|Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.|
Therefore, as of this moment, all Divine Services and mid-week Lenten Vespers are suspended until at least April 5. (We truly hope to offer services during Holy Week. We will determine this as time and circumstances progress.)
The Christian life and the life of the Church is sustained by God's word and sacraments, so we appreciate our members' desire to receive these things. Nevertheless, we are also obligated to love our fellow man. We are obligated to keep the 4th Commandment to honor our authorities. The goal of their mandates and recommendations is not to forbid Christian teaching, but to provide safety, protection, and health of their citizens. It is right for us to recognize and honor that. We are also obligated to honor the 5th Commandment. Luther's explanation states: "We should fear and love God that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and befriend him in every bodily need." Suspending our services is done so that we do not bring harm to our neighbor.
A message from WELS President, Rev. Mark Schroeder shares many of these thoughts as well: https://wels.net/facing-covid-19-together-a-message-from-our-synod-president/
We are taking steps to see to it that our members will be served as best we can while our public gathering for worship is suspended. You are strongly encouraged to worship as a family at home. Suspension of public gathering is not suspension of receiving God's word. To that end, we offer these thoughts and resources.
WORSHIP AT HOME
Worship materials for home devotions and worship are already available on Good Shepherd's web page. You can find them here: http://goodshepherdnovi.org/covid-19_quarantine_resources
Sermons will continue to be produced for upcoming Wednesdays and Sundays. As of this writing, they will only be made available in print form. I am hoping to put sermons on video, perhaps even full services with prayers and readings. When sermons are ready for reading or viewing, I will alert you as to where you can find them. They will be posted on this blog for sure; we are still finding ways to get things on the web page. Many sermons have already been archived on this blog. Use the search bar to find a sermon related to the Sunday of the Church Year or to a particular Scripture reading.
One great positive in coming together as a family to worship and pray together is that the family grows stronger. You will become much more comfortable speaking about the Christian faith with one another and, therefore, be more ready to encourage one another and to confess your faith to others. You get to talk about God's word, making it the focal point of your day. That is what God intends anyway, and now we get to be intentional about that. When you have your family devotions, make it a point to pray for the members you are isolated from, just as they will keep on praying for you.
In addition, you may desire to grow personally by the study of God's word. Some books might be particularly helpful as people have concerns about disease and death. You can find books which relate specifically to the questions, fears, and concerns of crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic from Northwestern Publishing House here:
https://wels.net/spiritual-resources-for-uncertain-times/. Also remember that our church library has many volumes to read through, covering many topics in regard to the Christian faith and life. The library is a self-check-out system. Please sign out whatever books you would like to read. If you've ever lamented that you've never had the time to devote to these things, I am willing to bet that you have the time now.
While God's word can supplied to you over the internet, Holy Communion cannot. Therefore, I will be available to offer private devotions, Holy Absolution, and Holy Communion to members in small groups or to individuals. This can be done by appointment, either at church or at your home. I will also be available at church without appointment at the schedule here.
Mondays and Thursdays -- 8:00 AM - Noon; 6:00 - 9:00 PM
Pastor Schroeder plans to contact members by phone each week to check on you and to see if there is any particular needs you have. If you are in a position where you can help someone who is in need, he will make a note of the help you would be able to provide. (For example, if a member is quarantined in their own home and cannot get to the store, food and other items would need to be delivered.)
In the event that you (or a loved one) contract the COVID-19 virus, please contact your pastor (248-719-5218). You have a congregation that desires to pray for you. I will also do my best to see you even if you have the virus.
EXTRA RESOURCES (WELS)
WELS services from numerous congregations can be live-streamed here: https://yearbook.wels.net/streaming
You can find more devotional materials at Time of Grace here: https://timeofgrace.org/
You can find services podcast from our WELS Radio Hour. It broadcasts live on Sundays on AM 1500 and FM 92.7 at 10:30 AM. Podcasts are archived and can be found here: https://faithtalkdetroit.com/radioshow/3389
EXTRA RESOURCES (LCMS)
Although these come from Missouri Synod sources, I have deemed them confessionally solid and recommend them for your consideration.
For sacred music, check out Lutheran Public Radio here: https://lutheranpublicradio.org/
You can also find edifying discussions on various topics from a Lutheran point of view at Issues, Etc. here: https://issuesetc.org/archive/.
And you can find a daily, 15-minute Bible study here: https://thewordendures.org/
Although services are suspended and people remain at home, we do have obligations to meet financially. Some bills cannot be suspended. We ask that you remember to continue your offerings even while you are away. Missionaries continue to preach the Gospel; they are supported by our offerings. Our future pastors and teachers are continuing their instruction online; they are supported by our offerings. HVL's faculty and staff are almost forgotten since they are not on our campus; they are supported by our offerings. Offerings can be dropped off at church or mailed in. You may also choose to have offerings given through electronic funds transfer. For information to set that up, please contact me at email@example.com, and I will forward your request to Bob DuBois to get you set up.
Funerals and weddings present a challenge, as they are usually attended by many. Funerals will have to be limited to immediate family. Loved ones will have to offer their condolences outside of the funeral. For anyone who had been planning a wedding, by all means--get married as planned! The party, however, will have to get delayed. It should be obvious, but it bears saying: The important matter is the marriage, not the wedding.
Email blasts (which will also be posted in the pastor's blog) will be sent out so that we are all keeping watch over one another. Most importantly, I want to remind you that God's promises stand firm in all circumstances. He remains your good and merciful Father in heaven, and he will not lose any of his people. Neither COVID-19 nor the fear of it can topple Jesus from his throne. The Lord lives and reigns. His mercy endures forever.
God bless and keep you.
"God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth give way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling." (Psalm 46:1-3)