Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
I am writing to you at a time and under circumstances of which I never imagined would occur in my lifetime. We are in the midst of a global pandemic and panic brought upon us by the negligence, ignorance, and/or arrogance of humans. As a result, we are experiencing the weight of both elected and bureaucratic government. Enough said on that matter!
The resultant of this pandemic is that the government has dictated to the Church who, what, where, when, and how we shall worship God. Yes, these are challenging times for the Church, how do we practice our faith and be law-abiding citizens? In addition, the actions of some in government have raised doubts and questions concerning their plan and intent. Enough said on that matter!
Therefore, I seek guidance from Scripture, which causes me to ponder and drives me to God in prayer asking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians hit me, particularly Chapter 6, verses 11 and 12, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” At the root of the world’s and our current situation is Satan and sin — negligence, ignorance, and/or arrogance.
Now in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus was questioned about leadership and governance as His followers, His disciples — in the Church. In Chapter 20 Jesus responds to their questioning, “But Jesus called them to Him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”—Verses 25-28. Therefore, in the Church it is different from in civil society.
Jesus was also questioned about paying taxes to the government. Of course, the question was framed in such a way to portray Jesus as a seditious leader in opposition to the Roman government. However, Jesus’ response deflated His opponents plan, “Then He said to them, ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”—Matthew 22:21. Here Jesus separates the kingdom of God, the left hand of God or secular/civil authority from the right hand of God or spiritual/ecclesial authority. As Christians living in the world, but not of the world, we have a responsibility to obey the laws of God, first and foremost, and also the laws of man. However, when the two come in conflict, we must obey God rather than man. As when the apostles were charged not to preach or teach in the name of Christ Jesus, “Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’”—Acts 5:29.
All that being said, what do we do in today’s situation? Well, we conduct ourselves in such a manner that we bring worship, praise, and honor to God. We need to observe good health and hygiene practices and implement recommended guidelines using common sense. We need to protect against the spread of this viral disease utilizing all the resources at our disposal. This will mean making some changes in our standard operating procedures, such as with communion, exchanging the peace, collecting the offering, Sunday school, coffee hour, bible study, etc. All of these details will need to be worked out as we proceed down the road, making adjustments as conditions evolve.
At this time in April, we do not know when we will be resuming our normal Sunday worship schedule. However, this newsletter has been prepared as if we are operating and have been throughout these past two months. This has been done in anticipation of resuming Sunday worship and some other activities in the month of May. We will notify members of the congregation when this will come about; however, in the meantime, please visit Bethany’s webpage www.BethanyNALC.org for additional information and Audio Worship Downloads of Sunday services. Although virtual services cannot replace gathering for congregational Worship and Communion; these resources do keep us together in God’s Word and prayer. In addition, we can keep in touch through the congregation’s Facebook community at www.facebook.com/bethlutmtrsvlle/.
Until we gather again in assembly, may the Lord bless you, and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace. Amen
In Christ’s service,