We are facing the moving target that is the Coronavirus, known as COVID-19. This is a virus against which the human population has no immunity, no vaccine available, and no treatment for the disease it causes. Most healthy adults contracting the virus will have a mild illness, then recover. However, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are at risk for serious illness, even death. The only way to minimize the estruction caused by this virus is containment and prevention. The virus is spread through the air. There is evidence that people have spread the virus without symptoms, making this more difficult to track and contain. The virus also lives on surfaces and can be picked up through touch, then transmitted by touching one’s face.
The Center for Disease Control and the governor’s office have asked that all gatherings of over ten people be canceled for at least 15 days. Our NE MN Synod and the ELCA strongly encourage all congregations to comply with this request. On Tuesday night, the council of Gethsemane Lutheran voted to cancel all worship services and all church activities thru April 5, with a meeting on March 31 to revisit this decision. This is a rapidly changing situation and the council will keep informed, making decisions regarding closing as needed in the days and weeks ahead. Be advised that Holy Week and Easter services may be canceled if circumstances warrant continued closing.
This decision does not come lightly. The very essence of the Christian community is to gather to receive the sacraments, listen to the word, and be strengthened for service. Yet, at this time we must do our part to care for the vulnerable people in our community by taking measures to reduce the threat to them.
We are exploring ways to stay connected through this uncertain time by regular postings on our website (gethlutheran.org) and Facebook, through email communications, phone, and by US mail. Office hours at Gethsemane will be maintained (Wednesday-Friday, 8:30-3:30) to serve as a conduit for information and to handle the regular business of the church. Please refrain from stopping by, except for emergencies. Even if staff are present, the doors will be locked for everyone’s protection. Minister
Mavis will be available by phone (320-360-9067) at any time. Please call for any reason with questions or concerns you may have.
An addressed, stamped envelope is enclosed so that you may send your regular offering, or you may call the office to inquire about electronic giving. We look forward to the time we can joyfully meet again. God be with you.
Rollie Johnson Sr.
March 22, 2020
Lent is traditionally a time of fasting and prayer. People refrain from certain foods in order to focus on prayer. Fasting involves the very substance that gives us life and nourishes our bodies. When one fasts, one gets hungry. Intentional fasting can bring about a holy hunger, a longing for a closer connection to God.
In years gone by, we gathered during Lent for worship. In that dedicated worship time there was reflection, confession, absolution, sharing the Lord’s Supper.
All of that has changed. As Episcopal priest Michael Marsh shared in his reflections, the third Sunday in Lent 2020 was not the usual third Sunday in Lent. It became the beginning of a new liturgical cycle. It became the First Sunday of COVID-19.
Many churches (ours included) found themselves participating in almost universal practices: the sharing of the peace was skipped, baptism fonts were emptied of water, offerings were dropped into a plate or basket, Communion was eliminated or shared with extreme caution so as not to touch.
Most churches did not realize at that time that the First Sunday of COVID-19 would lead to another sacrifice: that of canceling our gatherings, our worship services, and fasting from some of the very things that give life to our spirits.
The Second Sunday of COVID-19, the Fourth Sunday in Lent, finds us worshiping God, not in buildings dedicated to worship gatherings, but in hearts dedicated to God. The worship space is varied: kitchen tables, living room recliners, back porches, along the road taking a walk, in the car, wherever.
Church building doors are closed. We are fasting from our time of physical closeness. We will not be sharing a handshake, a pat on the back, a casual hug with our neighbors. In order to protect their bodies, we give up something that gives nourishment to our spirits. We no longer dip our fingers into the baptismal water. The Lord’s supper is no longer served. We fast from receiving Jesus in smell and taste and touch at the altar.
In years gone by fasting was an optional discipline. This fast is mandatory. We will either fight against it or we will embrace it. Let’s embrace it. Let’s turn our hearts toward God, who is gracious and merciful, abounding in steadfast love. God, who has promised never to leave us or forsake us.
Let’s learn what it means to hunger for community worship, for the Lord’s Supper, that we never take it for granted again. And when the fast is over, there will be rejoicing. We will join with the psalmist, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!”