Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Pastoral Message to the First Lutheran Church Community

This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:29

I must admit that it feels a little bit awkward to speak those words, given the situation we find ourselves in today. So much of what brought normalcy to our lives is suddenly gone from us, leaving only questions, uncertainty, and anxiety. I haven’t experienced times so scary since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

On Sunday, we had an impromptu congregational meeting to decide how we were going to deal with the realities of this pandemic—in light of our community’s need for our ministries, and our need to gather together around Word and Sacrament.

Yet, the more I learn about Covid-19, the more it scares me. I’ve come to appreciate that we’re taking these precautions to not merely prevent ourselves from being inconvenienced. Covid-19 is most dangerous when you don’t respect its danger. You can’t fight it by digging in your heels and going your own way. What’s worse is that you can spread it to someone else and not even know it. This is a perfect example of how one person’s pursuit of happiness can cost another person their freedom from harm.

However, you can’t fight Covid-19 with panic. The panic that’s emptying store shelves of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and surgical masks can be every bit as deadly as the virus itself. Fear is good only when it makes you respect danger. It’s deadly when it overwhelms your reason—and human decency. And fear can be just as toxic to your faith.

But when I turn to God’s Word, the power of fear is broken.

It is written in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” God is in the midst of this crisis. I know this because of the love and generosity I see all around us. Is it not beautiful how our local restaurants are giving away free lunches to school children? These small business owners are about to take a hard financial hit, and yet they are reaching out. That’s a God sighting right there.

You will see God when you reach out to someone who’s especially vulnerable to the sickness and who can’t go out in public for its dangers. They will see God in you, just the same. Now’s a great time to reach out to that person you’ve been thinking about. They may need groceries or supplies. You can’t spread germs through a phone call. Even leaving a voicemail can brighten their day.

If you suddenly find yourself with extra time on your hands, volunteer opportunities are opening up all over. You’ll hear about them on the news, in the paper, and on social media.

And there has never been a better time to dust off that bible; open that devotional book, and let your soul be at home in the promises of God.

Know this: we are still church, even while we are absent from each other. This was true even before Coronavirus. A vast majority of the ministry we do as church happens in daily life.

And tonight, at 7 p.m., we are going to gather for prayer and devotions. Right here on Facebook.

I’m reminded of the United States Marine Corps slogan: “Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome.” With the Holy Spirit’s help, this is what we’ll do.

In the meantime, if you need prayer or pastoral care, I am here for you. Our church is here for you. Please call. A number of you have called to check in with me. Thank you for your love and prayers.

I want to close with a prayer that comes from the ELCA website, for when congregations are advised against gathering:

Gracious God, it is good for us to gather as your beloved in community. We treasure your presence with us in word and meal, song and prayer. Be with us in these days when gathering together as often as we would like is not possible. When we must be apart for reasons of safety, we trust that you surround us with your sheltering wings. Encourage us in connecting as we are able, reaching out to our neighbors in need and being persistent in prayer. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our constant companion. Amen.

May the Lord bless and keep you, the Lord’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace. Amen.

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