God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,

though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam,

though the mountains tremble at its swelling (Ps 46:1-3).

The Lord does not panic. God fears nothing that the world has to offer. The devil can do nothing apart from God's permission. In His infinite wisdom, the Lord has allowed the COVID 19 Virus to emerge. What began in China is now rapidly spreading everywhere.. Governments around the world are acting to safeguard the health of their citizens and slow the spread of the virus. Federal, state and county governments are actively working to contain the spread of COVID 19.

Governor Pritzker has ordered that all public and private schools in Illinois be closed through the end of March. Dine-in restaurants and bars have likewise been closed. The state is restricting groups of 50 people and over not to meet. This may change as Federal Center for Disease Control advised Monday that this be lowered to groups of 10 or more people. This would effectively eliminate public worship services and most education classes. These restrictions may continue well beyond the end of March. This is unprecedented in our lifetimes.

As Christians, we need the Lord's good gifts now as much as ever. The Bible exhorts us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together as some are in the habit of doing (Hebrews 10:25). Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and treasure it (Luke 11:28). How can we serve God and honor the state in this crisis?

Fortunately, we have more means for communicating the Word of God than ever before. It is possible to stream your worship services live over Facebook or the Internet. Pastors can hold their services at the regular times and save them for viewing at different times. If one would do this, it might be good to have up to ten people, including the pastor and musicians, be present in the sanctuary as the service is held. It's hard to communicate without a response from hearers. Sermons can also be posted online, emailed and printed for distribution. The Lord's Supper could be administered to tables of ten while others practice safe social distancing awaiting their turn.

Personal individual pastoral care may enjoy a resurgence. Pastors should particularly check on their homebound or infirmed members. Call them on the phone, visit them in person, bring them the Lord's body and blood. Care centers and hospitals are doing their own screening of visitors. We wish to honor their vocations in addressing this crisis. It may be helpful if pastors wore their collars in making these visits.

These are indeed challenging times for all of us. Prayer for our nation and its leaders. Pray for the all medical personnel and researchers addressing the COVID 19 virus. Pray for all who are suffering economically from businesses shutting down or restricting hours. Pray for your neighbors and offer to assist them as opportunity arises. By God's grace we will get through this together.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; He burns the chariots with fire. Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress (Psalm 46:7-11).

Rev. Timothy Scharr, President

Southern Illinois District - LCMS