There are giants among us: Sharing a spirit of love

Sep 09, 2013

When Carol and I met Father Logan Jackson, an assistant priest in an Episcopal parish near where we lived, we did not at first know that we had encountered a saint.

Logan, with his wife and three children, began his ministry in a beautiful, rural parish in Western Kentucky — the kind of setting that inspires best selling novels. A young handsome priest, a beautiful family, an historic parish near a quaint village. The three kids had horses to ride, places to fish, and dad, a quiet man, had a fulfilling ministry.

But Logan would say that he was called to give up this life for a new and more challenging ministry.

Actually, Logan would not have said it was more challenging. That’s what the rest of us would say.

He simply said that he heard God’s voice in a time of prayer and must move his family to Washington, D.C. where he would buy an old van, fill it with containers of coffee and sandwiches, go into neighborhoods that tourists only see if they are lost, and to offer food to people, mostly the young, who were truly lost.

Father Jackson didn’t create a foundation or a board of directors. He did not seek to set up recovery programs himself. He simply climbed in the van in the evenings and drove into crime-filled neighborhoods to meet and listen to the people who came by for something to eat.

I felt pretty small around Logan. He met prostitutes, gang members, addicts, and runaway kids. He denied himself to follow Jesus and to care for the runaways — young people who live at high risk on the streets. Maybe he knew the importance  of simply listening and sharing a spirit of love and hope.

He understood Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount: “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.”

Logan died in his early 40s. It wasn’t through street violence. He was never threatened, never injured on the streets. We learned at a Sunday morning worship service that he’d been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) ­— the Lou Gehrig disease that is always terminal. He lived about three years until his death by the same cause as at crucifixion, suffocation.

I’ve thought often of Logan and his family. I am many years older now than Logan was allowed to live, but it is important to reflect on those whose lives challenge our own and to be thankful.

The Rev. Logan Jackson was at rest long before he died because he found the yoke that fit well. The Sunday morning that he told the members of his parish about his diagnosis and impending death, which would come years before his children were grown, he spoke of his faith in God. He was not discouraged. Everyone else had tears in their eyes.

The rector of the church then spoke and tried to say what everyone was feeling. This was a tragedy. It wasn’t right, said the pastor. Our hearts were all trampled by the news, but Logan stood back up, came to the microphone and said, “John, that is not what you preach.”

It was not an easy and peaceful end. He must have had dark moments of anguish. As a husband and father how could it not be so? But, the legacy he left was a lasting one ­— to challenge all of us to live with faith and courage for as long as this life will last.