My dear friends in Christ,
What a joy it has been to be with you all this semester, in the Divine Service, in Bible Study, in prayer, and in our many wonderful activities and meals together. You are a gift of God to me. I have a couple things to say, and then further down I will cover the nuts and bolts of the next couple weeks (as well as an important survey link which I ask you to please fill out).
I’m sorry that last Sunday, and this last week before Thanksgiving and Fall Break, has demanded a bit of a soft lockdown at UniLu. However, with our local community case numbers rising rapidly – not to mention some close calls and possible COVID exposures – it is time to scale back and stick to the “essentials,” as we’re being asked to do. This is a privilege to honor the authorities and to serve our neighbors.
As many of you prepare to leave for Thanksgiving, and possibly for the semester, I’d like to offer some pastoral advice on said “essentials.” Last spring, with COVID-19 an unknown yet clear risk, everything shut down for a time, including most churches. In an emergency this can be necessary. However, what was a time of unknown risks and uncertainty is past. We can now meet carefully and with much less risk.
Just as we need earthly food for our bodies, we need heavenly food for our bodies and souls. This food is the gift that our Lord Jesus Christ delivers to us in the Divine Service – the Word of God in Scripture and Sermon, as well as the Word made flesh in the Body and Blood of the Lord’s Supper. These things cannot be well-delivered virtually (or at all, in the case of the Supper). Jesus gathers us together in a congregation, and He sends pastors to deliver these gifts to us in His stead. We are not stand-alone Christians, but are the Body of Christ who are gathered in a particular place with Jesus present among us. This is the simple, clear way that Christ works. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
All that said: please find a way to physically go to the Divine Service. When you are home, if it’s offered, go. Do so carefully, of course, but go. And when you’re in Champaign, likewise. Come to UniLu. We will continue to offer Christ’s gifts as we carefully gather. We are beginning to livestream the Service again at UniLu, but this is done for those who either cannot come (quarantined or isolated, for example), or for those who are struggling to trust that the Lord will only give them good things in our gathering around His Word and Supper.
Please take this opportunity to reflect and consider your reasons: are you unable or afraid to come, or are you giving in to your flesh so as to avoid hearing the Word and receiving the Supper? (That is, not caring about coming to the Service, or being lazy, or watching a livestream whenever it’s convenient and requiring little effort on your part.) If it’s the first, please let me know, so we can talk and pray together. If it’s the second, then I urge you to repent and flee to Christ’s forgiveness. He’s got it in abundance and is glad to give it to you.
Now then, some nuts and bolts:
- Would you please fill out a survey for me? There are a few questions about Thanksgiving and Winter Break plans, contact info, names and addresses of those whom you’d like to receive our UniLu Christmas Card, and an audio Bible. Access the survey here: https://forms.gle/Grpp9GContgYPMjs5
- We will be very “essential” in what we do together over the next couple weeks. Here’s what will be offered:
- Sunday, November 22nd – Last Sunday Divine Service at 10:30 A.M.
- Wednesday, November 25th – Thanksgiving Divine Service at 7 P.M.
- Sunday, November 29th – Ad Te Levavi (Advent 1) Divine Service at 10:30 A.M.
- If you would like access to UniLu for studying or test-taking this week, please contact me to arrange it. I’m happy to help you out as I’m able.
I’ll be in touch about Advent/Christmas plans around the 1st Sunday in Advent.
Christ keep you,