Third Sunday in Lent: Pastoral Message
Good Morning Friends, The psalmist expresses a heartfelt emotion common to people of faith, “I was glad when they said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord.” Psalm 122:1. It feels strange not to get up and go to worship at the Lord’s house—our church home at St. James. We have all missed a Sunday for various reasons—yet this is a new and different reason. None of us will be going to worship due to the risks presented by the Covid-19 pandemic. I certainly hope this precaution will be short-lived. Worship is a vital dimension of our life together as people of God. Luther defined the church as God’s people gathered around word and sacrament. To be deprived of this sacred opportunity is to be made aware of how precious it is to us, both personally and collectively. Late on Saturday afternoon I went and sat in our Sanctuary. It is a beautiful and inspiring space. It lifts my spirit whenever I enter. However, that room comes to life when we are there together: singing praying, listening to God’s word, kneeling around the Lord’s Table. The church is not just a building the church is the people—the fellowship of believers, the communion of saints. Perhaps a brief hiatus will serve to make us appreciate more clearly what a blessing it is to gather together to worship in the house of the Lord. The appointed Prayer of the Day offers a very relevant theme:
Almighty God, your Son once welcomed an outcast woman because of her faith. Give us faith like hers, that we also may trust only in your love for us and may accept one another as we have been accepted by you.
These are uncertain times, and uncertainty can cause us to be afraid. Nevertheless, we can live by faith and not by fear. Our faith is in the love that God has for each of us. We trust that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. Furthermore, as Christ accepted an outcast woman, we are called to accept and care for one another, especially in trying times. Fear can cause us to withdraw and think only of ourselves. Love casts out fear and seeks always to care for one’s neighbors — being open to the needs around you. Our second reading today is from Romans 5:1-11 and begins with words of gracious assurance:
Concerns about transmitting the virus have caused us to alter the ritual of sharing the peace. Yet the peace God gives is ours even when we are not able to shake hands to express it, even when we are not together. The blessing of forgiveness and the promise of eternal life provides us with an enduring peace that this world cannot give. This morning I want to encourage you to be filled with God’s peace, and to find ways to share that peace with others who are stressed or frightened or ill. I pray that it will not be long before we come together again to worship our gracious God. In the meantime, I encourage you to be mindful, not fearful. Be mindful of the common sense guidelines to care for your own health and the health of others. Be mindful of the needs of those around you—making sure they have what they need like food and medications, and perhaps a friendly phone call. And, be ever mindful that God is with you now and always.