One of the words that I have heard used quite a bit recently is unprecedented. We are in unprecedented times. We've never been here before and that's just one of many reasons that people might be afraid. We're not sure what to do or what's going to happen. We just don't know.
That's why God's Word is such a comfort. Listen to Genesis 15:13-16. God says to Abraham, "Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete."
Long before Joseph brought his whole family to Egypt where they would eventually be enslaved for four hundred years God described the whole thing to Abraham. He told Abraham exactly how long it would go on. And he told Abraham that his children would come back to the promised land.
For the Israelites their slavery in Egypt was unprecedented. But God knew exactly what was coming and how He was going to bring His people through it. What a joy that is for you and I. These are unprecedented times for you and I but not for our God. He knows exactly what will happen and how He is going to bring you and I through it. That gives us joy and peace.
I wanted to take a moment to explain how we are responding to the events unfolding around us. St. John's Lutheran Church will not be holding services and Bible studies in our building until the authorities determine that it is safe for large groups to assemble. This is the time to get behind the authorities that God has given us to be a blessing for us. This is the time for us to come together as a country to work for the common good of our neighbors. This is a time for unity. Not divisiveness. We hope that this will be an example that each of you and all of our neighbors will follow.
This is also an incredible opportunity. When Martin Luther found himself in a crisis he sought the latest technology to use. In his day that was the printing press and his use of it changed everything. In Romans 8:28 the apostle Paul says, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose." God is using this coronavirus to accomplish something good for his people. Perhaps one of the opportunities is to get God's people to try new technologies that can help us better share the love of Jesus Christ with our neighbors. I am excited to try some of these new things to see what God wants to do.
We have a plan to continue Word and Sacrament ministry that is changing as we figure things out. But here is what we're planning as of today.
We will offer a Sunday morning worship service at 10:30 am. This service will be conducted live using an internet video conference service called Zoom. The congregation will be able to see and hear the pastor and the pastor will be able to hear the congregation. The bulletins will be available to download on our website. I hope that you will try this new technology. I believe that fellowship is really important. Although we won't be together physically we will be able to hear and see one another as we go through these difficult days. The sermon will also be available to download and listen to later.
We will also continue all of our Bible studies including Exodus, Foundation of Faith and Breadbreakers. They too will be conducted live using an internet video conference service called Zoom. Participants will be able to see and hear one another. It will be a great opportunity for fellowship and growth in God's Word. I am praying that more of you will take advantage of this opportunity so that our Bible study numbers will actually grow. Please consider joining one of our groups.
For participants in the Exodus Bible study we have put recordings of the opening devotion and closing lecture on the website. We have also put copies of the worksheet on the website so that you can download them without coming to the church. (You must be logged in and a member of the Adult Bible Study group to download files). There are also copies in the back of the church for you to pick up if you stop by.
Finally, we will have the Church open Monday through Thursday from 10 - 1. Please feel free to stop by and spend a few minutes in the sanctuary that you have called home for so many years. Take a few minutes to stop and pray and give thanks that God is with you in the midst of all of this. I am also available during that same period to celebrate the Lord's Supper with individuals or family units. If you would prefer a different time please contact me to set up an appointment.
I invite you to contact me if you have other ideas on how we might serve the members of our congregation and our neighbors in these unprecedented times and I look forward to seeing how God is going to work through each of you to share the love of Jesus with your neighbor!