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A "contact-free" church?

Because opportunities to attend services may be limited for several weeks, the newspaper has invited local clergy to submit sermons for publication here.

Pastor, Our Savior Lutheran Church, Marion, and Zion Lutheran Church, Hillsboro,

Unfortunately, we are getting used to a touch-free, contact-free, “bubble” society.

We keep more than an arm’s length (six feet minimum!) from each other in “social distancing.” We dare not touch anything lest it transfer to us or others the COVID-19 virus. Everything we do touch needs to be disinfected before and afterward.

After each of our in-person services at Zion and Our Savior, a squad of “disinfectors” sprays and wipes down the pews in church to purify it for the next group. We no longer shake hands or hug one another in public lest it be taken as a reckless and loveless act of mutual contamination.

It is evident that Satan, our true enemy, is still at work in our world. In just a few short months, we have once again become convinced that our neighbor is a potential threat — a potential enemy. Satan is not creative. He employs a short list of (sometimes quite effective) tools to try to separate us from the love of God and our neighbor. One of these tricks is to convince us that our neighbor is the enemy, and not him.

I have never seen such concern over uncleanness. People are going to extreme measures to protect themselves and others from being physically contaminated.

This is causing divisions among us. We have divided ourselves between the masked and the unmasked, the clean and the unclean. And please don’t hear what I’m not saying: I am all for reasonable precautions against the spread of disease. I am responsible for loving my neighbors by sacrificing for their sake.

At the same time, I have not seen the same concern over spiritual contamination. Actually, I have seen people act as if they were able to save themselves from all causes of sickness and death in this world. Some have deluded themselves into thinking that they will be spared death, bodily and spiritual, temporal and eternal. Yet, we all are infected with the “virus” of sin, and it has a 100% mortality rate. No amount of washing, disinfecting, or social distancing will make one bit of difference with this, though the opposite is true.

God’s Son, Jesus the Christ, came into this world to overcome the distance caused by sin — the separation from God that leads to death. God became man to touch the unclean. Jesus touched the leper and healed him of his uncleanness (Matt. 8:3). Jesus walked amidst the crowds so an unclean woman with a flow of blood could touch Him and be healed (Mark 5:29). Jesus touched the dead girl and raised her up to life again (Mark 5:41). Jesus bore the sin of the world (including yours and mine) to the cross and rose from the dead three days later. Jesus was not afraid of what is ours that could and would infect Him even to death.

The world has declared that a “virtual” or “electronic” church is good enough. If that were true (and it is not), then God could have sent a “virtual” Son to virtually die on the cross for our sins. A “touch-free” church might be a necessary thing temporarily, but it cannot be permanent. There is no virtual Lord’s Supper of Jesus’ body and blood. In an emergency, we might be prevented from receiving the Sacrament.

At the same time, when threatened with a deadly pandemic, we need more than ever the “medicine of immortality,” the food and drink of Jesus’ body and blood that forgives our sins, saves our bodies from all that can kill us, and will raise us from the dead on the last day. We need the physical and spiritual fellowship of God’s Church.

I encourage those readers who have made it this far to contact your pastor. I know they would love to hear from you!

Continue to reach out to your neighbor in love, whether a phone call to our beloved nursing home residents or having a loud conversation with your actual neighbor across the street, being bound in a good conscience that is guided by Holy Scripture.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25).

If you do not have a church home, I’d love to visit with you. Please call me on my cell phone at (612) 716-4753 to talk or set up a socially-distanced meeting.

God’s blessings!

Last modified Aug. 26, 2020

 

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