June 15, 2020
Dear Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church,
I am writing to encourage everyone not to feel any pressure about attending public worship services when they resume on June 21st. This is an unusual time. The Third Commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,” is a commandment meant to give God an opportunity to give us his life-giving word. It is not intended to put people in danger. Public worship must resume and be available to those who can attend, but it is not mandatory for anyone. We are justified by faith alone apart from works of the law. This justification provides us Christian freedom. We have used this freedom in unusual way this year. First, by cancelling worship for a time. Now we are using our Christian freedom to make attendance at worship optional. This is not all that unusual. Health and mobility problems have always prevented certain sheep of Christ’s flock from attending public worship on Sunday morning, this will now simply include more of us than before. We are doing our best to get God’s word to you in your home. Until further notice, the complete early service will be recorded and uploaded to our website, hopefully around the time of late service. So this is not freedom from God’s word, but freedom in God’s word.
Certainly if you are not feeling well, please do not come to church. Obviously it matters little whether you think you have the Coronavirus or some other bug. For the time being everyone is understandably hyper sensitive about being near a sick person. So even if you are at a stage of a cold that you previously would have sucked it up and come to church, now please just wait until at least the next Sunday.
If you feel that the risk to your health of attending public worship is unreasonable, do not come. Wait and observe how things go at church and how the public health situation evolves. The decision to return to public worship will be left to each individual and household. There are no right or wrong decisions. As we make such decisions in the midst of varying levels of uncertainty, we have the comfort and the freedom, finally, of trusting that “whether we live or whether we die, we belong to the Lord” (Romans 14:8). Eventually, as always, we will all have to make decisions about how to live our lives, knowing that for each and every one of us, our days in this life are numbered (Psalm 90:10).
The Evangelical Lutheran Church has never commanded any particular person to receive the Lord’s Supper, the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, at any particular time. With the Supper being administered every week at many Lutheran churches for the last few decades an unfortunate peer pressure to go forward and receive has developed. No one should feel the slightest pressure, in any way, shape or form, to receive the Lord’s Supper now (or ever).
Unlike the oral preaching of the Gospel, which can happen spontaneously anywhere, the Lord’s Supper takes preparation. Bread and wine must be present and prepared. Furthermore, Scripture (1 Corinthians 11:27-30) and the Catechism (The Sacrament of the Altar, Question 4 and Answer) tell us to examine ourselves before eating and drinking Christ. We should come to the altar in the fear of the Lord, meaning the fear of his wrath against our sin. We should also come expecting to receive Christ’s forgiveness in his own body and blood. Christ is a refuge from God’s wrath against our sins. We should not approach the altar in fear of germs. We should expect to receive life from Christ, not death. For a time, many of us will forego receiving Christ’s body and blood, until our consciences are properly prepared to do so. In conclusion, feel free to attend public worship without receiving the Lord’s Supper if you do not desire to do so, or are not yet prepared.
For those who are most at risk of suffering serious illness from this virus, staying home is actually a way to serve your neighbors. It will help us resume public worship more quickly and prevent the church from needing to make at least some of the nearly impossible choices that we are now forced to make. Whatever attempts we make to prevent germs from spreading during public worship, we cannot possibly guarantee anyone that there is zero chance of any virus spreading.
The church does what it can to try to keep people safe and healthy. This has always been the case. This is why we participate in charitable organizations locally, and why we contribute to international organizations that provide hospitals, food, and clean water to people oversees. At the same time, the church is the one and only organization that believes that life will actually improve after death.
For a time it will be quite proper for many of us to receive this good news of Christ’s death and resurrection by means of computer screens and paper. For a time some will prefer to proclaim this good news within their households but refrain from public worship. We trust God’s promise that his Word will not return to him empty, but will make faith, however he manages to reach us. And we look forward to the day when this unusual period is clearly and obviously behind us.
Announcements and Updates from the office
This is a resource for announcements and updates from the office and council that occur between VOICE mailings. Most are included in the VOICE and emailed to the congregation as well.
Worship with us
Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
100 E Schrock Road
Westerville, OH 43081
Office Hours: 9am to 3:00pm M-Th
9am to noon Fri
p. (614) 882-3026
Our mission is to reach out with the love of Jesus to grow disciples and serve our community.
We envision Grace to be a welcoming Christ-centered community of faith, inviting all, growing in discipleship, sharing in ministries.