Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

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Pastor's Reflections

This is most definitely an article I never thought I would have to write as I never imagined the kind of situation in which we now find ourselves. Such things have happened before though. Five hundred years ago Martin Luther experienced something very similar. In a letter on the coronavirus Bishop Elizabeth Eaton said this:

In 1527 the plague returned to Wittenberg, Germany. Two hundred years earlier the plague had swept across Europe killing up to 40% of the population. Understandably, people were anxious and wondered what a safe and faithful response might be. In answer to this, Martin Luther wrote "Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague." In it, he emphasized the duty to care for the neighbor, the responsibility of government to protect and provide services to its citizens, a caution about recklessness, and the importance of science, medicine and common sense.

To provide care for the neighbor, Luther recommended that pastors, those in public office, doctors and public servants should remain in the city. Luther himself remained in Wittenberg to care for his people. He recommended that public hospitals be built to accommodate those with the plague. He condemned those who took unnecessary risks that put themselves and others in danger of contagion. Luther also encouraged the use of reason and medicine, writing, "God has created medicines and has provided us with intelligence to guard and take care of the body. … Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence." ("Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague," 1527.)

Luther’s advice is remarkably timely as it very much reflects what disease control experts are telling us.

Making this situation even more unusual is the fact that the governor’s current “shelter in place” order will extend through Holy Week and Easter, the time around which the rest of the Christian church year revolves. What we will be doing not just during that time but as long as the social distancing precautions are in place, is to keep you as connected as possible and offer you something of a worship experience.

I am still writing sermons that are posted on our website bethanyishpeming.org in both print and audio formats. They will also be posted on our Facebook page. We are also experimenting with video content with the hope that, if you have Facebook, you could tune in at 10:30 Sunday morning for a modified worship service which would then be available at other times as well. If you don’t have Facebook but do have a computer, get someone to help you set it up. For those who don’t use computers, audio “to go” recordings are available. Just let me know and we’ll get one to you. All of this is a work in progress; we will keep informed on technology related developments. Our emergency notification system can be used to update you on what is available. (Caller ID for the emergency notification is either Member Caller or possibly Bethany Lutheran; it’s an 888 number.)

During this time food pantries continue to be in need so it’s important to keep our food table ministry going. (See the Social Ministry article.) The church will be open 9 to noon, Monday through Thursday. I don’t think that walking in and leaving something on the table violates the governor’s order. If you want to sit in the church for a time of quiet and prayer, I think that too is OK. Also, you’re encouraged to keep up with your pledge either by mailing in your offering or leaving it in the mail slot at the church.

My plan is to continue to be at church in my office at least part of most days. Carrie will also be here for a while in the morning, Monday through Thursday, so if you have questions or concerns or just want to talk, feel free to call us. With more at home time and wanting to limit the amount of time I spend watching TV, I’m challenging myself to re-read Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, reputed to be perhaps the greatest novel ever written, one that includes many theological questions. I’ve read it before and struggled with it, but I’ll try again. Looking at the bookshelves in my office, I see the opportunity for something like a mini-sabbatical as there are many other books I could have time to revisit.

With Easter on the horizon, we remember that the message of Easter is one of new life out of death and brokenness. To be sure, with the inability to gather in person for worship, Holy Week and Easter will be different this year, but the truth of Easter remains, that truth being that “He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed.”

Don’t lose sight of that, and in the meantime, participate in virtual worship in whatever ways you can, stay safe and stay well!

Pastor Geier


Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor

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