OSL Responds to COVID-19
Pastoral Letter #1
Week of 18 March 2020
Dear OSL Family,
Worship in a Time of Social Distancing
At Our Savior’s we have been broadcasting worship for several decades. Still, you may have never joined us for worship across the airwaves. This message is for you as you consider what it means to attend worship online in these days of social distancing.
As Lutherans, we believe the Church exists anywhere the word of God is preached and the sacraments are rightly administered. So here, you will find two basic questions: What is it like to hear the Word of God on a telecast; and, What happens to Holy Communion now that in-person worship gatherings are, for a time, suspended?
Worshiping Online Is Real Worship.
The online worship environment, or worship we share across the television airwaves, is no less “real” than worship we share in the same room. When we plan and lead worship, we consider you “present” with us. We also know that those who watch our services from afar are not alone; many of you watch with others. Together, we gather around the same word in scripture, the same music, the same preaching. You are truly Our Savior’s Lutheran Church beyond our walls.
So How Do I Worship at Home? Do I Need to Dress Nicely?
Worship at home feels different because it is different. It takes some adjustment. For starters, you can bring your coffee; set your breakfast on the table; and sit in your favorite chair!
But you may also need to prepare differently. Print out, or use your digital device to access the bulletin, pastors’ sermons, and liturgy scripts (complete with words for your parts!) available online at https://oslchurch.com/category/bulletins/.
We worship with our whole bodies, so use yours when you worship at home. Stand for appropriate moments of the service. Sing! Fold your hands to pray and make the sign of the cross. You may even find yourself using unusual prayer postures. Go ahead – lift those hands in praise! Do what makes it feel like worship to you – whatever that means. (Yes, you can even dress up – if you want.)
What about Holy Communion?
If online/televised worship is every bit as real as worship in-person, you may wonder why we are suspending our practice of Holy Communion at this time. It’s because we Lutherans confess the full, real presence of Christ in the holy communion meal; and this has consequences when we practice worship from a distance.
After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to his followers in the flesh and made his presence known through physical touch. Because of this, we also emphasize Christ’s presence in the communion meal in a form we can touch.
Also, since the first days of our faith, Christians have brought bread and wine blessed in worship to those who were absent. Certainly, those far away had bread and wine in their own homes. But it was not the same bread broken and blessed in Christian worship. The actual stuff shared by Christians in worship is what really matters – because that’s where we find Jesus.
For this reason, we will not televise Holy Communion so you can participate at home on your own. It is simply not the same as passing the same loaf of bread and bottle of wine. Imagine how much sweeter Holy Communion will taste when we rejoin each other around the table!
A Final Word
After Jesus’s death, his followers stayed behind closed doors for fear of their neighbors. Sound familiar? Still, the resurrected Jesus appeared to them to bless them with a message of forgiveness and peace; and in time, they unlatched their doors to share this message with the world. That day will come for us as well. In the meantime…
Stay safe. Pray for our leaders and for the ailing. Be kind. And trust that your friends at Our Savior’s will continue beaming the Good News of Jesus Christ into your home. In this time of closed doors, worship with us – and see what God prepares you to share when these days pass.
With every blessing,
Your pastors at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church,
Rev. Randy Gehring,
Rev. Tim Lemme,
Rev. Sami Johnson,
Rev. Justin Kosec