Message from Pastor Swanson (April 2020)
Dear friends: As this is being written the coronavirus continues to expand across our land. Soon we will surpass all other nations with the most people afflicted by this dread disease, a distinction that no one will boast about. The uncertainty of all this can lead to fear and doubt, perhaps even a loss of faith, which I talked about in my earlier letter to you.
Now, questions arise about what we should do as we wait for this trouble to end. The human need to act, to get busy, to take charge and assume control of our lives, has caused some among us to insist that we get “back to normal” sooner rather than later. I confess that I admire such courage. Those who are bold, while others sit and watch, are people that act decisively and get things done. In this day and age, there is a tendency to put such a leadership style up on a pedestal and bestow upon it a sort of saintly virtue. I’m not so sure. Being bold should never be reckless. And making decisions without consulting advisers and people who are better informed and who possess a greater degree of common sense is more likely a prescription for disaster.
For this reason I am very reluctant to rush back to our usual activities, as if we can scare away coronavirus and the wiles of the devil by our brash displays of grit and fortitude. I think neither disease nor the devil is much impressed by our rugged individualism. Shouldn’t we be asking why we need to rush back to our old ways? Is this for us? Who is being served by our actions? Is it not the purpose of the Church to serve our neighbor? Scripture is clear in stating that the Church is God’s mission, the embodiment of Christ, to live and die for the world. Simply, the Church lives to serve as Christ served. We do not exist for ourselves, but for others.
This means it would be wise for us to consider how our actions will affect those most vulnerable in our community, yes, even in our own congregations. I know this is a very trying time. The financial strain is enormous. Savings and retirement accounts have plummeted. Churches will face an uphill climb to recover. Our congregation councils approach this with eyes wide open.
I know some will remain unconvinced. I appreciate that you want to gather again in assembly and worship as God’s people. I want the same. Yet, we need to think of how others may be at risk. So, I remind you that our worship service is on-line at www.thefriedenslutheran.com. You can watch me and Pastor Laura leading worship at Friedens. Pray, sing, and listen to the word of God. The promise of the Gospel is never silenced.
“Whether One May Flee form a Deadly Plague” by Martin Luther, 1527
What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body? You ought to think this way: “I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God. Moreover, he who has contracted the disease and recovered should keep away from others and not admit them into his presence unless it be necessary. Though one should aid him in his time of need, he in turn should, after his recovery, so act toward others that no one becomes unnecessarily endangered on his account and so cause another’s death. “Whoever loves danger,” says the wise man, “will perish by it” [Ecclesiastes 3:26]. If the people in a city were to show themselves bold in their faith when a neighbor’s need so demands, and cautious when no emergency exists, and if everyone would help ward off contagion as best he can, then the death toll would indeed be moderate. But if some are too panicky and desert their neighbors in their plight, and if some are so foolish as not to take precautions but aggravate the contagion, then the devil has a heyday and many will die.
May Christ our Lord and Savior preserve us all in pure faith and fervent love, unspotted and pure until his day. Amen.