This is a harsh headline yet with the fear of spreading Covid-19 many Confessional Lutheran churches are closing their doors and the sheep are left in a world of confusion, fear, and uncertainty. These once well fed sheep are now left scraps of Word (no sacrament) in streaming format if they have a reliable and costly internet connection that can handle that amount of streaming without hitting a constant buffering. Needless to say what about those sheep who don’t have access to such luxuries?
What are we Confessing to our Sheep and to the World?
With churches closing completely and offering a supplemental weekly “podcast” this approach is steering many to think that our confession of the sacraments is not important. Even in congregations where the Eucharist is given daily and confession and absolution has always been encouraged and available, it sends a different message when we shut our doors to the public and try to send everyone online to hear a teaching and often many have connection problems or small bandwidth and cannot stream as well.
It is a famine of Word and Sacrament. People need God right now, and the way some churches are handling this is sending a message that God is distant. We should at least be offering sign-ups where family’s and individuals can schedule a time to come in maybe hear a brief reading of the Word, have confession and absolution and partake of the Eucharist. Afterward, we can clean up everything carefully, and continue in this manner for the next family or individual.
There is a pandemic, how the church responds is key to our confession of faith to our congregants. We need a balanced approach that doesn’t deny our Confession of the sacraments. Yes we need to love our neighbor and do our best to not spread this to others. Yet, closing down and only tending to our sheep in a general online form is causing disturbance of faith to many who cannot stream services and who are seeing that the church is treating the holy sacraments as optional instead of commanded.
We need a balanced approach. I think the one offered above is one to try. It offers Christ to all, keeps our sacraments honored, and is loving our neighbor holistically, in both body and soul. I’m not saying I have all the answers. This is a tough time and much patience and mercy is to be given to all pastors at this time. Yet, this is a serious issue that we need to discuss. We have churches that aren’t on the same page even before Covid-19. Some churches offer the Eucharist daily, others offer it 4 times a year, others once a year. May we take this opportunity to come to a unified agreement with what confession we want to make to the congregants and the world. Are we to take the Sacraments seriously, or some secondary Adiaphora? May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, and may the grace of Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Spirit be with you. With your sins forgiven, go in peace.