Dear Members of St. John’s,
As the days and weeks of the “stay at home” order remain in place, I am missing you all and our gathering together for worship, communion, Bible study, and service organizations in the church God has provided for our congregation. We remember God’s words to us from Paul’s letter to the Philippians with these verses “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:3-6
We are doing our best to stay in touch and provide for the needs of our people at this time. There is a weekly message available on both our St. John’s Facebook page and on our website. If you have any questions about accessing this please let me know. I am available to talk by phone with everyone and please feel free to call me with prayer requests, any concerns or just to talk if you would like. I am in prayer daily for each one of you and for the needs of our church, community, nation and world.
I am sure that many of you are missing many of our usual freedoms such as being with family, shopping, traveling but most assuredly missing worship and sharing together in The Lord’s Supper. I have been following the discussions and debates over the best ways to deal with these losses at this time. Many of the pastors within our district have been addressing the concerns over the communion options. I can certainly assure you that your church officers and I have been looking into what is best for our own people here at St. John’s.
I want to share with you what God’s word teaches us about the means of grace. From A Summary of Christian Doctrine by Edward W. A. Koehler we read: “The means of grace are the Gospel and the sacraments. The sacraments are means only because of the Gospel promise connected with them. Therefore, we may say that there is but one means by which the knowledge of grace and salvation, grace and salvation itself, are imparted to us. That is the Gospel or the glad tidings of the grace of God in Christ Jesus. For this reason, it is called “the Gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24), “the Gospel of peace” (Romans 10:15), “the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19), and “the Gospel of your salvation” (Ephesians 1:13). In the Gospel, redemption, reconciliation, forgiveness are revealed as accomplished facts that are not affected by what we may or may not do (Romans 3:3). Therefore, while we are encouraged to partake of communion whenever it is offered at our church, we are reminded that we also receive forgiveness though the Word of God. The is especially a blessing at this time when gathering together is not possible due to Covid 19.
With this being said, until we find a way to offer The Lord’s Supper within the guidelines of the quarantine and following our Lutheran doctrine we must depend on the gifts of grace and forgiveness given to us by God through His Gospel message. The officers and I will continue to study whether we can offer The Sacrament of the Altar and possible ways to do this during this time of social distancing. We certainly want to do what is safe and God pleasing as we move forward through these uncertain and troubling times.
I would like to encourage each one of you to continue in your daily prayers, study of the Bible, checking on one another, viewing the various LCMS worship services available online each week, our own website and all that you are are doing to stay in touch in positive ways.
The Lord’s work continues among God’s people here at St. John’s. Thank you for all of you who are continuing to financially support our congregation by sending in and dropping off your tithes and offerings. 1 Peter 4:10 reminds us of this, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s grace.”
While we may not be able to gather together to hears God’s Word, receive the Lord’s Supper or join in singing and praying, we can praise God wherever we are each day! We know from Scripture that this is not the first time His people have faced physical separation and difficulty as we recall times of persecution, exile and plagues. Our Lord is with His church and we draw comfort from Matthew 28:20b “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”.
May our Lord be with you and sustain His church as He daily guides us until we can once again unite with one another here in our church!