I was preparing a sermon a couple of days ago while reading an upcoming paper by Dr. Joel Biermann from Concordia Seminary. It all had me thinking about the consequences of COVID.
Firstly, I don’t want to discount the need for good stewardship. We have a responsibility to care for our neighbors, especially those who are the most vulnerable members of our society. Being flippant about danger is to disregard the well-being of others and isn’t how Christians are called to live in the world.
That said, good stewardship is a tricky thing to pin down. There are so many factors that come into play that we must not condemn others who are earnestly trying to do the God-pleasing thing just because they fall in a slightly different part of the spectrum than we do.
None of that is really the issue, however. Most of the dialogue that comes out of the government and even more so from the media is about one thing: fear. Fear such you might find in the old black and white horror movie, “The Blob.”. This malevolent thing is creeping through the streets and we’re all caught in grips of a cold, gelatinous, paralyzing terror. It’s coming to eat you, so you’d best hide before it finds you.
Again, COVID is a pretty serious disease and it can have serious long-term effects and could even kill you. But, let’s not put the cart before the horse. COVID isn’t sin. Dying isn’t sin. Fear is sin. It’s one thing to practice good stewardship. It’s another to let fear and doubt run your life, especially if it means forgetting who is truly in control.
This is where the real problem comes in. When St. Paul tells us to not stop gathering together, as is the custom of some. When Christ tells His people to go and baptize and to “Do this in remembrance of me,” He is giving us a command to do the most important things there are to do in our lives.
A life spent in fearful isolation is a life spent in voluntary separation from the presence of God. This an earthly reflection of Hell itself. The most terrible thing COVID has brought to our society isn’t death, it is a fear that has driven us from the presence of our loving Savior and Creator.
Christ gives the precious gifts of the sacraments and the liturgy to bring us together as one people, Body of Christ. God gives us the greatest gift of all: His very self. He is not worried about death, for He has already trampled down death through His own death and resurrection. What grieves Him more is not seeing the people He died to save because their fear has blinded them to all else.
Good stewardship is still important, but we must be careful not to use it as an excuse to avoid that which is most important of all: being reunited with our Lord. This is what happens in Communion, making it the single most significant thing a church can do. Without this, everything else loses its focus. This is the undoing of sin’s damage. Instead of division, we are brought together with each other and with God. Not isolation, but community, family, sharing the time together as one.
As future crises assail the church, we must always bear this in mind. Find ways to celebrate Communion safely, while bringing out as much of its theology as possible. But, never fail to celebrate it, for it is just that important. If nothing else, we have a responsibility to proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Only the people of God gathered together around the Lord’s table can do this.