May 6, 2020
“Though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all…” 1 Corinthians 9:19
“Owe no one anything, except to love one another.”
Dear family and friends of Gethsemane,
As we continue another month of stay-at-home orders, and restrictions on businesses, I find it increasingly hard to stay the course. I am sure you do too. We want to gather again. We want to meet strangers without worry over whether they might be carrying a virus. We feel awkward wearing a face mask in stores and wonder, “what’s the point?” We find our freedoms limited and wonder, “ Why should I give up my right to go where I want, whenever I want? As an American, I have freedom.”
Bishop Thomas Aitken of the NE MN Synod of the ELCA recently reminded us that in 1520 Martin Luther wrote a tract entitled, “On the Freedom of a Christian”. Luther begins with this paradox: “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.”
In this writing Luther also says, “Since God has given me in Christ all the riches of righteousness and salvation so that from now on I need nothing except faith, why should I not therefore freely, with all my heart do all things pleasing to God who has overwhelmed me with irresistible riches? I will therefore give myself as a Christ to my neighbor and do nothing in this life except what is necessary, profitable, and salutary for my neighbor."
And: “Behold, from faith flows love that serves one's neighbor and takes no account of gratitude or ingratitude, praise or blame, gain or loss. We do not distinguish friends from enemies because God's love makes us free.”
To follow Christ is to willingly and perhaps even joyfully, sacrifice some of my own rights and privileges in order to assure the well-being of my neighbor. In today’s world, that means social distancing, hand washing, wearing a mask, refraining from large group gatherings, all so as to slow the transmission of this virus. Eventually, with adequate testing and tracking, we will be able to gather once again, but for now I must make sacrifices for the good of my neighbor.
That means I will not see my adult sons on Mother’s Day. I will not encourage reckless behavior in others. I will take care to sanitize surfaces with which I have been in contact. I will wear a face mask in stores and other public places when I must go out. When my calling is to conduct ministry with my physical presence I will take every precaution to minimize the risk of transmitting or contracting this corona virus while being the presence of Christ to those who need it.
Think about how you will live out your calling in the weeks ahead. How will you honor Christ by loving your neighbor?
The peace of Christ be with you always.