudes that make me sad, attitudes that are quick to speak and slow to listen. The Bible actually tells us to do the opposite: be quick to listen and slow to speak. Some speak quickly, “They are being foolish!” Others speak quickly, “They are being too fearful!”

Is there any middle ground? Is there any balance that isn’t too foolish or too fearful? I’m thankful to have found the middle ground of faith.

I don’t want to be pushy. I’m not trying to proselytize. But as I’ve listened to people with faith, I’ve heard that middle ground.

People with faith I listen to aren’t afraid, but they aren’t being foolish. Those with faith aren’t wearing masks out of fear, but out of love. As masks have started to come off, it’s not foolish. Instead, there’s a desire to be friendly.

Those with faith I have listened to have treated decisions about vaccines with respect and compassion and listening. Not judging as foolish. Not judging as fearful. But listening with faith. Empathizing with faith. Being quick to listen and slow to speak, as people with faith are led to do.

Now for me, faith means being focused on Jesus. And the faithful people that I serve find great comfort in faith in Jesus and his death on the cross, a death that we believe gives us perfect and eternal life. The death of Jesus on the cross is that something greater than Delta.

In the front of our church, we have two Greek letters. Not a Delta, but an Alpha and an Omega. Alpha and Omega are the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet, like our A and Z.

Jesus used Alpha and Omega as a title for himself, to show he is the first and the last. I believe Jesus was around before Delta, watching over and guarding all of us. I believe Jesus will be around after Delta, continuing to watch over and guard us.

The faithful people I have the privilege to serve focus on the Alpha and the Omega and so they aren’t foolish about Delta. They aren’t fearful of Delta. They have found that middle ground: faith.

And that faith, for me, is even greater than Delta.

Nathan Strutz serves as outreach pastor at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Verona. He and his wife Elizabeth have two sons, Caleb and Elijah.

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