Messiah's Action Plan
“The government is trying to take away our right to worship!”
“Everyone is just freaking out. Have some faith in God!”
You may have heard those statements, among others, as people respond, reflect, and share their opinions about the Covid-19 virus. Your leaders get it. We understand the frustration as well as the anxiety. And yet, we are called to be purveyors of calm in times of chaos as well as to demonstrate compassion and patience as we witness for Christ.
And so, how does a local Christian congregation react to health crises? Good question. For answers, we turn to the Word of God for guidance. Consider the following principles from Scripture as well as Luther’s Small Catechism:
The Third Commandment:
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and his Word but regard it as holy and gladly hear and learn it.
Acts 5:29 ~ Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than human beings!
The covid-19 pandemic is not about the government’s restriction of religious freedoms. No one is being banned from worship and study. Let us repeat: The government is not restricting our ability or right to gather for worship. And so, as Christians, we need to understand which principles we apply as we make decisions in our Christian freedom.
And so, we suggest that we consider these principles:
The Fourth Commandment
Honor your father and mother, that it may go well with you and that you may live enjoy long life on the earth.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God that we do not dishonor or anger our parents and others in authority, but honor, serve, and obey them, and give them love and respect.
The Fifth Commandment
You shall not murder.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God that we do not hurt nor harm our neighbor in his body but help and befriend him in every bodily need.
And then there are the words of our current president on the matter. As of March 16th, President Trump has issued new guidelines to help fight the coronavirus including strong recommendations to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people, discretionary travel plans, which is also includes frequenting restaurants, bars, and even food courts.
Let us put this into some perspective. President Trump’s words echo the principles of the 4th and 5th Commandments. The Covid-19 issue is a matter of honoring our civil officials as well as demonstrating care and concern towards human life. As Christians, this may involve inconvenience at times. It also involves self-sacrifice. As St. Paul states in Romans 12:10 ~ Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
What does this mean, then?
It means we will respect our government, demonstrate Christian love to our fellow citizens, practice good health, and strive to provide opportunities for worship and study. We would urge all of us as Messiah family to consider those values as we work through this crisis. Coronavirus is not the only thing that is contagious. The anxiety this pandemic is causing is also very contagious. In the spirit of Psalm 46:10, we will strive to be calm as we are considerate of others.
At Messiah, the following actions will be taken:
- As of Wednesday, March 18, there will be no soup supper or Lenten service at the church. We will livestream worship from the chapel which you can all join in at messiahnampa.com on our YouTube channel. Worship will begin at 6:30 pm.
- On Sunday, March 22, there will be no live ministry in the building. Again, Pastor Frey will provide a service, which will be livestreamed at messsiahnampa.com on our YouTube channel. This will include a 9 am Bible study and a 10 am worship time. All will be streamed at messiahnampa.com. We will also have a tab that will link to our online giving so that we can continue to support our ministries financially.
- Any groups larger than 10 in size will be discouraged at the Messiah campus. If you have small groups or other gatherings, we leave that to your group’s discretion to make wise choices.
We will monitor these procedures on a weekly basis and adjust as is reasonable. Since this is a very fluid situation, we will use common sense and Christian love.
Ministry will not stop, but how we accomplish the work of the Church will change. We will adapt and you will see some additional changes. For example, Pastor Frey plans to provide regular devotions on our social media platforms well as our website. The hope is that you might use these messages in your home and share them with friends, especially anyone who may not have a church that provides online ministries. This is our opportunity to serve our neighbors.
Secondly, our Member Ministry team will be equipped to conduct “phone” visits with our home-bound, hospitalized, and institutionalized church members. A short devotion, prayer, and wellness check will be provided, so as that we might show love and concern to this important part of our church family.
Third, your leadership will stay informed of how we might be able to serve our communities during this stressful time. With many children home from school, there may be flexibility in our schedules to serve in unique ways as the “hands and feet” of Jesus. An example may be assisting with the Senior Center’s lunch in Nampa. Volunteers may be needed to help bag and deliver food curbside to the elderly.
We will not ask “Why?” Why, Lord, is this happening? But “What?” What do you want us to do Lord with a time such as this?” (See Esther 4:14.) The Lord is providing us with incredible opportunities to let our light shine in ways that will serve our communities in Christian love.
One more side light. Many people have been quoting history and saying things like: “Back in my day …” Allow us to close with a little perspective on how Luther chose to handle this matter as a parish pastor and teacher of the Word when the bubonic plague reappeared and ravaged Wittenburg in the 15th Century. You may have seen this quote, but it is worth repeating:
“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 to not 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. This is such a God-fearing faith because it neither is brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”
By the way, Luther also wrote “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” during this time in history. And so, we will not stop praising God and proclaiming his truths even if the ways we have carried out those tasks has changed. Treat yourself and read through Martin Luther’s hymn – A Mighty Fortress – as a prayer of confidence in this time of chaos. And, in the meantime:
Be Strong in the Lord!
Messiah Lutheran Church, Board of Directors:
Pastor Edward Frey, Bob Atwood, Adam Dick, Scott McCain, Josh Bingaman