March 15, 2020

1 Corinthians 12:12 & 26-27

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Paul reminds us how interconnected we are with one another as he describes the people of God as the Body of Christ. If you’ve ever had a toothache or stubbed your toe you know that when even a very small part of your body hurts, your whole body suffers.

As we are living through this Coronavirus pandemic we are becoming more aware of our  connection with one another. We generally think of our interconnectedness with one another as the Body of Christ as a source of strength. Each person has a role to play. We all support one another. Together we have all the gifts we need to live out God’s mission. But when the Coronavirus infects part of the body, we realize that our interconnectedness also a weakness, a vulnerability, and the whole body suffers.

We suffer as people get sick and some die from this virus. We suffer as we try to wall ourselves off from one another. We suffer as we face an interruption to our worship life together. No worship during Lent! How can that be? We suffer as schools close their classrooms to their students, making all learning virtual in an effort to stem the flow of this little germ. We suffer as the economy takes a hit, businesses wonder how long they will be able to continue, employees wonder how much longer they will have a job, and retirement accounts plummet. We suffer as hand sanitizer prices skyrocket and toilet paper disappears from the store shelves. We suffer as we isolate ourselves from one another for fear of the dangers of interconnection.  

But might this forced recognition of our interconnectedness have some hidden blessings? Might it remind us that each person matters. What affects one affects all of us, so we better take care of all of us.

How do we do that?

We check on one another, to make sure everyone is okay. We help those most at risk avoid exposure by bringing food and other necessities to them. We take precautions to keep ourselves healthy. We wash our hands and use hand sanitizer (if we can find it). We stay home out of respect for one another, knowing that the cough or sniffles which might be an inconvenience to one could be deadly for another. We all have a role to play in health and healing, because we are the Body of Christ, we are interconnected.

As Christians we pray for one another. Prayer makes a difference. As we pray for God’s healing we trust that God is at work healing us in body, mind and spirit.

We take heart in knowing that this is not the first time people have faced a pandemic. In Martin Luther’s day there was the plague. A couple of years ago, in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, the Luther Exhibit came to town. One of the memorable aspects of that exhibit was a beak-like mask worn by doctors during Luther’s day in an effort to protect themselves from the plague. Given the run on medical face masks today, it is apparent that things haven’t changed all that much!

In reflecting on the plague Luther 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 nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.[1]

Luther’s advice rings down through the ages with an uncanny sense of relevance today.

Let us take all due precaution. Listen to the state and federal officials who are trying to manage this pandemic and follow their advice. Stay home. Keep your distance from others. Do your part to avoid becoming ill or spreading illness. But even as we are in a period of separation, continue to love and care for your neighbor. Check up on one another. Be the Body of Christ with one another. Stay connected – as much as possible by phone, mail, email, over the computer and all of the other gadgets that allow us to communicate with one another across time and space.

When you think of the resourceful ways Luther made use of that newfangled technology called the “printing press,” can you imagine what a field day he would have today? We will be actively looking for ways to connect with one another.  We are looking for ways that are accessible to everybody to be together as the Body of Christ in this time when, for safety’s sake we need to be physically apart. Maybe we’ll be having worship over the phone or on cable TV. We’re looking into it. We’ll see what can work. Stay tuned!

As we face this new chapter in our life together, look for the blessings in this time of quietness, this time of cocooning, this time of fewer interruptions, this time of seeming isolation. We have all been given a gift of time. Time to slow down. Time for sabbath. Time to pray. Time to walk this Lenten journey with our hearts turned toward God. Let’s make good use of it. 

Know that I am praying for you. Know that I’m available if you need me. Call me if you have questions, suggestions, or pastoral care needs – of if you’d just like to talk.

Let’s trust that God is at work even in this uncertain time, working for our good.

Benediction

May the Lord bless you and keep you

May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.

May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

Amen

Prayer

Loving God, we find ourselves in a worrisome time. All the things we are used to doing are in flux. We worry about where this might all lead. Give us faith to know that even in the midst of all this uncertainty, you are there. You are with us, loving us, caring for us, helping us in all the ways we need your help. Give us faith to face this time with courage. May we be of good heart. May this bring out the best in us as we live together as your people, the Body of Christ at Almelund. In Jesus’ precious name we pray, Amen!

Discussion Questions:

  1. How are you going to make use of this gift of time?
  2. What can we learn from those who have experienced major health challenges in the past – individually or as communities?  
  3. How do you see God at work in this unique time?
  4. What blessings might we experience from this?

I invite you to talk with family members at home, friends or congregation members over the phone, via email or Facebook about these questions. Let’s get the discussion started!


[1] Martin Luther, “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague, 1527,” The Annotated Luther, Volume 4: Pastoral Writings, ed. Mary Jane Haemig (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2016), p. 404.