Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Lutherans Responding to Ebola

Over the last month or so, you have likely heard that the Ebola virus is causing havoc in certain parts of Africa including Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia.  The American media becomes most interested in the outbreak when American volunteers become infected with the virus.  Once these Americans either recover from the disease or fall victim to the disease, the American media turns its attention elsewhere.

However, the virus marches on.  While precautions can be taken to prevent the transmission of the disease, many do not have the necessary training or safety equipment to use these precautions effectively.  Worse, some communities have assumed a corporate attitude of denial, entered a medical facility meant to isolate the sick, stolen beds and medical equipment used to treat Ebola patients (a sure-fire way to spread the virus), and insisted that the patients are suffering from malaria.  The lack of equipment, training, facilities, and understanding all come together to prevent the containment of the Ebola virus.

Lutheran Disaster Response is stepping into the breach and helping to contain the Ebola virus.  They have put out a plea for financial donations which they can use to answer the call from our partners and companion churches who have "requested our help in responding to the outbreak with food distributions, shipment of personal protective equipment, training health workers, outreach through education about prevention, and construction of an isolation unit at Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing in Liberia.  Your gift designated for the Ebola Outbreak Response will be used in full (100 percent) to assist those who are suffering and living with the threat of this virus."

I invite you to click here to open the ELCA's designated donation page and donate what you can to Lutheran Disaster Response's efforts to contain the Ebola virus.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Promise of Resurrection in a Funeral Liturgy

First, I apologize for not writing a new post in recent weeks.  Since the last post, I have moved from one state to another, became ordained as a pastor within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and started as the called pastor of a congregation here in Ripley County.  This has kept me very busy and prevented me from returning to this blog.  I am still trying to establish my week-to-week routine, so blogging may be light until I can establish that routine.

I have already presided over a funeral in my new calling.  I also have a committal service in the near future (note to my congregation: no, you did not miss the news of another death in the congregation this week).  Because of this, I have spent time preparing to lead people as they prayed the prayers of the funeral liturgy within the Lutheran Book of Worship (or LBW).  I was struck again by how often these prayers point to the Lord's promise of a physical resurrection at the end of the age.  I invite you to pray these prayers and remember the Lord's promise of resurrection.

"When we were baptized in Christ Jesus, we were baptized into his death.  We were buried therefore with him by Baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live a new life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his."  (Page 206, a paraphrase of Romans 6:3-5
"Grant that all who have been baptized into Christ's death and resurrection may die to sin and rise to newness of life and that through the grave and gate of death we may pass with him to our joyful resurrection."  (Page 209) 
"Help us, we pray, in the midst of things we cannot understand, to believe and trust in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection to life everlasting."  (Page 210, a paraphrase of a portion of the third article of the Apostles Creed
"Almighty God, by the death and burial of Jesus, your anointed, you have destroyed death and sanctified the graves of all your saints.  Keep our brother/sister, whose body we now lay to rest, in the company of all your saints and, at the last, raise him/her up to share with all your faithful people the endless joy and peace won through the glorious resurrection of Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever."  (Page 212, italics in the original) 
"Since almighty God has called our brother/sister, (name), from this life to himself, we commit his/her body to the earth from which it was made/the deep/the elements/its resting place.  Christ was the first to rise from the dead, and we know that he will raise up our mortal bodies to be like his in glory.  We commend our brother/sister to the Lord: May the Lord receive him/her into his peace and raise him/her up on the last day." (Page 213, italics in the original)

Sometimes, our belief in the resurrection of the body is the weakest strand of our faith that we profess using either the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed.  But St. Paul claimed that the Corinthians got many other beliefs and practices wrong because they did not get this theological plank correct (see 1 Corinthians 15).  Perhaps we also get other beliefs and practices wrong because we do not always grasp this promise and truly understand it.  Or, perhaps we believe it, but we do not know how to best talk about it.

Do you find it difficult to understand and trust the Lord's promise of the resurrection of the body?  If so, what are your stumbling blocks?  If not, what reassures you that the promise is true?