On Friday 3/13/2020 the Gunnison County Board of County Commissioners adopted an emergency order prohibiting all gatherings of 50 people or more. They also prohibited all gatherings of less than 50 people unless there is no one 60 or over in attendance, no one high risk for Coronavirus in attendance, and all social distancing requirements are followed. This would mean that Pastor Lowell, who is scheduled to preach tomorrow, cannot do so as he is over 60. For those under 60 and not at risk, it would be very difficult to have a church service while observing social distancing requirements. The order effectively bans our church service.
This emergency order and the nature of the communicability of the illness are particularly difficult because it is times like these when were are most compelled to gather and call upon the name of the Lord. This is not, however, the first time God’s church nor even the Lutheran Church has dealt with pandemic. When Martin Luther was dealing with The Black Death plague, he wrote, “I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash no foolhardy and does not tempt God.” Luther's Works Volume 43 pg 132 the letter ''Whether one may flee from a Deadly Plague'' written to Rev. Dr. John Hess.
Accordingly, at this time, given the BOCC order, we cannot have church service (including bible study) as scheduled tomorrow. We will, however, have an audio file of Pastor Lowell’s sermon for tomorrow, which I will email out to everyone to reflect upon. We will not plan on having Lent super or service this Wednesday. We will, however, plan on having alternate arrangements made for the 22nd. God’s people are called together to worship, and we will find a way to accommodate the BOCC’s order, common sense, and still provide an opportunity to gather and share God’s Word. I will be discussing how to accomplish this with the elders and any of you that wish to reach out to me.
In the interim, I believe this is an opportunity for us to continue to show the Christian love of our neighbor that we are called upon to provide. If anyone needs communion, whether sick or healthy, I will provide it until I am stopped from doing so. If anyone is at risk (by age or otherwise ) and does not want to visit the grocery store or otherwise needs errands run in this time, let me know.
These difficult times fall during our season of Lent, a time for reflection upon the sufferings of Christ as he made his way to the cross and his eventual resurrection. Given the circumstances, it appears that the Board of County Commissioners has decided we should all pause and take time away from our ordinary lives. This pause for self-reflection was on our church calendar already (though admittedly with church services). Yet the BOCC order does provide us with an opportunity to reflect as we should do during this Lenten season. As we sit in our homes weighed upon by the many fears of our society, I would encourage you all to take the opportunity to reflect upon the grace of our God. I would leave you all with these words of scripture:
Psalm 103:2-4 “Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy….”
Philippians 4:4-7 “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
And, because I cannot help but add some levity – James 4:8, “Wash your hands, you sinners….”
Jacob A. With