Voices of the Community
Voices of the Community
June Cook – July 30, 2020
Becoming Beloved Community
Bishop Curry was the lead-off speaker on Tuesday for the first of a three-part national webinar, title as above. The objective is to move us, as a church and as a nation, to reconciliation of the damage done, damage that’s still so pervasive, by the American experience of slavery. The focus of day one was Truth, Wednesday’s will be Justice, and on Thursday we’ll address Healing.
There’s a natural progression in this order of discussion. To even begin the long, difficult process of reconciliation, the Truth must be told and acknowledged. This is no easy task. One speaker compared Truth-Telling to an archeology dig . . . No matter how many artifacts (pieces of the truth) are uncovered, analyzed, and integrated into the objective record of the dig site, there are always more pieces, yet undiscovered, that will add to the body of knowledge. So it is with Truth. Objective truth is a collection of mini-truths, some revealed and some yet undiscovered at various depths in the minds and hearts of good people. The long road ahead must not deter us from traveling the road toward Truth.
Truth-telling was the focus of Bishop Curry’s brief address. He spoke for only seven or eight minutes, but I could have listened to him speak for hours. Truth-telling is the core of the reconciliation process, and his exhortation to webinar participants made an impact on me. Everyone, regardless of proximity to or distance from the Black experience in America, has a personal Truth to dig down to, own, and share.
Four panelists discussed . . . The Anglican Church in Canada’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission . . . The Diocese of New York’s Reparations Committee . . . Richmond’s (Virginia) History & Reconciliation Initiative . . . and Sewanee’s Roberson Project on Slavery, Race & Reconciliation. Clearly the first baby steps are being made to help move us toward reconciliation, but the road is long. Are we prepared for the challenge?
Reverend Brian Lennstrom – July 23, 2020
Two Verses from Romans 8
This Sunday’s epistle reading is from Romans 8, which contains two verses often quoted to those who need encouragement—and this is certainly a time where we long for encouragement, and a time where the world is desperate for it.
- “We know all that all things work together for good for those who love God” (Rom 8:28).
“The cycle of our existence must be completed by all of us, according to iron laws, mighty and eternal” (Goethe). The iron laws include suffering, pandemics, and political turmoil. We groan under these iron laws. But the person of this world (including us sometimes!) knows only the groaning of creation and their own groaning (R 8:22,23). In contrast, to those who love God, that love “can ring in our ears, only if we detect the groaning of creation; it can spring to our lips, only if we ourselves cry out. It can be in our prayers, but also in our inability to pray; it can inhabit the basement of our most violent passion, but it can also make its home in the drawing-room of our mature composure” (Barth). O Lord, hear our prayer!
- “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vs. 39).
And God will hear our prayer! Because Jesus is the firstborn and stands risen from the dead at the right hand of God, interceding for us. Because he knows our groaning to be real groaning despite our freedom in him; because he knows our anguish to be real anguish despite the abundant life he has given us; because so many things at all times threaten to separate us from the love God. The groaning, the anguish, the 143,000 American deaths (611,000 worldwide) from the pandemic—all these are monstrous contrasts as compared to the love of God. All this adds up to a cacophony like an iron wheels of a railroad car. All this makes, as the angel tells Elijah, “the journey too much for you” (I Kings 19:7). But Paul tells us that all these contrasts are dissolved in Christ: the sheer difficulty of “all things” working together for good; the temptation to ignore the groaning of creation; the cycle of our existence with its roses and its weeds, with its passions and with its composures; with its life and its death. For the love of God in Christ Jesus is the oneness of the love of God toward people and the love of people towards God.
Mark Perschbacher – June 17, 2020
I recently received a card from my cousin in Minnesota with this beautiful icon of Emmegahbowh, created by an Ojibwe Episcopal priest from Prairie Lake MN. Fascinated by the icon, I googled Emmegahbowh and found the following article, written by The Rev. Kate Hennessy-Keinig, a Priest Associate and integrative psychologist in Nebraska. It seems very relevant to today’s turbulence.
The image and following text are from https://www.episcopalcafe.com/?s=Emmegahbowh
In 1996 the Diocese of Minnesota commissioned the Rev. Johnson D. Loud, Jr. to create an American icon of Enmegahbowh. Enmegahbowh is pictured in a scene of a northern Minnesota lake at sunset. He carries a pipe, the symbol of Indian spiritual culture. The flame represents the Holy Spirit and Emmegahbowh’s zeal for the Gospel. The embroidery on the tippet is in traditional Ojibwe beadwork design. The halo incorporates the Medicine Wheel used by the Dakota. The combined decoration signifies the peaceful relations which Enmegahbowh helped to achieve among the Indigenous people of Minnesota.
Emmegahbowh, whose name means “the one who stands before his people” was born and raised in Canada in a Christian Anishinaabe village affiliated with the Methodist church. At a young age, Emmegahbowh’s grandfather, a medicine man of high rank, prepared and inducted him into the tribal religious organization Mdewiwin. As a young man, he came into the United States as a Methodist missionary throughout Northern Minnesota.
After the Methodists abandoned their mission efforts in Minnesota, Enmegahbowh, who had continued on alone for several years, decided to give up his efforts and return to Canada. During the trip, after encountering heavy storms, the story is told of Emmegahbowh having a visionary experience involving Jonah, which convinced him to return to his missionary post. Not long after this, Emmegahbowh met Episcopal priest Ezekiel Gear at Fort Snelling, and decided to join the Episcopal church. Gear introduced Enmegahbowh to the Rev. James Lloyd Breck, and together they founded St. Columba’s Mission at Gull Lake, MN. Enmegahbowh was ordained a deacon in 1859, and in 1867 he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Whipple at the Cathedral in Faribault, MN.
During his years as a priest, Emmegahbowh was a close advisor to Bishop Whipple on Episcopal Church relations with Native Americans, and traveled to Washington on more than one occasion in support of better and more just treatment for his people, meeting a total of nine presidents. He was a strong advocate for peace between the Indians and the white settlers and encouraged Chief White Cloud’s mission to establish peace between the Ojibwe and the Sioux. For a time, this made him unpopular among the Indigenous tribes and he was sheltered by white settlers. But Enmegahbowh also stood up for his people through his constant reminders to Bishop Whipple about the horrible living conditions they endured as the white settlers moved into their lands, and he encouraged the Bishop in his efforts to obtain justice for them. Emmegahbowh trained a generation of Native American clergy and helped translate many religious texts into the Ojibwe language. In his book, Lights and Shadows of a Long Episcopate, Bishop Whipple portrays him as a man of serious temper with a large streak of humanity and wit, who is steadfast in his devotion to God, his people, and his bishop. Whipple called him the most faithful of men in the face of faithless times and events.
The Rev. M. Lucie Thomas, who has studied the life and work of Emmegahbowh, says of him, “It was his truth-telling, always gentle but always steadfast, that I most notice about Enmegahbowh. He told the truth as he understood it to his fellow Indians. He told the truth as he understood it to his bishop and to other whites and to people in Washington and even to several U.S. Presidents. He was at times unpopular because of this, but he managed throughout his life to spread the Good News, to train new clergy, to help found missions.”
In these highly charged and divisive times in which we find ourselves, may we follow Emmegahbowh’s example, steadfastly telling the truth to one another and to those in power about the sins of our personal and systemic racism that lies in direct opposition to the Gospel message.
Almighty God, you led your pilgrim people of old with fire and cloud; grant that the ministers of your Church, following the example of blessed Enmegahbowh, may stand before your holy people, leading them with fiery zeal and gentle humility. This we ask through Jesus, the Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.
(From the Collect for Enmegahbowh)
Margo Huth – June 30, 2020
Woke up with wet face,
so much injustice.
Breonna Taylor, George Floyd.
Latino, Native, and Asian peoples mistreated. Goes on and on…
People of color suffer wild racism,
O Lord, can we change this prejudice——
open our hearts?
Cruel officers, or cruel anyone
pass ———— down —— down —— down
the horrific pit of hatred.
Minority doctors, nurses save lives…
in this time of COVID-19.
Still, some want to kick them—
from this country, they serve so well.
Across the world, hear people’s hope,
as they march —— and bring tears of Joy for a kinder future.
May the weak be lifted from the dust?
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)
Betty Anne McCoy – July 6, 2020
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (I Corinthians 12:26-27)
Covid_19 has brought us together with the horror of the spread of the disease, the infections and death and with our call to help in some way. Even in isolation I have a sense of oneness in us. We have come together on Zoom or in very small numbers. I am communicating more regularly with my family and friends because we can’t see each other nor can we plan out into the future. I know I want to help. I want to do something and so many of you have by making masks and, in particular, in response to our request for financial donations for the FAE parent gifts.
As the contributions poured in I knew a button had been touched in each of us. This was one way that we could do something. We could help to support the struggling parents and to support the leaders and coordinators of the Summer Program. Our own Rev. Carol Rodin is out there meeting with others, planning for the children and parents in need. She is the frontline for us, as are the Medical Support workers, doctors and nurses who are doing their jobs and risking their health and safety. As in God’s Kingdom they work for all of us who are isolating. We are praying and donating to them where we can. But they are our hands and feet on the frontline and we are one body as Christ calls us to be. I give thanks for all these workers and I especially give thanks for my awareness of God’s work in all of this.
Reverend Deacon Eric Johnson – June 26, 2020
Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. (Romans 6:12)
There are a lot of people who believe they have the final solution on how to rid the world of evil. Evil, they believe, lies “out there,” in a person or persons that must be cut out like a cancer and eliminated. If we can only get rid of immigrants, or the Klan, or the Jews, they believe, we can eliminate the cause of much evil in the world .
Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, who followed Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings on non-violence, understood that evil is not something outside oneself that could be identified; rather, it was part of the whole human condition. Merton saw that the root of all evil is in the human heart, and the first place to start converting or reversing the evil process is in one’s own heart.
Franciscan Friar Jack Wintz, writes that to follow the wisdom of Thomas Merton, therefore, we should not only make a big effort to exterminate the evil outside ourselves, but first of all to diminish the evil tendencies within us: selfishness, pride, vengeance, hatred, violence. These impulses we hold in common with all humanity. As Merton wrote in his New Seeds of Contemplation, instead of hating the people we think are the war-makers, hate the appetites and the disorders in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed, but hate these things in yourself, not in another.”
Reverend Diane Ramerman – June 18, 2020
‘What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.” (Matthew 10: 27)
It seems unthinkable that we are now in our fourth month of meeting virtually for church. And this will likely be the situation at least through July and possibly longer. This prolonged turn from public worship has taken many of us by surprise. Perhaps the biggest surprise is finding enjoyment and positive experience in what we (all) assumed would be lesser.
When we say, ‘the Lord be with you” we say it with new meaning. Still, saying the psalms and canticles “together”, when we tune into zoom, we hear only one or two voices in a gathering of 35 or more. It reminds me of a service I attended some years ago. The priest said, “The Lord be with you.” The congregation responded, ‘and also with you.’ The priest repeated more loudly, “THE LORD BE WITH YOU.” The congregation responded, ‘and also with you.’ The priest thundered, THE LORD BE WITH YOU. And finally, the congregation thundered back, AND ALSO WITH YOU.
We can and should join our (muted) voices at home, in praise to God, so that our voices collectively proclaim the gospel from the housetops. Diane Roth comments in Christian Century,
“…it’s not just me and three other people, and it’s not just the families in my congregation huddled in their homes—because what we are doing is being shouted from the rooftops. We
have no idea who is watching, no idea who is listening to our prayers and our songs and our shouts of faith. It takes courage, especially for churches that can’t achieve professional production values, to go this public with our proclamation.”
This Sunday, join in the prayers and scripture! You may be ‘muted’ so that the zoom recording will be clear for the recording and others to hear – but in your homes, proclaim for any and all to hear. THE LORD BE WITH YOU. Let us rejoice and be glad of it!
Guy Davidson – June 11, 2020
“…I delivered the poor who cried, and the orphan who had no helper. The blessing of the wretched came upon me, and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban. I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame. I was a father to the needy, and I championed the cause of the stranger.” (Job 29)
“I championed the cause of the stranger…” The Red Door has been an important outreach mission of Christ Church for many years. It supplies inexpensive goods to the community, job opportunities, volunteer opportunities, recycling gently used clothes, a meeting place… It’s absence during the past few months has been hard on everyone. As we start to think about how best to reopen, keeping our customers and volunteers safe, let us also start to rethink our mission.
Are there ways we can interact with new and different groups? How can we attract new volunteers? Are there needs in the community that we can fold into the fabric of life at the Red Door? Are there new causes we can champion? Put your thinking caps on as we explore new avenues ahead. (We have a committee for that!)
The Rt. Reverend Greg Rickel – June 4, 2020
Resources to Support Protesters and Racial Equity in Western Washington
These are trying times for everyone, but none more than the people of color of this country, who have never achieved equality or justice though a light has been shined on that disparity so many times, before our lifetimes, and in our lifetimes. The responsibility for changing this is on us all, but most especially the white person. We have the greatest responsibility to use our privilege to work toward a solution. I thank you all, so many of you literally on the front lines, and those who are finding other ways to “show up” during these times. It is very difficult trying to navigate this all during the pandemic already in progress, and hardly over. But this is indeed two pandemics now and they do need to be addressed. Below, we have gathered the most comprehensive list we could find about how to help in all those various ways, face to face, and in isolation, but still connected. It is critical now that we not judge our internal responses, but learn from them and one another. There is a lot on our hearts, minds, and souls, competing, compelling expectations. Try to be gentle with one another if at all possible. As a person reminded me about the Buddhist principle of looking up on other people and situations right now with “soft eyes” first. That is part of my daily prayer now. As are all of you.
Maggie Collinge – May 28, 2020 The Collect
I looked up the definition of ‘Collect’ the other day, not knowing what it meant. I found this definition online in the Anglican Compass. It is “a prayer meant to gather the intentions of the people and the focus of worship into a succinct prayer.”
The author of this article, Greg Goebel, went on to break down the parts of a Collect. 1) An address to God and to his character or actions in the world on our behalf. 2) A request. 3) An invocation and doxology. 4) The Amen.
This Sunday, at Saint Paul’s, there were several Collects read at the service, nine to be exact. The last one made me think of our current struggle with Covid 19.
“O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen”.
Such good words to reflect upon when confronting that person at the market who is not wearing a mask or hearing some comment spoken without much thought. My husband, Larry, offered a man a mask at the market the other day and the man’s response was; “I don’t need to wear a mask, I am not a Democrat.” Larry’s response was that he was not a Democrat either but that we were all in this together, party affiliation aside.
We are truly bound together in a common life; even if we are not sick with this virus, we still have to live with it. The Sunday worship at Saint Paul’s also included a lovely Canticle, taken from Ezekiel 36.24-26, 28b. The lines that stayed with me are
“A new heart I will give you, and put a new spirit within you,
And I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
God is here with us through this hard time; God has not turned away from us.
Margo Huth – March 13, 2020
humans can love nature and all its honesty.
Winter rains fall.
Fast moving waters wash soul memories,
as they try to balance the Lord’s mystic light.
Last night, tangerine full moon,
slowly settled, between silver clouds.
Subtle glow spread calm.
Frozen day, we walked in the park,
rested on a bench,
saw chickadees peck the bushes for food.
Brought sunflower seeds,
and placed them on outstretched palms.
Little claws sent slight pricks into open hands.
We were enthralled, as they snatched seeds
with tiny beaks.
Farther out, dark-blue waves swirled in unknown sea,
as prayers sent hope for people to heal.
We adored time with the avian creatures,
what gifts of God’s Kingdom,
especially a gentle stretch……
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
The whole earth is full of his glory.”
Diane Canington – May 22, 2020
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:6-11)
During the past several weeks I’ve felt a deep visceral need to read the Bible. It seems there are so many opinions, needs and hard truths surrounding the coronavirus that I come away feeling anxious and very uncertain about the future. I can look at the situation and know things will change, but how? Will some of my neighbors lose their homes; will there be wide-spread world famine; will there be a second or third coronavirus wave?
I was watching one of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s news briefings last week where he was talking about the need for federal funding to fill needs in education, hospitals, firefighters and police. There were questions from the press regarding Republican senate resistance in funding state needs, particularly in blue states. Cuomo, who has been consistent in staying away from political finger-pointing, responded by saying that the virus is non-discriminating and to look to “the good book,” Mark 3:25, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Here is a truth that is simple and compelling, whether it be a marriage, friendship, country, or the world itself. It is critical that we care for one another and keep that steadfast faith that God will restore, support and strengthen us.
The Reverend Paul Moore – May 15, 2020
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Mount Vernon
The Holy Spirit Changes Everything
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them
and reveal myself to them.’ (John 14:15-21)
Teilhard de Chardin was a French priest, paleontologist, philosopher and theologian. His thinking laid the foundations for much of the creation theology of today—that in the very processes of nature the heart of God is not just revealed to us, but available, engaging, embracing. According to his thought, divine love is that great force that brings things together and makes them thrive in community. He
wrote, “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”
Maybe this great thinker understood this passage in the Gospel of John more than we do. Jesus says, “know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” He talks about the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, that is with the disciples and will be in them. The radical intimacy is a bit intimidating to us who truly believe that we are bounded by our sense of self. We treasure the idea that the secrets of our hearts are ours alone.
But in such thinking, we have already missed the point. The Holy Spirit is not the divine interloper who throws open our most secret windows and leaps through to stand there brazenly in the center of our hearts. Chardin writes in another place, “By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us, and molds us. We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, when in fact we live steeped in its burning layers.” We find that when we are brave and humble enough to peek through the windows of our hearts to see what is really there, we find God waiting for us. This is the result of Easter—that we know that God has forever already risen in our deepest selves, far deeper than our sense of our own self, at the very core of our existence, both spiritual and physical. God is only as far away from us as we are from ourselves.
And if that is true of us, then it is true of everyone else. If the same God is within me as is within you, then this quote of Chardin brings it all home: “We are one, after all, you and I, together we suffer, together exist, and forever will recreate each other.”
June Cook – May 8, 2020 Sacred Space
To reflect during this time of uncertainty, disruption, and isolation seems almost a given. So much of what I do every day is reflection – on where I’ve been in my life, where I am, and where I’m going.
Although the economy is crashing, people are suffering and dying, and isolation is traumatic for many, I’m an introvert, and this is a time for looking inward without the distractions of everyday life. In some ways it feels like a sabbatical, a retreat, a long vacation. I’m re-connecting with the joy of writing long letters to family and friends in lieu of instant messaging. I check my voice mail less frequently. My blood pressure is going down.
It’s in these tough times that we’re more likely to re-discover and explore our sacred places. Being unable to connect with the sacred in our sanctuary, other places of connection make themselves known. For me, it’s my garden. For some, it’s a special place in the forest or at the beach, or a quiet nook to read and think, or a cemetery where loved ones are buried. A sacred place is very personal. It’s where we go to still our worries and cares and offer them up to our God who is happy to carry them for us. It’s where we go to connect with the life force that sustains us. It’s where we go to experience a little taste of heaven that we know is always with us and in us.
My wish for you this week is that you’re able to spend time in your sacred space . . . to recharge your spiritual battery and renew your faith. In a moment I’ll be collecting my gardening tools and heading down to plant hostas and an early tomato plant. My sacred place never disappoints.
Shirley Barrett – April 30, 2020
Over the past few weeks our EFM group has been reading and discussing the importance and beauty of building our spiritual life and continuing developing our Christian maturity through the practice of prayer, worship and service. This commitment must involve the whole person including the intellect, the emotions, and one’s physical being as well. Combine these practices with study and theological reflection and we are not only professing our beliefs, but also connecting our hearts, our minds, our day to day lives more closely to God. As Brother James Dowd, a member of the Order of the Holy Cross, leads us to realize ‘The contemplative life makes way for God to have “custody of the heart,” and further . . .
“What God needs is people on the street and people in the parish and people in their homes and people in the workplace who are contemplatives. There’s all kinds of ways to do that in terms of your prayer life; there’s all kinds of prayer techniques. Whatever it is that you were to develop; it is a prayer life that helps you to love more deeply.” (episcopaldigitalnetwork.com)
During this time of social isolation, living in a world turned upside down, a “Twilight Zone” new reality, a ‘Groundhog Day” existence, prayer, worship , study and service seems so natural. It’s as if we have been able to stop the world from spinning, in a way, and time and opportunity has been handed to us. While ,of course, having a pandemic is definitely not a chosen way to celebrate this gift of time, nor do I believe God would ever sacrifice lives for such a purpose, God loves us too much, this is a time to make ‘lemonade out of lemons.”
Whatever prayer source, structure or style is used it must be meaningful to us, be it from The Book of Common Prayer (an immense source of liturgical prayer as well as collects and individual prayers for a variety of personal and communal purposes), meditation structures such as The Examen Prayer as developed by Ignatius Loyola( a new source to me and one I am using for my daily night prayer), various meditation forms such as the lectio divina, the rosary, the Centering prayer, or our own personal and private conversations with God. The latest Interlude book used in EFM , Life In Christ: Practicing Christian Spirituality by Julia Gatta, is an excellent reference in regards to our prayer and worship practices. (I’d be more than happy to share my copy or find one for those interested.) And of course the study through EFM (Education For Ministry) is also a wonderful source to develop one’s spirituality and Christian maturity journey.
So here we are on approximately the 5th week of the Corona Virus stay at home order here in Washington and we are still living in uncertainty as to what is around the corner, yet we definitely are certain about one thing and that is God is right here with us, along with Jesus and te Holy Spirit who bids us to “ask, seek, and knock” with perseverance.
The Reverend Brian Lennstrom – April 24, 2020
It was Calvin who taught that obeying the Ten Commandments meant not only obeying them as written, but also obeying what is called their “contrapositive”: namely, we obey the commandment “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God” not only by NOT being careless with God’s name (or reputation) but also by blessing God’s name, by promoting God’s name, by safeguarding God’s reputation. Each negative commandment has a positive way to obey it, and each positive commandment has a negative twin that leads us away from behavior.
So, the sixth commandment: “You shall not murder,” is fulfilled not only by not killing people, but also by promoting life. Luther’s pamphlet, “Whether One Should Flee a Deadly Plague,” written in 1527, when the bubonic plague devastated Wittenberg (claiming as one of its victims, Luther’s newborn daughter Elizabeth), reads as if it were written yesterday. “Now if a deadly epidemic strikes, we should stay where we are, make our preparations, and take courage from the fact that we are mutually bound together… so that we cannot desert one another or flee from one another…. We are bound to one another in such a way that no one may forsake the other in his distress but is obliged to assist and help him as he himself would like to be helped.”
Friends, let us be bound to one another! In this time of fear, of danger, of anxiety—for who is not anxious?—let us remember that the Church has survived pandemics before (terrible plagues in the second and the third centuries led to the explosive growth of Christianity), as Christians “cared for the sick and offered an spiritual model whereby plagues were not the work of angry and capricious deities but the product of a broken Creation in revolt against a loving God” (Lyman Stone, “Christianity has been Handling Epidemics for 2000 Years”).
Friends, if we are physically separated, let us resolve to be even more spiritually inseparable! If we cannot shake one another’s hands, let us shake heaven with prayers of affection and care! If we cannot worship and pray in our beautiful sanctuary, let us intercede for one another while enjoying this beautiful spring! And let us give God no rest from hearing our intercessions for all who are afraid of this disease, for those afflicted by it, for those who are recovering from it, and for those who have perished from it. For this is how we would have others pray for us.
Luther concludes his pamphlet with thoughts that would serve us well as we pray for one another, and I encourage you to pray them daily until we are all out of danger: “May Christ our Lord and Savior preserve us all in pure faith and fervent love, unspotted and pure until his day. Amen. Pray for me, a poor sinner”