This is a message of March 6, 2020 by the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, Elizabeth Eaton. It is a reminder for us as Christians that the world around us has always presented challenges that can make us fearful amid uncertainty. But the church has always had a different message than the media and government outlets about how we are to respond out of our faith.
Even Martin Luther, in the earliest days of the Lutheran movement, had to step into his pastoral role to assure people not to panic when disease ravaged Europe in the 16th century.
“In 1527 the plague returned to Wittenberg, Germany. Two hundred years earlier the plague had swept across Europe killing up to 40% of the population. Understandably, people were anxious and wondered what a safe and faithful response might be. In answer to this, Martin Luther wrote "Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague." In it, he emphasized the duty to care for the neighbor, the responsibility of government to protect and provide services to its citizens, a caution about recklessness, and the importance of science, medicine and common sense.
To provide care for the neighbor, Luther recommended that pastors, those in public office, doctors and public servants should remain in the city. Luther himself remained in Wittenberg to care for his people. He recommended that public hospitals be built to accommodate those with the plague. He condemned those who took unnecessary risks that put themselves and others in danger of contagion. Luther also encouraged the use of reason and medicine, writing, "God has created medicines and has provided us with intelligence to guard and take care of the body. … Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence."("Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague," 1527).
We are living in the time of the coronavirus. We are also living in the time of social media and constant, relentless news coverage. Many of our people have the same concerns as those in Luther's day. Many of our people are anxious. Luther's counsel, based on Scripture, is still sound. Respect the disease. Do not take unnecessary risks. Provide for the spiritual and physical needs of the neighbor. Make use of medical aid. Care for one another, especially the most vulnerable.
The churchwide organization recommends the following for churchwide staff: Wash your hands, stay home when you are sick, wear a mask if you have symptoms, consult your medical provider. Bishops and pastors will provide guidelines for worship and church gatherings. Luther also reminded his people and us that we should trust God's faithfulness and promises, particularly the promise eternal life. Paul writes: "If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's." (Romans 14:8).”
At St. John’s, we encourage everyone to remain vigilant but clear-headed when it comes to health-related concerns. First, we hear God’s persistent message: “Do not be afraid.” Living out our call to be good Christians and good neighbors, we use our best judgment for ways to care for ourselves and others in this time.
St. John's Worship Services
In this time of health concerns, services will be postponed for at least two weeks.
St. John's Events
In following the guidelines provided by The California Department of Public Health, St. John's has decided to limit the community events with larger gatherings of people outside of worship:
The Palm Sunday Potluck & Easter Community Meal will be cancelled.
The Afternoon Snack Stop will be closed for at least 2 weeks.
Pilgrimage will be operating in a modified fashion March 16th. We will not be doing an overnight, but we will be offering a meal-to-go and showers.
We respect the decisions of individuals who choose not to come to worship. While we are making some proactive steps to follow CDC guidelines, we recognize that every person has individual decisions to make.
If you choose not to be in large gatherings and are not able to attend worship, we have several ways to remain active in our community.
You may listen to the sermons on our podcast.
If you are not attending, but usually bring your offerings to church, we can help you to donate online.
If you have any questions, please do not hesistate to call the church office (916-444-0874) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.