Thanksgiving, Masks, and Prayers
So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
Dear brothers and sisters in the diocese,
Greetings in the Lord Jesus who reigns over all.
Sadly, the pandemic is still with us. Therefore let me briefly share a commendation, a concern and a challenge in this hard season.
Commendation for Faithfulness
I am very thankful to the Lord and to you all for the ways you have stayed faithful to the Lord and one another in the midst of this struggle. You have found ways to serve others, while having worship and real fellowship online or with social distancing. I bless the Lord for your perseverance.
Concern for Continuing COVID Vigilance
My concern is that we are not out of the COVID-19 woods yet.
I am grateful that infection rates are going down in many places, but that can be correlated with mask wearing and social distancing. Many health officials have warned that if we let up on those two practices too soon, the infection rates can climb again. Israel is now having another lockdown for example. The high rate of infections at colleges where students have ignored restrictions shows us how quickly the virus can spread.
It is regrettable that mask wearing has somehow become a political issue. As citizens of the Kingdom of God, we must remember that we are called to serve one another, not to just demand our personal preferences. We are to pursue peace (see Romans 14:9 above), recognizing that the health concerns of others should determine our response. Do we want someone not to attend because we do not want to wear masks? (Read all of Romans 14 to see how we are called to care for each other despite our differences.)
Therefore, mask wearing and social distancing should remain a part of our gatherings for the time being. While more and more groups around us, including some churches, are ignoring mask requirements or recommendations, there are many reasons to assume that the virus can still be dangerously transmitted in public gatherings.
Some argue that not wearing masks in church is somehow a sign of our faith in God’s ability to protect us. Please recall, however, that it was Satan who tempted Jesus to unnecessarily risk his health by jumping from a great height as a measure of faith. Jesus repudiated this suggestion as an unholy dare to test God (Matthew 4:5-7). Risking our health or the health of others is not a sign of faith. It is giving into the temptation to presume the Lord will protect us despite our taking unnecessary health risks. I realize there is an ongoing debate to the level of effectiveness of mask wearing. But if we are to err, we should err on the side of caution based on majority medical advice. There are already too many cases of churches being ground zero for COVID outbreaks.
While schools have reopened for understandable reasons in many places, this also increases the risk of spread. Our wearing masks when we are together means we are consciously not adding to that and other similar risks.
Challenge to Prepare and Pray
Finally, as our Archbishop has already challenged our clergy*, I challenge all of you to prepare yourselves for the mission field around us. Many are now seriously seeking God because their lives have been shaken on so many fronts. Pray, immerse yourselves in the Scriptures, and reach out in any way you can to those who need the Lord.
Please also pray for so many who are affected by illness, fires, storms, economic hardship, injustice, violence and social upheaval. And intercede for those who sacrificially serve our communities by facing these challenges head on.
May the Lord Jesus bless you all.
In the love of the Messiah,