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The Church has been here before

Pastor William Cwirla at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Hacienda Heights, CA recently shared on Facebook an excerpt from a 1918 edition of The Lutheran Witness. This article reminds me that the Church has been through dark times before, but the Son of God has risen from the dead. The day of the resurrection sometimes will look like the sun at Noon. High and lifted up. There will be other times in our lives when the the twilight of the night still surrounds us but we see on the horizon the promised truth of the Light of the World shining.

The article says about the flue epidemic of 1918:

Family Devotion - During the present epidemic the Boards of Health of many cities have requested that congregations close schools, churches, and Sunday-schools until the danger had passed. Not only our pastors, but also the ministers of others churches advised their people through the public press, or otherwise, that during the closing of the churches they should read the Scriptures at home and have family prayers. In those homes in which this had been the custom before it was easily arranged. To others it was a novel experience. It is to be hoped that some who tasted the spiritual delight of family devotion will continue the practice in the future. Let no one imagine that the churches or the pastors fear that people will take to prayer in the family and neglect public services. The family that enjoys the reading of the Scriptures and family prayers during the week is the one which is most ready to visit the house of God whenever the doors are thrown open. The more members of a congregation practice home or family devotion, the better will be the church attendance in that congregation. That father and head of the house who gathers his household together each day because it is his intention and determination: "I and my house will serve the Lord," - that father will be of the same mind on the day when the churches are open and the pastor proclaims God's Word.

Are you looking for some good work to do? Would you do something to glorify God, something whereby you may show your gratitude towards the Savior, something whereby you may be yourself blessed, and whereby you may bless your neighbor, something whereby you may be a blessing to your whole country? Institute family devotion daily in your home. Go about it in a cheerful, friendly, evangelical manner. If that is daily done, you have accomplished something that will bless you and yours in time and eternity." 

From page 1 of the October 7, 1918 St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

We do not need to fear the present pall of fear and virus that has befallen our world. Romans 8:31-38 expresses the great confidence that has been true of the Christian faith from the beginning:

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

I have no fear that a stay at home order can destroy the faith of believers and the institution of the church. Faith comes by hearing. Hear the Word of God in your homes. When this is all over our doors will be thrown open and we rejoice to dwell in the habitation of our Lord.

Psalm 24 finishes with a celebration:

Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory! Selah

Daily, Pastor Woodfin and I are posting devotions at 8:45am and 8:45pm on Facebook Live and YouTube: You can find the playlist of devotions on our YouTube channel.

Posted by Evan Gaertner

What does Gather, Nurture, and Serve Look Like in OS@Home

Pastoral Letter to Our Shepherd

Responses to the coronavirus are escalating quickly in our world. As a congregation we have gone from…

  • “We’re monitoring the situation.”
  • “We are scaling back.”
  • “Our building is shutting down.”
  • “Shelter in place”

It is a confusing and scary time. We’d love to give you a hug, a handshake, and to see you face-to-face. That time will come. We will get through this together.

Our Shepherd still gathers, nurtures, and serves because Jesus loves.

Gather

The Gospel of Jesus Christ remains the truth that shapes our community. While we are not meeting in large groups to care for people who are vulnerable, the definition of our community has not changed. We are a communion of saints through the forgiveness of sins we receive in Jesus Christ. 

We have a page on our website (ourshepherd.net/osathome) that describes the best ways to view all the videos that are being produced to share God’s word. Our worship services are being live-streamed. All of these live videos are archived, and YouTube has the best system for selecting a video to watch from the collection we have produced.

Nurture

We are committed to nurturing one another through the study of God’s Word, Christian education, and living life together. 

Monday through Friday we livestream a morning devotion at 8:45am and an evening devotion at 8:45pm. 

We will lead Bible studies online. Dr. Mark Nimtz is working with the small group leaders and Bible study leaders to equip them with the tools to lead their studies using digital tools. Our school staff continues to provide education to our students through e-learning. Hannah Walsh will work with our youth to keep them connected to God’s Word and to one another.

The coronavirus has quickly changed how we live our lives together in this congregation. Nothing is business as usual. Daily we try to figure out what needs to be paused and what can be retooled for this dynamic time. 

Serve

It has been lovely to witness how the people of this congregation reach out to support each other during this time.

Support – OS and Each Other

We continue to support our faculty and staff, and operation costs continue. Please plan to support the ministry of Our Shepherd purposefully and proportionately. There are three ways to give:

  • Online at http://ourshepherd.net/give/.
  • Text the word "give" to 248.430.4403 and follow the link to complete
  • Mail your check to Our Shepherd, 2225 E. 14 Mile, Birmingham MI 48009

We understand that in some cases, income has been affected by the COVID-19 situation. If you need assistance in the form of groceries, or from Our Shepherd’s Love for Others Fund, please contact one of the pastors in confidence at 248.646.6100. Your fellow members have generously given to provide resources in times of need.

We have members and friends who do not use the Internet as their main source of information. If you know someone like this, please give them a call and let them know about the opportunities we’re providing to virtually gather together and hear God’s Word of comfort and strength. 

Have ideas of what the church could do to assist others? Please let us know.  This is new to all of us and we are sure there are currently gaps that we are not filling, simply because we are not aware of them.

In Closing

We are temporarily apart, but never alone! Let’s all continue to reach out and connect through technology, telephone calls, and perhaps even old-fashioned pen and paper, knowing that our Creator, Savior, and Sustainer God is always with us, and promises to never leave us nor forsake us. This loving encouragement in Hebrews 10:23 applies to us today, just as it did in the time of the early church:

“Let us hold steadfast to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful!” - Hebrews 10:23

We love you all! We miss being with you, and we know that when we are able to come together again, it will be a time of great joy and thanksgiving to God. For now, we’ll see you online. 

Your safety and health are important. Should you have any additional questions or concerns, please contact us.

Pastor Gaertner (

Pastor Woodfin (

Pastor Vieregge ( )

Posted by Evan Gaertner

Prayer for times of national crisis or calamity

Prayer for times of national crisis or calamity from the Lutheran Book of Prayer

Heavenly Father, I come to Your throne of mercy, bowed down and wearied by the weight of suffering and disaster visited upon our country. I beg you to protect this nation in our hour of need.

I acknowledge my trespasses before You and do not deny either my own transgressions of Your holy Law or the sins of other citizens in my household. We are laden with iniquity, but You call us to Your forgiveness, salvation, hope, and life.

Turn the hearts and minds of all to You, that they might find peace through the cleansing of Jesus' blood. Let me not be confounded or dismayed, so that I , a child of Your grace, may courageously speak to this needy world of the hope that is within me.

Make me an instrument of Your peace in a world of conflict, a witness to the power of faith in a world lost in unbelief, and a bearer of the joy that overcomes the sorrow of a fallen world. Grant to the leaders of this nation and all the nations of the world wise counsel, calm thinking, and unselfish aims. Amid the tumult of disaster, build Your kingdom and turn even more souls to Yourself.

Because of Your grace, we are not altogether lost but find peace and forgiveness in You. O Lord, give me the grace to seek You, trust You, and confess You; in Jesus' name. Amen.

Posted by Evan Gaertner

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