September 2021

(I originally wrote this article for a July edition of Daily Record’s Sat. religion column.)

Beloved in Christ,

The church reformer Martin Luther lived in 16th century Germany while the bubonic plague was still circulating around. This is what Martin Luther wrote to his fellow Christians as they navigated a local bubonic plague.

“You ought to think this way: ‘I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person, but will go freely. See, this is such a God-fearing faith, because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

It’s striking to me how relevant those words still are today. Modern vaccines did not exist in the 16th century. But if they did Martin Luther would surely have gotten vaccinated and greatly encouraged other people to do so. Today, we are blessed with a number of good, effective vaccines against this “plague,” this pandemic that we are still enduring. We are making good progress, but we still have a long way to go, especially on the global scale.

It has been such a joy to see folks returning to in-person worship this spring and summer. For many months at First Lutheran Church, we basically had a skeleton crew leading worship to go out on YouTube and be broadcast on the radio. But now, many folks have been fully vaccinated and feel safe to worship God in person. It is a joy to be able to again to sing praises to God together, hear God’s holy word together, receive the Lord’s Supper together and fellowship together.

I was asked to write on the theme “Freedom and Responsibility” for this article. So another Martin Luther quote naturally sprung to mind. “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” We are free from somehow trying to earn our way up to God. Our Savior Jesus Christ, through his death and resurrection gives us forgiveness and new and everlasting life as a free gift. All we have to do is trust Jesus: have faith in Jesus. But then the love of Jesus causes us to share that love with our neighbors. And “neighbors” goes way beyond the person next door to just about anybody in need.

So Christians have great freedom, but also great responsibility. My freedom ends when I start encroaching upon my neighbors. My freedom certainly ends if I refuse to get vaccinated and run the risk of spreading Covid-19 to my neighbors.

Our Savior Jesus sums up all the commandments in a single sentence. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27. Jesus always pushes us to go beyond what we want to do: to go beyond the bare minimum legal requirement and to do the loving, caring thing for our neighbors.

Thank you to all who have been vaccinated. Thank you to all our health care workers who put themselves in harm’s way to care for those infected or dying of Covid. Thank you to all who volunteer to help administer vaccines locally, nationally, and globally.

“Love thy neighbor.” Please get vaccinated if you have not already done so.

Peace in Jesus, Pastor Dennis