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May Pastor's Note
July 14, 2020, 2:25 PM

As we face the coronavirus pandemic with the fear in social isolation, I found a story from the April 8, 2020 issue of the Christian Century that is worth sharing. This is from the Editor, Peter W. Marty...

One individual whose life witness comes to mind as inspirational hope in a crisis is Martin Rinkart (1586-1649). Rinkart was a gifted musician at several prominent churches is Saxony, Germany, before turning to the pastorate. He then served as pastor to the people of Eilenburg for 30 years before his death – years that almost exactly overlapped with the dreadful Thirty Years’ War.

Because it was a walled city, refugees from the surrounding countryside, besieged by invasions of the Swedish military, poured into Eilenburg. It didn’t take long for famine and pestilence to set in. In 1637 alone, 8,000 people died of disease – including other clergy, most of the town council, and Rinkart’s own wife. Rinkart was left to minister to the entire city, sometimes preaching at burial services for as many as 200 dead in one week. Known as a faithful and caring pastor, he gave away everything he owned except for the barest essentials to care for his family.

 

In the depths of the communal suffering that surrounded him, Rinkart wrote a hymn text with words now familiar to many of us:

“Now thank we all our God, With heart and hands and voices;

Who wondrous things has done, In whom this world rejoices.”

In another verse, Rinkart speaks of a bounteous God staying near us through our anxiety:

“Keep us all in grace, And guide us when perplexed,

And free us from all harm, In this world and the next”

It’s a hymn worth coming back to when COVID-19 fears force us to hole up at home and wonder when we’ll see our most precious natural resource fully restored.

---Peter W. Marty, Editor, Christian Century

Easter now has come and the season of Christ Risen is in the time of the coronavirus. The kingdom of God became a reality when the stone was rolled away and Jesus appeared risen from the dead. Then and now that message is intended to transform the world. That is all political systems are subject to transformation, particularly with regard to care for the human body.

Today we too are witnessing a time of possible transformation. The alternative to the problems that we have just accepted as normal with disregard for the environment and climate, the callousness which prevents us from questioning racism, and sexism, and consumerism, with the governing structures that

allow, promote, and maintain all of that, is now before us.

This is a God moment when we can consider how life might be otherwise. For a long time, we’ve been told how important the market is, and to such an extent that humanity was seen as another tradable

commodity. It feels to me like the market has been upended like a burned-out log ember, collapsing before our eyes as a bit of wind swooped by. It affects everyone, though the poor, the old, the infirm, the disabled, and the people of color, are disproportionately suffering more.

I pondered the pandemic and its effect on all of life as I read Jeremiah 29. It is regarding the time of exile when so many were taken to Babylon. These are the trained and qualified Jews with know-how. There is a conflict as to who to listen to – Jeremiah or Shemaiah the Nehelamite who would tell the people that Jeremiah prophesied fake news.

In the face of the enormous disappointment, of dislocation, and the upending of everything they’d known – Jeremiah has the audacity to say in 29:7 “Promote the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile: Pray to Lord for it because your future depends on it.” …Verse 8 & 9 continues “Don’t let the prophets and diviners in your midst mislead you…They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I didn’t send them, declares the Lord.” The fake news from powerful deceivers was very much in their media.

In their case, the Lord was going to hand the false prophets over to the king of Babylon who would punish them. Earlier Jeremiah suffered for his journalism, as would Jesus for his preaching in the gospels. Empires can be threatening! Jeremiah tells his Jewish people to live in the midst of Babylon, make the most of it. God was working on their future of well-being and for that of all the people.

There are times for groups to band together for their identity and there are times when that identity can serve the greater good of all. Social political policies must always find accountability in serving all the people, not just those of our race or privilege or power, etc. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection were a judgment on all systems of power that do not set love of neighbor as the highest priority, especially for those who are different from us.

Who knows whether this pandemic will have that effect or not? Is it possible that an alternative which God calls us to, could greatly change from the past inequities, the disregard of creation and neighbor, to a way of compassion for others and for the earth itself? Consider the invitation of Easter Transformation - it truly is Good News!

 

 

 

 

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