March 25, 2020
I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.” – Psalm 122:1
Dear members and friends of Ascension,
One week has passed since my first letter in response to Governor Walz’s executive order 20-04 and a lot has changed in that short time. Our state government has moved from closing certain public establishments and restricting others to drive-through service only and recommending gathering in groups of 10 or less to the newest executive order 20-20 known as “Stay Home MN.” Therefore I am responding to this Stay at Home order in order to encourage you with good news, because although our earthly situation may be changing rapidly, the truth of the Gospel has not and will not change. Please allow me to elaborate.
As citizens of the United States and residents of Minnesota we are called by God to be obedient to our public officials insofar as they do not tell us to act contrary to God’s Word. The most recent executive order does not ask us to disobey our Lord, and therefore Ascension will be abiding by it. I believe that our state government has good intentions for the Stay at Home order and, God-willing, the benefits of following this executive order will be seen in the coming weeks and months. As I encouraged you last week I do so again: DO NOT allow fear to dictate your actions. Jesus has given us the victory over all the problems this world can send our way, including the COVID-19 outbreak. Rest in the peace that you have been given in knowing Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Use God’s grace to reassure yourself of his providence in the face of uncertainty and tribulation.
Believing that God can do all things, including removing the Corona virus from our world, we will continue to pray for his mercy in our lives. Trusting in the means of grace to grant us forgiveness and strengthen our faith in the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—we will continue to provide both Word and Sacrament ministry to our congregation, albeit in a slightly different way than normal.
In light of the Stay Home MN executive order Ascension’s worship services will NOT be open to the public until our Good Friday evening worship service at 7:00 PM on April 10th (subject to change depending on future executive orders extending the end date for the Stay Home MN protocols). However, we will still be holding our divine services, midweek Lenten services, and Holy Week services, and broadcasting them on-line as we have already begun doing via Facebook Live, YouTube, and our website. See below for the specifics of these options.*
Our Sunday morning and Wednesday evening Bible studies will be placed on hold until further notice, but you are encouraged to continue your personal study of God’s Word at home. I would recommend that you use the current situation to begin or increase your use of the free subscription to RightNow Media that Ascension provides for you. Might I suggest that you check out Matt Chandler’s study of Psalm 23 as it provides amazing insight to this familiar and comforting psalm. If you do not remember your RightNow Media login or have questions regarding this free subscription, please contact Pastor Joel for assistance.
In addition, this newest executive order does not change our planned community meals: Meet-N-Eat (3rd Monday each month) and Meal&Movie (2nd Friday each month with the exception of this April which falls on Good Friday). We had already been planning to provide “take-out/drive-thru” service in compliance with Governor Walz’s previous executive order 20-04 and the more recent 20-18 which extends that protocol through May 1st.
Another point of concern is the need for hospital visits and/or spiritual counseling visits. Please do not hesitate to contact me or your lay minister to request a visit. The Stay Home MN executive order does provide for this type of care as it falls under critical sector exemptions (Executive Order 20-20 – 6.v. and 6.bb.) that allows pastors to provide essential spiritual care that is needed by members of the congregation. Please understand that all mitigation practices will be adhered to during this time, including handwashing, sanitization, and social distancing.
Finally, because on-line broadcasting of God’s Word does NOT allow for the incarnational presence of Christ enjoyed in the Lord’s Supper, I would encourage you to request a shut-in visit from your pastor. This will allow me to provide the precious body and blood of Christ through the service of “Communion of the Homebound.” This is a simple worship service that I have been using with Ascension’s existing shut-in members and would be delighted to offer to all who hunger and thirst for the real presence of Jesus in the Sacrament of the Altar. As with the aforementioned spiritual care visits, I will be adhering to all mitigation practices during these visits also.
As much has changed in the past week we may expect much to change in the weeks ahead. However, rest assured that you and I are able to rejoice in the truth of God’s unchanging Word. He is with us always. He will never leave us or forsake us. His love for us endures forever. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God that is found in Christ Jesus our Lord. With that Good News providing us peace and strength to persevere in these uncertain times, we await the Lord’s deliverance from this deadly pestilence, calling out “Hosanna” (“save us”) and “Kyrie Eleison” (“Lord, have mercy”)!
God’s blessings on your day!
Sharing Christ’s Love – Growing in Grace!
*On-line viewing options for Ascension’s worship services.
1) Facebook Live – www.facebook.com/ascensionburnsville/videos/
2) Website – www.ascensionburnsville.org and select the Worship Services menu
3) YouTube – www.youtube.com and search for “Ascension Worship Channel” – you may wish to SUBSCRIBE to our channel for easier access to videos in the future