Brothers and Sisters in Christ at Zion Lutheran Church,
Yesterday at the end of our midweek Lenten Service, we sang the beloved hymn “Abide with me.” The second verse sings, "I need Thy presence ev'ry passing hour; What but Thy grace can foil the tempter's pow'r? Who like Thyself my guide and stay can be? Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me." This is a beautiful hymn with a bold prayer and confession of God’s presence among His people in all times. It is our confession of faith, our belief, our assurance, that Christ does not abandon or forsake His church. He has promised that where two or three are gathered, He is present. And so He is present; at our church building, in our homes, and in our lives.
It is an understatement to say that things in our society, and world, have changed rapidly. Confusion and uncertainty abound, and so many of our conversations center around the virus, what to do, what it means, when it will end. As Christians, we give thanks for the certainty of God’s mercy and grace in Christ. The coronavirus outbreak is one more evidence of the brokenness of this world. In the midst of such a thing, we rejoice that the Lord continues to provide us with forgiveness and life in His means of grace.
At Zion, we have been working hard to avoid disruption, but the most recent developments have led us reluctantly to make some difficult decisions. We want to be faithful to the Lord’s bidding, because He has given us the privilege of delivering grace and life to the world through His means of grace. We also want to honor the 5th Commandment and do nothing to harm our neighbor in his body; and the nature of this particular virus makes that danger very real. Those who find refuge in the nailed pierced hands of Christ are not exempt from the dangers of the world. Faith is not a magic talisman or a good luck charm you carry around. But the Lord does command His holy angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. God does not let these threats and hardships separate you from His love in Christ Jesus.
After significant prayer and discussion, consultation with other churches in Nampa, the Treasure Valley, and the Northwest District, the Board of Elders and I have decided to postpone services for the next two Sundays, March 22 and 29. The remainder of our midweek Lenten services on Wednesdays will be cancelled. The Elders and I will be in regular contact to evaluate the situation with the hopes and intention of resuming normal service offerings as soon as possible.
Just because your church is closed for gatherings doesn't mean it is closed for prayer, confession, counsel, etc. We are the spiritual centers of our community, not just the gathering places of our congregations. In times such as these, there is still a vital need for spiritual conversation, prayer, and counsel. This will continue. My intention is to keep my normal weekday hours at the church. The Elders and I will also be attempting to contact everyone in our church family to check in with them and assess how we can help.
During this time, God has also provided a wonderful opportunity for home catechesis. One of the ancient Lenten practices is that of prayer. And we at Zion are praying children of God who approach our dear heavenly Father with requests, praise, and thanksgivings of all kinds. Pull out your Bibles. If you have a hymnal at home, use it. If you would like to have one, you may borrow one from the church. Use a devotional. To assist in this effort, our website will be regularly updated with tips, tools, suggestions, and resources for use in the home. I intend to regularly post devotional thoughts, prayers, Scripture readings, hymn suggestions, and sermons on our website for your use.
An update on our School and Daycare:
At this time, our school is heading into Spring Break. Classes were cancelled earlier this week. Teachers and staff have been working on online options in the case of a portion, or even the remainder, of the school year will need to be conducted through such means. Other options and opportunities for our school families will be explored as time goes on. At the request and suggestion of the Idaho Health and Welfare, Daycares and Childcare Centers are urged to remain open to provide the opportunity for working parents to continue in their jobs. Here at Zion, enhanced cleaning procedures have been implemented to ensure the safety of the children, their family, and our staff members.
What can you do during this time?
The most important thing you can do is remain in God’s Word and prayer, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Check in with one another. If there is someone you think may need some help, or if you are wondering how they are doing, please give them a call or visit with them. You can email or call me with any prayer requests or assistance that might be needed as well. Zion Social Ministries has graciously provided gift cards that can be distributed to our church family members in need to help with groceries and/or gas. Also, please remember the church in your prayers and your financial offerings so that the ministries of Zion may continue throughout this time and in the future. As a new addition, we are currently working on implementing an online giving option that can be accessed through our website and hope to have it up and running very soon.
Please regularly check our website for updates and resources. Our website address is: www.zionlutherannampa.com and do not hesitate to contact the church office by phone or email: (208) 466-6746, firstname.lastname@example.org.
God’s peace, comfort, and courage to you. As Psalm 46 says, “God is our refuge and strength – a very present help in trouble.” I urge you to hold those words dear. Read the Word, pray the Psalms, sing the hymns. We are in a time of trouble, but God is present as our refuge and strength. He is faithful, and He will sustain you. The Lord, who has conquered death for you, has conquered this too. Because Jesus lives, so shall His Church. The Lord does not and will not stop His work on, in, and through His Church, nor turn His back on His children. Where the Word of God is present, preached, taught, and administered, faith will be awakened and strengthened. God has said it. Faith believes it. Where Christ is present and active, so is the Church. We are not idle, but active in prayer, in service toward others, in love and compassion. Hear the good news of our salvation in Christ to shine a light in the darkness of our world, to comfort the afflicted, to share the peace of God in the midst of uncertainty, and to direct our attention to One who is the Life of the world, even Jesus Christ our Lord.
Almighty and most merciful God, in this earthly life we endure sufferings and death before we enter into eternal glory. Grant us grace at all times to subject ourselves to Your holy will and to continue steadfast in the true faith to the end of our lives that we may know the peace and joy of the blessed hope of the resurrection of the dead and the glory of the world to come; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Pastor Ross Shaver
"One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek Him in His temple." - Psalm 27:4