10:30 AM Sunday Worship Service 11:45 AM Sunday School & Bible Study
To the Faith Family of Redeemer and St. Paul Lutheran Churches,
Out of an abundance of caution for the health of our community, our elected official have chosen to limit public life to the basic essentials and have sought to discourage, with the highest degree of persuasion, as much public interaction as possible. This is the responsibility of our government; and we should applaud them for their desire to safeguard the life of our country’s citizens. History and those with fawill have to conclude whether it was the right call. For our purposes, though, it is not our place to second guess them. After all, St. Paul writes, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” (Romans 13:1-2 (ESV))
That being said, I believe that practicing our faith is essential. And just because our secular government and secular world view what we do as just another public gathering, what we believe, teach, and confess, tells us otherwise. Therefore, I will do everything within my power to make sure that corporate worship, for all of those who wish to partake of it, will continue in our respective locations so that God may continue to bless us with His sacraments and word. After all, our Lutheran Confessions teach that one of the hallmarks of the church is the place where “God’s word is rightly preached and His sacraments are properly administered” (Augsburg Confession – Article 7). And the word 'sacrament' carries with it the idea of the intangible promises of God being united with that which is tangible and physical to bring us God’s blessings.
It is not a minor point that God asks His people to meet together to receive His gifts. In a society that continues to insulate itself from each other (even without the threat of a virus), this is all the more important. God brings us into community, and into worship together, to bless us, to strengthen us, to empower us as His people; He promises His presence among us during that time, and He seeks to give to us those gifts which the world cannot give and which the world does not understand. This is no mere social gathering; it is a place and time to step out of our fallen world and into the eternal presence of our merciful heavenly Father. This is why the writer of Hebrews encourages his hearers with these words, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23-25 (ESV))
Being in community, though, also means bearing with one another and caring for those who are in need. James, the brother of Jesus, writes this in his letter, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27 (ESV)) This means we also bring our community to those who cannot partake of it in their current circumstances. So if you are sick, please refrain from coming into contact with your brothers and sisters (or anybody else for that matter) and instead we will work to bring the gifts of God to you. If you desire to refrain from corporate worship for the time being, please feel free to do so. It is not a sin to guard your health and the health of others. To help you in those regards, we are working to livestream the services and will work to make the sermon recordings and other resources available on the St. Paul website as quickly as possible. We will notify you via email of how to connect to those options once we know how to make them available to you.
There are no easy answers to this present unprecedented situation in which we find ourselves. I know that not all will agree with this direction; that is okay. Many of our sister churches have decided that ceasing all activities for now is the right call for them; many have decided that during these difficult times the best thing to do is continue to provide the opportunity for physical worship. I believe this is our time to live in faith, to not allow the world and fear to dictate what God says should be the work of His people. We have not found that challenge set before us in our lifetimes the way we do at this moment. We have not, on a whole, had the actions of our faith so personally confronted. We have not had the tenants of our faith so starkly contrasted with the dictates of our leaders. Be wary, this virus is breeding much more fear and anxiety than actual disease. And our faith, our Christ has come to set us free from fear. If the history of our faith and God’s faithfulness are any help to us now, then we know what is to be done. By the grace of God, we will not be tossed about to and fro by the instabilities of life. We will be found courageously loving our neighbor and caring for them. We will be found firmly trusting in God’s promises and obeying His commands. We will be found compassionately supporting and encouraging one another in our Christian walk. We will be found steadfastly gathering with one another to receive His gifts, to hear His word, and sing His praises. And we will be found persistently taking those gifts, that word, and God’s praises out into the world around us.
This Sunday we will be singing “A Might Fortress Is Our God” during the service; and there is good reason for it. Martin Luther penned that great hymn of our faith in 1546 as the Black Death ravaged the city of Wittenberg. While we can be certain we will not lose anywhere near one third of our population to the virus we currently face, it will come with loss and it will bring suffering to our door; so it is important at a time like this for us to be instilled with the confidence of our faith through these words of Psalm 146 put to music. And whatever you decide or wherever you find yourself, know that you are not helpless and you are not alone. Your God is near to you and you are always able to go to Him in prayer to seek His mercy and grace. It is my duty and continued privilege to aid in that process of faithfully bringing God’s gifts to you, His people. The government cannot dictate the carrying out of this responsibility; and if they try we must be willing to accept the consequences; but, respectfully, we must obey God rather than men.
God be merciful to you and strengthen your faith in these trying times.
His servant and yours, Pastor Matt Nolte
March 20, 2020 - A Message from Pastor Matt
Response to COVID-19 Events regarding Sunday Services