An Encouragement To Peace, Preaching, and Prayer in the Era of COVID-19
“Peace,” said our risen Lord Jesus Christ, and again, “Peace!” (Jn. 20:19 & 21). This greeting, “Peace,” from the newly resurrected Savior to disciples locked away in their room, fearful of the same mob that had crucified Jesus, is Jesus’ greeting to all those terrified… to those caught up by the chaos of life where predictability, security, and safety had now been overwhelmed. Yet, Jesus’ establishment of peace proves not to be dependent upon external circumstances nor upon internal feelings; his peace is established despite them. Jesus’ peace comes from the reality of the New Creation which is entirely trustworthy and is grasped with faith, established in faith, and enjoyed by faith.
To quote the Augsburg Confession, “So that we may obtain such faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted.” Your pastors, preachers, and ministry professionals bear the burden of Word and Sacrament as their calling, their vocation, and their responsibility. I can bear witness to the extreme efforts being made to keep the preaching of the Gospel, the benefits of the Lord’s Supper, and the comfort of the forgiveness of sins. The pastors of your congregation, your teachers here at ILT, and Christian leaders across the country are working tirelessly so that you may obtain such faith as to enjoy the peace of Christ.
In the brokenness of this world (obvious under the attack of this 21st century plague), their efforts may not reach you. But you may remember being taught that one of the Means of Grace is the “conversation and consolation of the saints.” This means you. By including the reading of scripture in your personal conversation, by consoling one another with the forgiveness of sins, and by declaring the peace of Christ in your midst, you continue to establish and keep one another in such faith that they can hear the angelic admonition, “Be not afraid!” and trust the words to be true.
Likewise, you can no doubt recall Luther’s definition of a Christian: “The perfectly free Lord of all, subject to none; the dutifully bound servant of all, subject to all.” As this takes hold in your life, you can count on complete freedom in your decision whether to protect your life by fleeing from the virus and seeking sanctuary in isolation and quarantine. This simple application of Jesus’ rubric against Satan, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test (Mt. 4:7).” However, you may find that by vocation and calling you are bound to serve and protect your neighbor’s life rather than your own. This is the situation for many in the medical fields, law enforcement, emergency services personnel, and others. However, even as you may be preserving your life in isolation and quarantine, you may find yourself bound by the duties of family and citizenship. In the sanctuary of social distancing, you are accomplishing the duties of a good citizen by protecting your neighbor from the spread of contagion. In the same manner, parents are fulfilling their duties to their children and can help the children learn how to reciprocate, again this is a civic duty.
In all circumstances, you can take up the Lord’s invitation, “Call on me in times of trouble, and I will deliver you” (Ps. 50:15). While this invitation to prayer applies universally in all times, it especially applies in days of affliction and turmoil. You may pray for the Holy Spirit to work faith in you as you hear the Word and receive the Sacraments, such faith comes that you, too, may enjoy the peace of Christ. You may pray for your pastors and all those in the public office of ministry that they would find innovative and useful ways to deliver the Word and the Sacraments; you may pray, as well, for them to be sustained and upheld by that same combination of Word and Sacrament. You may pray for yourselves, family, friends, and neighbors near and far. Pray for the Lord to be merciful upon his people, all the peoples of the world, and all the nations into which they’ve been gathered. You may pray for all those things which burden your heart with either sadness or gladness.
In these uncertain and chaotic days, symptomatic of our world broken by sin, Our Lord commands, “Peace!” and then he provides the way for you to obtain such faith that you may enjoy his peace.