Communication and Caring
Thursday, March 19, 2020
Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
We have been praying for some time about this pandemic and also prayerfully considering how this affects our life together as a Christian congregation. We have had to make some difficult decisions. This one is by far the most difficult. As of today, March 19, 2020, we are suspending worship services at Prince of Peace indefinitely. The Board of Elders, the Parish Planning Council, and I have wrestled with this and none of us feel good about it. We do believe however that it is the right thing to do.
I am not going to make this a long letter as I plan to communicate with you significantly in the coming weeks in various ways. For now, I ask your understanding in this and for your prayers.
Just yesterday the county of San Diego put into place a ban on all gatherings of 10 or more people as a matter of public health. Since this is not a ban on only Christian churches this is not a matter of persecution against Christ and His Church. Therefore, we as the leadership of this congregation believe that the best way to help and serve and love our neighbor is by complying with this mandate. We give thanks to God that He has placed those in authority over us for the common good and that is why we as the Church always pray for those in authority, that He give them guidance and wisdom.
The devil can never take away from us the Word of God, prayer, and the Sacraments. For a time we will not gather at Prince of Peace for worship services. But we will still be able to worship and be in the Word and be in prayer. We will still be able to help others in need. I will send you more information about opportunities for worship and things we will do as a congregation to pray with each other and ways we can help each other in need.
I am always available for pastoral and spiritual care. God is always in control. We pray He uses this time to bring us to repentance and drive us further into His Word and a full reliance on His grace, mercy, and peace. The Bible promises that evil times will happen. The Bible also promises that He will guard us and keep us.
“We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
The Lord’s peace be with you,
Rev. Paul L. Willweber
Prince of Peace Lutheran Church [LCMS]
San Diego, California
Pastoral Letter Regarding the Coronavirus
Thursday, March 12, 2020
Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
Much has been said about the Coronavirus. What I wish to say to you is from a pastoral perspective. I encourage you to a confident trust in the Lord not only in the face of this deadly virus but in everything in life. We do not know when our Lord will return and we do not know when He will call each of us Home. Through everything the Lord brings our way and allows we trust in Him that He will preserve us, if not with long life on this earth, than certainly with eternity in heaven.
In this letter I seek to encourage you in three ways. What has our congregation been doing and will continue to do? How do we celebrate the Divine Service and particularly the Lord’s Supper? How do we as Christians live in this life and particularly when there is a deadly virus spreading?
What has Prince of Peace Lutheran Church been doing along with the Holy Christian Church on earth all along, even before the Coronavirus appeared? We have been praying. The Prayer of the Church each Sunday includes petitions for plagues. For example, “Out of Your unspeakable goodness and mercy defend us from all harm and danger to body and soul. Preserve us from false doctrine, from war and bloodshed, from plague and pestilence, from all calamity by fire and water, from hail and tempest, from failure of harvest and from famine, from anguish of heart and despair of Your mercy, and from an evil death. In every time of trouble, show Yourself a very present help, the Savior of all, especially to those who believe.”
Another example: “Graciously defend us from all calamity by fire and water, from war and pestilence, from scarcity and famine, and from every other evil… Be the God and Father of the lonely and the forsaken, the helper of the sick and needy, the comforter of the distressed and those who sorrow.”
Further, we always pray the prayer our Lord has taught us, in which we pray, “Thy will be done,” and “Deliver us from evil.” In all things we pray our Heavenly Father’s will be done. In all things we pray that He deliver us from evil. The Lord’s Prayer is not only the prayer of the Christian Church in the Divine Service, it is our constant companion, our daily prayer.
What we have been doing is praying. What we will continue to do is pray.
What have we been doing along with the Holy Christian Church on earth all along, before the Coronavirus appeared? We have been gathering in the House of God for the Divine Service. We have been coming to the place where there is spiritual and eternal healing for all our ills. We have been hearing the Word of God and receiving the Sacrament of our Lord’s body and blood. The blessing declared upon eating drinking Christ’s holy body and blood addresses the Coronavirus and every illness we experience along with our natural disease of original sin: “The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen and preserve you in body and soul to life everlasting.”
The early Church described the Lord’s Supper as the medicine of immortality. There is no greater defense against any evil we face, whether a deadly plague or the sins and temptations that constantly afflict us. The Lord gives us Himself for our food in body and soul for our forgiveness, strength, and comfort.
I will continue to commune you with the body of Christ either directly into your mouth (in which case please open your mouth and place the tip of your tongue against your lower lip) or into your hands (in which case please hold your palms facing up). I will commune you with the blood of Christ either with the chalice (in which case please take the base of the chalice to guide it and drink from the chalice as you would from any cup by slowly tilting up your head) or you may receive an individual cup.
The comfort and benefit of the Lord’s Supper is our refuge. Our Lord has given us His Supper, His very Self, for our good, in body and soul. Those who receive it in an unworthy manner receive it to their harm, whether by unrepentance, holding to a different confession of faith, or unbelief. In this way it is like medicine. Medicine has great medical benefits if it is used properly. If used improperly it can cause medical harm and even death. But used properly it is for healing. Our Lord gives us His body to eat and His blood to drink for our healing. Coming to Him in faith, in repentance, in belief that He is giving to you Himself, giving to you what you need, you will not be harmed. How would our Lord invite us to such a great blessing only to bring harm on us? We trust that our Lord will use this Medicine of His to strengthen us in body and soul.
As far as greeting each other on Sunday, I will greet you in whatever way you would like to be greeted, whether it be shaking hands, fist bump, hug, or no contact at all. Immediately before the worship service begins I wash my hands so that there need be no concern about my hands transmitting anything during the Lord’s Supper.
God has granted us wisdom on this earth and that is why we do well to learn from the wisdom of such organizations as the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and our own doctor. It is not only our own age with our advanced technology that is of value in responding to a plague or any adversity in life. Five hundred years ago Martin Luther was asked whether Christians are free to flee a deadly plague. I strongly encourage you to read his letter in response. I will attach to this letter a summary of Luther’s letter and the website where you can find it. His grasp of Scripture and sound reason is a welcome voice in our society where there is anxiety and fear.
The Word of God is our refuge. Whatever anxieties or questions we have, ultimately the wisdom of the world will fail. Flee to the Word of God. God’s answer for all our ills (including both illness and our sin) is Christ. He suffered for all our infirmities (Isaiah 53:4). “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 14:8).
The Lord bless and keep you in all circumstances,