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APRIL 2020 NEWSLETTER

From the Pastor

AN UNUSUAL LENT—AND POSSIBLY EASTER

Needless to say, this has been a most unusual Lent. When it began, the coronavirus was some exotic disease that affected some people in an off-the-beaten-path province in China and a few Americans who had travelled overseas. We had no doubt that we could quarantine the few affected people and clamp down on its spread. Hadn’t we done the same with SARS, MERS, and Ebola? But things got out of control. And as a consequence we are spending the last part of Lent in isolation from one another. It is difficult to predict, but the “reside-in-place” order may be extended past Easter. At least, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is.

That said, many individuals over the years have experienced unusual holidays. My paternal grandmother’s funeral was on Christmas Eve in 1988, for example, which led to that being a very weird holiday. Several of the older parishioners can tell of being in the hospital during certain holidays when they would rather have been at home. So what is unusual isn’t that grief and disease strike in some of the most favorite times of the year, but that we are all experiencing it at the same time.

Fortunately, what we proclaim during Holy Week and Easter is the message that we need at a time like this: We know one who died and so knows what it feels like to be mortal and have to face death. But this same individual rose from the dead to give us victory over death. The coronavirus, like death itself, has lost its sting because Christ has arisen triumphantly from the grave. And so we are not afraid or worried. Even if we have to stay at home, nothing can separate us from God and his great love for us.

JUST A DOZEN MORE DAYS OF LENT

We are just two weeks shy of Easter. We have had to cancel the last three Lenten mid-week services, although the last two have been recorded (March 25) or will be recorded (April 1) and made available to members via electronic means. Anyone who wants a print copy can ask Pastor Kellerman and he will provide one. The theme this year is “The Tools of the Christian Life.” The service on April 1 will focus on “The Salve of Absolution.” The theme will continue on into Holy Week, where the theme for Holy Thursday will be “The Nourishment of the Lord’s Supper.”

Also, keep reading the Lenten devotional booklets daily. It is a good way to stay connected with God, even when we cannot have public worship services. Also let Pastor Kellerman know if you are one of the people who reads Portals of Prayer and need to get your copy for April through June.

The big wrinkle is our Lenten mission offering. It would be reasonable to guess that most people were waiting until later in Lent to bring in their offering for the Military Bible Sticks (the New Testament on a tiny, thumb-drive sized MP3 player). So here is what we will do. We will continue to gather money for that project for two weeks after we begin holding worship services in person again. That way nobody who had wanted to contribute will be left out.

HOLY WEEK SERVICES

Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday (April 5) and lasts through Holy Saturday (April 11). It, along with Easter, is the most special week of the whole year, for it connects us with the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ in a way that no other week does. Usually we take extra time out of our schedule to devote to hearing God’s Word, as we have three extra services (on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings).

This year—who knows? We already know that we will not be allowed to have a Palm Sunday service in person. You’ll have to listen or watch online. As of now (March 24, when this is being written), the “reside-in-place” order is expected to be lifted on the Tuesday of Holy Week. If that remains the case, our weekday Holy Week services should be able to proceed. But we will have to see if the governor’s order is extended.

Thus, everything below is provisional. If are allowed to meet in person, we will do so. Otherwise we will continue to record the services and post them online.

  • Holy Thursday service, April 9, at 7 p.m. This service commemorates the institution of the Lord’s Supper on the first Holy Thursday. At the end of the worship service the altar will be stripped bare in preparation of the Good Friday service, just as our Lord’s glorious institution of the Lord’s Supper was followed by his arrest, trial, and condemnation.
  • Good Friday service, April 10, at 7 p.m. We will follow the Order of Tenebrae, a service in which the church grows progressively darker as the seven last words of our Lord are read. The service is not a funeral for our Lord, but rather a grateful and prayerful remembrance of our Lord’s death, even as we anticipate the celebration of his resurrection.
  • Easter Vigil service, April 11, at 7 p.m. This service on Saturday night is the beginning of the Easter celebration. We start at sundown in darkness and light the Easter candle; we then hear the Scriptures read that proclaim God’s work of creating the world and delivering his people in the Old Testament days. We draw parallels between those events and Easter, for God also delivered us by Christ’s resurrection and created something new. As part of the service, the altar is redecorated and prepared for Easter.
  • The Easter Divine Service (April 12) will take place at 10:45 a.m., just as normally is the case on Sundays. However, there will be no Bible class preceding the service.
  • The Easter breakfast (April 12) will take the place of the Bible class on Easter Sunday. If public gatherings are still not permitted by Easter, the Easter breakfast will be postponed until the first Sunday we are allowed to gather in public again.

GENERATIONS IS TEMPORARILY ON HOLD

Even if the governor lifts the general “reside-in-place” order on April 7, senior citizens will most likely still be in danger. Therefore, we are not planning to do the luncheon and bingo that we normally do on the second Saturday of each month. We will see if we can start again in May, but it may be some time before we can return to this activity.

THEOLOGY TODAY DISCUSSION GROUP

Today (March 29) we should have finished off the final chapter and conclusion (pages 127-173) of Robert Kolb’s Nicholas von Amsdorf: Champion of Martin Luther’s Reformation. However, we have had to postpone the discussion until April 26.