Pastor’s Message concerning COVID-19 and Services

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,

…so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. – St. Matthew 10:16

The Church is entering into a period of trial that it has not seen in recent years. Surely, we have had trials, but as to pestilence, we in the Church of North America have not had to wrestle with this dire condition in about a hundred years. Not in the manner and severity we are now facing.

What should we do now?

I am not an epidemiologist. I am not an infectious disease specialist. I am a pastor of Christ’s Church. I will take the guidance offered by those who have recognized and authoritative vocations in these areas as goodwill attempts to communicate truth.

On Sunday, I shared a letter from our Bishop, the Rev. Dr. Dan Selbo. It is available for review here:

I believe that this is a wise response for the present, as it leaves the local congregations free to discern a response that best suits their local conditions.

Since this letter, our President of the United States of America offered more restrictive guidelines for group meetings – limiting the number of participants to ten.

This new guideline certainly impinges on our Services, as they almost always total more than ten worshipers, and therefore necessitates a response from our Church Councils. According to the Congregational Constitutions, the Council is responsible for regularly providing for the Services of Word and Sacrament, while the called Pastor is responsible for presiding over those Services for the good of Christ’s baptized people. In accordance with this order, I have consulted with Council. I will detail the decisions as I understand them below:

Lebanon Lutheran Church: All public Services of the Congregation are suspended until further notice is given.

Sunday Christian Education is suspended until further notice.

The Monday Catechism class is suspended until further notice. I will be working on alternative ways to have this class through virtual means if it is desired.

The CREDO group may continue in some capacity in accordance with the participant’s wishes, either in person or virtually.

I will send an email regarding the necessary items for the Disaster Relief Kits, after this email has been promulgated.

As the called pastor of the congregation, I will continue to make the Sacrament of the Altar available upon request in cases of extremity or profound sense of need. Depending on the circumstances and location of those in need, either myself or Rev. Cutlip will administer the Sacrament in accordance with our Lord’s institution.

I assure you that I take all of these decisions with the utmost seriousness, and I do not relish the idea that we are suspending the public Services of God in these places. 

Some will cite the Fourth Commandment as warrant for obeying civil authorities, or St. Paul’s teaching of the same.

Some will cite the Apostles in Acts (5:29) that we should obey God and not men.

I will only point out that the civil authorities are not forbidding us from teaching in Jesus Name, but only requesting that we refrain from public celebrations of a certain size for a certain period of time. 

These conditions and guidelines will be revisited as new information accumulates.

It is my sincere and heartfelt hope that we may meet for Holy Week Services in the manner in which we are accustomed. If the current conditions persist or worsen, we may need to schedule abbreviated Communion Services in a staggered fashion for small groups of Communicants – at least for Easter Sunday.

As we approach these dates, I will be in contact with both Congregational Councils in order to determine the course for out parishes.

In the meantime, remember the Words of our Lord:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” – St. Matthew 25:31-46

Look out for your nearest neighbor, which is your own family.

Then look to those neighbors who are there to be found in your locality. Care for them in Christ’s Holy Name. Do so in a manner that is true to our Lord’s concern for others and for yourself.

As your pastor, I am here for questions and conversation. Please call, text, email, or Instant Message me as you have need.

I am praying for you regularly, and I ask that all of you pray for the people of God in Christ Jesus, and for all people according to their need.

May our gracious Lord Jesus bless and protect us all until the day of His coming,

Pastor Porter