God’s grace, God’s mercy, and God’s peace be with you now and always. Amen and Amen!
The news reports are everywhere; you can’t miss it. The whole world is talking about the Coronavirus COVID-19 and many people are becoming more concerned as information changes by the day, even by the hour. We as members of the Christian Church have a unique comfort in this uncertain time. It’s a simple thought, yet an immeasurably powerful thought in these uncertain days and times. Want to know what it is? “God is still God.”
As we look to an uncertain future, not knowing how long this virus will last or how widespread it will become, here are some things we want to keep in mind:
·God has given us governing authorities for our good. As new and updated information comes from the CDC, Governor Evers’ office, and the White House, our congregation’s leadership will be paying attention to it and acting appropriately, making the best decisions we can.
·There are recommendations and official decrees in place right now in the state of Wisconsin. All gatherings exceeding 10 people are banned. This is not something against the Church. It’s a decree for everyone and our congregation will abide by it. It is not in any way a persecution we are facing. It is a declaration in the interest of public health and it is being applied to gatherings of all kinds across our whole state.
·Some of the most “at risk” people are elderly people and people with previous conditions. We are a smaller congregation with many people who fit this description. As a result, our congregational leadership is going to be extra cautious in the coming days. Our main priority is always our spiritual health and our eternity, but we should not focus so strongly on this that our physical health and well-being is forgotten.
·The Word of God is not gone. Yes, that’s a point we have to keep in mind! Our gracious God and his holy Word are not affected by a virus. God’s Word remains among us and so our mission as the Church on earth also remains. We can and should frequently turn to the pages of Holy Scripture and to our loving Savior in prayer during these days when peace and comfort are so needed.
·This is not a time to be careless with anything. The goal of all the governmental and health department regulations is so that nothing will happen, or at least that this virus will be contained as quickly as possible. It’s not a time to panic. It’s not a time to hoard. It is a time to be appropriately cautious while also displaying our trust in God. What a wonderful opportunity this is to witness to others as we both trust in God and obey the public authorities he has established!
Due to the above reasons, all events at Grace Sugar Bush (Worship services, Bible classes, meetings, etc) are postponed until the ban on public gatherings is lifted or allows us to meet together again.
What can we do?
·Go to our heavenly Father in prayer. God promises that for the sake of his Son Jesus, he always hears us. Romans 12:12 encourages Christians to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” What a fitting verse for a time such as this! Pray for God’s will to be done; pray for our government to make wise decisions; pray for healthcare workers and other workers in essential industries; pray for all the WELS pastors, teachers, missionaries, and staff ministers, here and around world, so that the good news of the gospel of Jesus will continue to be proclaimed bringing peace and comfort to hearts and lives.
·Listen to the advice of the government and public health officials. Their declarations and efforts to stop the spread of this virus will only work if we all do our part. Limit contact with others. Follow health guidelines. Act appropriately while using common sense and good judgment.
·Make use of your phone and/or computer! Reach out to your friends and neighbors and check on them to see how they are doing. We can take the widespread panic that so many are feeling and instead of adding to it, we can bring comfort and hope to them. Jesus has made us light through his Word. What an opportunity we have here to shine!
·Consider how you may be able to continue supporting the mission and work of our congregation. This is an uncertain time and no one knows what will happen in the upcoming weeks or months. But God promises that he will always provide for his people. Trusting in him, we can continue to support the work his Church is doing both at our congregation and across the synod. If you would like to keep giving an offering, please mail it to the church unless/until we can find an online giving option.
·Take opportunities to still hear God’s Word. Pastor Rodrigue is working on ways to keep sharing Jesus with our congregation even when we can’t meet in person. We don’t know for sure yet how it will all happen, but here are some possibilities: written sermons posted on our website, additional devotions or Bible studies posted online, devotional material shared on the Grace Facebook page, etc. We are also working on exploring different online video options. Also take time to read your Bible at home, sing hymns if you have a hymnal, and enjoy family devotion time!
·Pastor is going to try to isolate as much as possible for 14 days to alleviate any fears, but if you have an emergency and need a visit, call the church office (715) 752-4285. This is entirely new territory for everyone. Thank you in advance for your patience and understanding as we try to make everything work as smoothly as possible. More updates will be coming in the next few days, so please watch for those too.
Finally, remember the reasons we are part of a congregation: to hear the Word of the Lord, to thank and praise him for his goodness, and to share Jesus with the world. We can still do all of that even when we can’t gather for public worship services or other events. Some words of comfort for the coming days:
Psalm 31:15— “My times are in your hands.”
Romans 8:38-39— “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 15:13— “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
The Lord Jesus be with you all,Pastor Kenneth Rodrigue