Dearly beloved members of Zion and Courtland Lutheran Church,
At the height of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the nation about the great economic challenge our citizens were facing. Part of his encouragement included this famous statement: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Today, our nation is facing a tremendous challenge with the Corona virus pandemic. It is part of our human nature to be afraid of a dangerous, invisible enemy. Many of us worry, “How long will this virus last? Will I or one of my loved ones be infected and die?” No one knows the answers to those questions except God—and it is to God and his Word that we turn for wisdom, comfort and encouragement.
Our gracious God tells us, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Our eternal, all knowing, all powerful gracious God who holds the future and our lives in his hands will get us through this and every other crisis. Out of his love for us, God sent his one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to save us from our greatest enemy. By his perfect life, innocent death, and glorious resurrection, Jesus has conquered sin, death, and the power of the devil. Surely, God can and will overcome Covid – 19! Remember, Jesus has overcome the world!
Following the Fourth Commandment (honoring the governmental authorities) and the Fifth Commandment (doing no harm to our neighbor), Zion and Courtland Lutheran Churches have cancelled all worship services and activities of more than ten people through March 29. We will reassess our situation following new guidelines from the government. In the meantime, I encourage all of us to spend time in God’s Word and in prayer. I want you to know that I am praying for you! I am praying for our seniors who are among the most vulnerable people in our community. I’m praying for our parents and families who have their children home from school. I’m praying for our members who aren’t able to work from home and those members who are working on the front lines. Pray for our leaders and health care workers. Pray for our fellow citizens who have been infected with the virus and for their families. Pray for the Holy Christian Church that we may be beacons of light shining the gospel in this sin-darkened world.
While we are not having face to face worship services, there are many ways that we can be strengthened and comforted by God’s Word. Michael Tracy will be putting my sermons on our web site and Facebook page. For those who have access to the internet, many WELS churches in our area are livestreaming their services. For example, St. Paul’s in New Ulm will be streaming their 9:30 am Sunday service and 4:30 pm Wednesday Lenten service at splnewulm.org. For those who don’t have a computer or internet access, their worship service is broadcast on New Ulm Cable Television on Wednesdays at 10 am and 7 pm. The Lutheran Chapel Services are on the radio on KNUJ 860 AM and FM 97.3 Sunday mornings at 7:45 am. In addition, I am compiling a list of members who don’t have a computer or access to the internet so I can mail them my sermons. Please call me and let me know if you would like to get a copy of my sermon.
I know it’s difficult dealing with the consequences of this virus. We can feel isolated and at the same time we might get on each other’s nerves as a lot of people are around each other in their homes for an indefinite period of time. As we take care of our physical needs, let’s not forget about our spiritual needs. I am eager and available to serve you. Call me at home at (507) 354-0055 or on my cell phone (507) 420-5020 if you want to hear God’s Word, if you want to pray, or if you just want to talk (sports, fishing, farming, the weather, etc.—even if I don’t know anything about it—you can talk to me 😊). If you need groceries or medicine, please call me. I will do my best to help you.
More information will be shared in the upcoming days and weeks. Remember: “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present you requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
God’s richest and continued blessings in these trying times!
Pastor Gary Wong