What a strange time we find ourselves in! I can recall conversations in my family when I was growing up about my mother’s mother dying in the flu epidemic of 1918. It changed my mother’s life as she ended up being raised by her grandmother. I never imagined that we would be facing a similar situation in our lifetime.
Martin Luther also lived through a plague in 1527, when it returned to Wittenberg, Germany. Two hundred years earlier the plague had swept across Europe killing up to 40% of the population. People were anxious, just as we are today. Many of them also wondered what a safe and faithful response might be. In answer to this, Martin Luther wrote “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague.” In it, he emphasized the duty to care for the neighbor, the responsibility of government to protect and provide services to its citizens, a caution about recklessness, and the importance of science, medicine and common sense.
As ELCA Bishop Elizabeth Eaton wrote in her March 6, 2020 article, “Luther's counsel, based on Scripture, is still sound. Respect the disease. Do not take unnecessary risks. Provide for the spiritual and physical needs of the neighbor. Make use of medical aid. Care for one another, especially the most vulnerable.”
But heeding Luther’s and Bishop Eaton’s advice about avoiding unnecessary risk (which today means sheltering-in-place) during Lent, Holy Week and Easter makes our response to the virus even more distressing. Not being able to gather together as a Christian family to remember our Lord’s crucifixion, and to celebrate His resurrection, is downright hard and disappointing. But in reality, while it may be hard, this sacrifice is so small, so insignificant, in comparison to the sacrifice Christ made in order that we might have everlasting life!
How we respond to this small sacrifice says a lot about who we are as Christians. As I mentioned in my March 22nd Lenten message, during this time we can find solace and take comfort in the 23rd Psalm. God does not abandon us in hard times, but rather leads us through the valleys of life knowing we will eventually find a table prepared for us, our heads will be anointed with oil, and our cups will overflow with God’s love and mercy.
While the valley we find ourselves in right now isn't good, the Shepherd is. He knows the way. We need but follow. But how do we do that in these trying times? How do we follow Jesus when we’re not even supposed to leave our homes? By sharing Christ’s love. Amidst this very difficult and somewhat scary time, sharing God’s love is one of the most important things we can do.
But as a person whose love languages are physical touch (I am a hugger by nature) and shared time with others, I have to think about how to love in new ways, as I suspect many of you are having to do. We can reach out to others and write letters of gratitude to people we know and to people we don’t know, like those putting their lives on the line to treat the sick. We can call friends that we’ve lost touch with or acquaintances that we would like to get to know better. Or we can use our time and talent do to what I know a number of you in our congregation are doing – making face masks that are appropriate for health care workers and others that can be used by our friends and neighbors.
Through demonstrating love for others, however we choose to do it, we can turn this time of fear into a season of hope, working towards love in new and significant ways. Christ sacrificed his life that we might have new life. This Easter season, in honor of that sacrifice, it is only appropriate that we also find new and significant ways to share our faith and to love one another in His name.
His Holy Word is Always a Comfort in Times of Trial
Two members have shared with me some scriptures that they are finding comfort in at this time. I wanted to share some of those with all of you. Romans 12:1; John 14:27; 1 Peter 5:7; Joshua 1:9; Psalm 46:10; Psalm 91:1-16; Isaiah 41:10; and Isaiah 41:13. Let me know if you have a comforting scripture that you would like me to share with others via the e-News.