March 17, 2020
Dear Pastor and Church Leader,
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day. On this day the good folks from Ireland remember the founding of Christianity upon its shores. Please take time this day to thank God for the people in your life who shared their faith with you and so influenced your decision to follow Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
According to the latest White House news briefing, “We’re announcing new guidelines for every American to follow over the next 15 days,” Trump said, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and other members of the coronavirus task force.
The guidelines, “15 Days to Slow the Spread,” are meant to promote social distancing in America. The guidelines say gatherings should be limited to 10 people or fewer, and bars and restaurants should be avoided, as should all non-essential travel. No visits to nursing homes, and limits to shopping malls, are also mentioned.
Most important, the task force said everyone in a household should stay home if any family member is sick.
Governor Mills has also issued the following statement recommending, “Postponing all events with 50 or more people all gatherings of more than 10 that include individuals who are at higher risk for severe illness, such as seniors, until further notice.”
I am thankful to Scott Linscott, Pastor, First Baptist Church of Westbrook, for including in his newsletter wisdom from the ages.
Scott wrote:” SOME ADVICE FROM MARTIN LUTHER: When Martin Luther was dealing with The Black Death, he wrote these wise words that can help inform the way we approach things happening in our world right now…
“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict 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. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”
Luther’s Works Volume 43 pg 132 the letter “Whether one may flee from a Deadly Plague” written to Rev. Dr. John Hess.
Luther’s experience ought to help shape our response to this pandemic. The first thing that should be noted is Luther’s call to prayer.
We need to be praying:
for each other
for God to direct our response to this pandemic (We ought not to respond in fear but love,)
for God’s Spirit to move among our secular leaders and communities opening them to the saving power of the Gospel
for our Christian witness to our neighbors.
for those infected by the coronavirus in China and around the world.
with gratitude for those who care for them and their protection from this disease.
with gratitude for health specialists and authorities who are combating the spread of infection.
for government officials and leaders to have the wisdom necessary to make necessary and informed decisions out of care for the public good, particularly the most vulnerable.
for all who at this time are feeling anxious.
Luther then reminds us to abide by the counsel of our government and civic leaders. We ought to do what is asked of us not for our benefit but for the benefit of our neighbor. We ought to keep abreast of the latest developments and act accordingly. Here are several websites that will help keep you up to date:
Center for Disease Control Resources
Luther would remind us that death is a reality of life and for the believer in Christ Jesus, nothing to be feared. By His resurrection, Christ has set us free from death. However, we are not to act presumptuously. We are to take proper action and leave the ultimate decision in the rightful hands of God. This is no time to act rashly or imprudently. It is a time to share our hope in Christ.
Finally, Luther reminds us that we are our neighbor’s keeper. We have an obligation to make sure they are cared for and not left in need. So we need to check in with those around us and if need be, serve according to their need.
In light of media reports which often ignite our fears and encourage our impulses, we need to remember who we are and whose we are.
- We are the body of Christ. We are empowered by God’s Spirit to act differently. Our first response is always grace and peace undergirded by prayer. What we have received in Christ is more than what we deserve, more than what we’ve earned. Out of the abundance of His grace, we live lives eager to share and to serve. We reject labeling, shaming, and blaming. Rather than fear and panic, faith, hope, and love guide our decisions and motivate our actions.“We will not fear for God has willed His truth to triumph through us.”
- We are the people of God. Christ is reconciling the world to Himself. In times of crisis, we are the hands and feet of Jesus in our neighborhoods. We will pray and inform ourselves about the reality of the developing situation and about known best practices for dealing with the situation in a coherent and faithful way. We must draw on reliable resources for guidance in both preparing for and dealing with this developing situation.