Beloved Members and Friends of MLC,
As I write this, nearly 122,000 people have died of COVID-19. As a person of faith, I know that God is close beside us during this time. When I declare, "Christ is risen! Alleluia! He is risen indeed! Alleluia," it takes on a new resonance. There is life and hope in the midst of carnage, because the risen Lord walks through this pandemic with us. Psalm 23 has never been dearer to me than now. As the fight for racial justice takes on new life as a result of the murder of George Floyd, as more and more information becomes available about the machinations of the corporate world and their control of politicians who are meant to serve "we the people," and we learn about the complete and utter faithlessness of many of our government representatives and the depravity of our world political situation - chicanery and out and out murder for hire, i.e. the bounties placed on the heads of U. S. soldiers with the knowledge of those in the highest offices in this country - I also cling to the promise of Romans 8:31-37. God will prevail, and we will prevail, for we are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us. But faith without works is dead: so we march if we're able, we send e-mails and make phone calls demanding action and reform of systemic racism from our government reps, we register people to vote, and we vote for those who promise to fight for justice, equality, and equity, and hold them to it!
As disciples of the risen Lord, there are many things we can do to help as COVID-19 continues to rage: making and donating masks, if you have that ability; personally wearing masks out in public, such a simple, yet important thing to do to protect others - to "love one another," as it were; practicing physical distancing as much as possible, including staying home as much as possible; donating money and food to the overrun food banks, and the list goes on.
Now that Illinois has begun their Phase IV reopening, we will be opening the doors of Markham Lutheran Church for Sunday services; however, the Church Council and I will continue to assess the situation and are prepared to close down again in order to protect our members and communities should there be a spike. It will be good to worship together again and receive Holy Communion, although it will look and feel very different.
If you would rather continue to worship at home, we are going to try to Livestream our Sunday services. As you know there are also many other on-line resources for finding prayer and spiritual support. We have always posted the weekly Lessons on the MLC website, and will continue to do so, and will also continue to post the service bulletin, as we began to do when we started ZOOM church. Grace Lutheran Church, River Forest's services: http://www.graceriverforest.org/. Holy Trinity, Chicago, is another good one: https://www.htchicago.org/, and Trinity, New Lenox: https://www.trinitynewlenox.org/. There are many other Lutheran and Episcopalian congregations that share their worship services on line. Some of the Church of England cathedrals, such as Canterbury Cathedral and York Minster, have lovely online prayer services. The Dean of Canterbury often leads prayers from the Cathedral gardens, with the resident cat, Tiger, and chickens in attendance.
No matter how well done, how uplifting an online worship service, there is not a virtual substitute for the Eucharist. "Fasting" from the Service of Holy Communion has been a disconcerting experience for those of us who are used to partaking of it on a weekly basis. Not being able to take Holy Communion is a spiritual deprivation. Our Lord commands us to take the bread and the cup. "Take and eat, this is my Body given for you...." As our Lenten devotional book, Wondrous Love: Devotions for Lent 2020, put it in one meditation, the presence of God is offered to us, "given in a way that you can hold in your hands, forgiveness you can taste."
Rosemary and I will continue to do our best to keep in touch via the church website, social media, phone calls, texts, and e-mails, and you will remain in our hearts and prayers. We ask you to please pray for us, too. Please feel free to contact us. We want to hear from you. If you are hungry, or otherwise suffering, please let us know and we'll do what we can to help. Also, here are some resources, should they be needed: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255; South Suburban Family Shelter (services for victims of domestic violence): 708-335-3028 24-Hour Hotline
Let's also pray for: those who are already sick with coronavirus; those in quarantine due to exposure/possible exposure; the vulnerable (the elderly, those with underlying health conditions, prisoners, those in group homes, the marginalized due to poverty, even homelessness); those who can't avoid putting themselves in potential danger, especially care-givers, health care workers, and first responders, and those who must show-up to work other jobs in order to keep our country running, such as supermarket employees, and those who cannot not work, because not working means not eating and/or having a roof over their heads; those who are undergoing treatment for diseases other than coronavirus, and women who are pregnant; those who have had to postpone weddings and public funerals/memorial services; those who are working on producing more tests, medical supplies, and also those who are working on producing a vaccine. We also pray and thank you for the people who have courageously volunteered to receive experimental treatments, and those who are donating plasma, which may have effective antibodies. We pray, too, for the obstructionists and disruptors, some of them in our own Federal government and the highest offices of the Land. We pray for the people who, less wary, could potentially be harmed by listening to falsehoods, and for those who, wise enough not to pay them any mind, will still be hurt by their actions and inaction.
Let us pray: Gracious God, it is good for us to gather as your beloved in community. We treasure your presence with us in word and meal, song and prayer. Be with us in these days when gathering together as often as we would like is not possible. When we must be apart for reasons of safety, we trust that you surround us with your sheltering wings. Encourage us in connecting as we are able, reaching out to our neighbors in need and being persistent in prayer. We ask this in the strong name of Jesus, our constant companion. Amen
Love to all of you - even if we cannot meet for a while yet, we will meet again, and whenever that day comes, it will be an Easter!
Pastor Larry and Rosemary