Brothers and Sisters of the Southern District:
Greetings in Christ's holy name in whom there is no fear of death or sickness because in Baptism we have already died with Christ and in His rising again we are assured of resurrected life with Him forever!
As your District President, I want you all to know that your Synod, your District, and your pastors are doing all we can to continue mission and ministry in this unprecedented time of fear and anxiety caused by the rapid spread of the Coronavirus.
I want to point you to Christ Jesus. In Romans chapter 6, St. Paul clearly tells us that we are baptized into Christ's death, and will be raised with Christ in His resurrection of the dead. We have died with Christ; therefore all fear of death is defeated in Christ Jesus and we are free, as His Baptized children of God, to love and serve our neighbor during this trying time. We are free to love and serve our neighbor because of what Jesus has already done for us.
In his work, "Should a Christian flee the plague?" Martin Luther does not ask "What would Jesus do?" Instead he basically asks "What would you do if it was Jesus?" In a quote directly relevant to this time of coronavirus Luther says: "This I well know, that if it were Christ or his mother who were laid low by illness everybody would be so solicitous and would gladly become a servant or helper. Everyone would want to be bold and fearless; nobody would flee but everyone would come running... If you wish to serve Christ and to wait on him, very well, you have your sick neighbor close at hand. Go to him and serve him, and you will surely find Christ in him..."
I want to point you to your congregation. Your pastor has never led a congregation through such trying times as this. He is doing the absolute best he can. I want to encourage our congregation members to pray for their pastor and congregation leaders. Support them, be gracious with them, be forgiving of mistakes, and offer to help as you can.
In addition to supporting your pastor and congregation leaders, I want to encourage you to continue giving your tithes and offerings unto the Lord through your congregation. Even if you are unable to attend worship together for a short time, do not forsake the financial support of your congregation. Continue to give, as unto the Lord, to support the work of your congregation on your behalf and on behalf of the community.
Many small congregations are in danger of dying as a result of not being able to gather for worship for a month or more if the congregation members don't continue to give toward the work of their church.
Please, don't withhold your tithes and offerings just because your congregation has canceled worship services. Continue to give, and give generously, at this time of crisis to support your pastor and your congregation.
I have emailed your pastor some resources for online giving and for broadcasting worship services and Bible study online through Facebook Live. Support your pastor and congregation leaders by encouraging them to put these practices in place, and do all you can to support the work of your local congregation during this time of temporary crisis.
This time will pass. The virus will run its course. There will be struggles as we move forward from this awful situation. Continue to pray. Let me encourage you to continue to be the people of God to your families and neighbors. Be at peace; put your trust in Christ. "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect... (1 Peter 3:15)
We are walking together through these difficult times, you are not alone, Christ is always with you. He promises to never leave you nor forsake you. You are in good hands, you are in God's hand. Go in peace and serve the Lord!
Your Servant In Christ's Mission,
Rev. Eric Johnson
President, Southern District, LCMS
"Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell, I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell." C.T. Studd