The Governors of Wisconsin and Minnesota have extended their Safer In Home orders. They are weathering protestors on their lawns demanding the states be reopened. They are listening to conservative members of their statehouses who want churches to be freed. And it will get worse.
We have to know our stay at home lives have made a difference. Our two states have so far avoided the spike and flattened the curve. And so we ask, “Isn’t it all better now?”
No, it is not. New cases of corona virus continue. More deaths from this pandemic continue. Doctors, immunologists and researchers tell us the virus is still a clear and present danger.
Yet, church goers, spurred on by the “it’s better” news are getting antsy to bring their church families bak together on Sunday morning. And I am getting the question, “Will the bishop allow us to reopen our churches for worship? Or will he force us to keep things locked up?”
Well, first of all, in our Evangelical Lutheran Church in America polity the bishop cannot keep congregations out of their churches. But this bishop urges, with all the authority and influence he can muster, that our congregations follow the lead of our elected leaders. To not do so is foolish in the least and unfaithful at its worst.
As followers of Jesus, guided by the Living Word of God, we heed the leadership of our government. Unless legal authority is demanding that we do something contrary to the will of God, we obey the law. (The Apostle Paul discusses this in a letter to the Romans.)
As followers of the Living Word, we listen to the people with the learning. It is a precept of our faith that wisdom is a gift of God. Wise and trained scientists who have spent their lives studying viral infections and pandemics speak with one voice in saying COVID19 is not conquored, it remains a threat. It would be foolish to ignore their wisdom because we “feel’ things are better and we “want” our “freedom” back. As Jesus people faithfully thank God for the wisdom, meant to protect us, that is now guiding our leaders as they aim us toward health.
As followers of Jesus, God’s embodied wisdom, we willingly limit our corporate worship for the sake of the least of these. Over and over again, Jesus holds up care for those in most need. Jesus now tells us to not put the vulnerable in need. We don’t know who might bring the virus to worship. We don’t know who might be exposed. And we don’t take the chance – the foolish risk. Instead, we follow Jesus, freely practicing our faith in ways that don’t need any church space. As Jesus did, we take time in scripture. As Jesus did, we set aside time to pray. As Jesus did, we tell the old, old story of God’s active love in the world. We share our Living Lord with our loved ones, our children, our friends on the phone, in loving notes, on social media. We faithfully touch others with God’s love at a time that we cannot physically touch others.
If this bishop could demand anything, I’d ask an end to foolish risks and selfish demands.
If this bishop could demand anything, I’d call for the faithful way. I’d call us to love the Lord our God, with all our hearts and minds and souls. I’d make sure we truly loved our neighbors as ourselves. For Jesus sake.