Join us this Lent as Pastor Ted delves into the importance and meaning behind "What Lent Means to Us?"
Covid and Martin Luther
Pastor Ted’s Timely Take: Martin Luther and Our Covid 19 Plague
Did you know that a plague struck Wittenberg, Germany, between August and November 1527? The repeated plagues of the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries took three forms: (1) the Bubonic plague with bubble-like (hence the name, Bubonic) lymph node growths; (2) the pneumonic plague that infected the lungs with a 100% death rate; and (3) the Black Death, called this because of black boils that appeared on the skin. In the plague of 1347-1351, one third of Europe’s population perished.
 
As with our current pandemic, infection was spread primarily as aerosol through the breath, although in some cases by rat fleas.  During the Reformation period you might invite a plague doctor to come to your home. The mask the plague doctor would wear looked like a bird’s bill to protect both the doctor and the patient from breath exchange.
 
 
 
Martin Luther was ill at this time in 1527, although not sick from the virus. He rolled up his sleeves and did what he could in Wittenberg to nurse those who were sick and dying. His prince asked him to move to Jena where the university was being transplanted; but Luther refused in order to remain in Wittenberg to help other citizens.
 
It is fascinating to read Luther’s thoughts now five centuries later. Luther did not have the equivalent of Dr. Fauci or Dr. Collins to explain the science. Luther thought that the virus was sent by Satan aided by the stupidity of infected people who refused to quarantine themselves to prevent the spread.
 
Should a devout Christian run away in order to escape infection? No. Luther wrote an essay in 1527, “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague.” Stay and be of help to others, he trumpeted. “Now if a deadly epidemic strikes, we should stay where we are, make our preparations, and take courage in the fact that we are mutually bound together…so that we cannot desert one another or flee from one another.”[1]
 
Luther also recognized that some of us are too weak in faith to muster the courage. If you lack a strong faith, then it would be okay to flee to the farm or to an as yet uninfected city.
 
 
 
Like Dr. Fauci, Luther believed that those testing positive should wear a mask in public (or the equivalent) and quarantine themselves. “Those who become infected will stay away from other people.”[2]
 
Now, get this. Terrifying news broke. Some Germans were behaving then like Texans are today. These terrorists refused to quarantine. Rather, they deliberately risked their own lives and others to spread the infection. “I have been told that some are so incredibly vicious that they circulate among people…and wish to carry [the plague] in, as though it were a prank…I do not know whether we Germans are not really devils instead of human beings…the judge [should] take them by the ear and turn them over to Master Jack, the hangman, as outright and deliberate murderers.”[3] If Luther were alive today, he would dub such people “murderers” and demand the death penalty.
 
It seems that human nature today is much like it was in sixteenth century Germany.
 
Now that we in Sonoma County have spent an entire year with Covid 19, we remember those who have fallen ill and those who have died. We also call to mind the struggle on the part of our leaders to persuade us to behave in the best interests of our own health and the health of the community around us. And, most importantly, we lift up the courageous doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, food handlers, cashiers and others who have engaged Covid 19 head on. We thank President Trump for the Warp Speed funding to develop vaccines; and we thank President Biden for oiling the gears on the delivery machinery so that you and I can benefit from the vaccines.
 
The fundamental symbol of the Christian faith is Jesus’ cross. On this cross Jesus suffered and died. Our faith does not paint a rosy picture of human life free from pain, anxiety, poverty, sickness, victimization, or even death. We pass through all these vicissitudes in order to get to resurrection. Our faith is a realistic faith. And we thank God for it.
[1] Martin Luther, "Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague,” The Annotated Luther, eds., Hans J. Hillerbrand, Kirsi I. Stjerna, and Timothy J. Wengert (6 Volumes: Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2015-2019) 4:385-410, at 398.  
[2] Ibid., 405.  
[3] Ibid., 403.  
Posted By: 3/16/2021 1:09:09 AM

A Walk-a-Day Keeps the Ambulance Away
Pastor Ted’s Timely Take:
A Walk-a-Day Keeps the Ambulance Away
 
 
 
There is nothing better for your body or your spirit than a vigorous walk in the morning. When sheltering in place every day to defend yourself against Covid 19, it may feel like your body’s decomposing like a compost pile. It may feel that your spirit’s turning from light gray to dark gray and then something even darker.
  
So, what’s the cure? A robust walk! After only five steps, your blood begins to circulate at a higher rate of speed. The speed of your heart increases; and this gives you an energetic feeling. The blood in your brain races through your cerebrum, oxygenating your synapses so that you think much more clearly. When you think clearly, you feel spiritually fit. You even cheer up.
 
Shortly after I arrived at Faith Lutheran Church in Portland, Oregon, to serve my year’s internship as a pastor, an elderly man showed up at my office. He introduced himself as George Bracher. He asked me for names and addresses of shut-ins. He planned to visit them and cheer them up. 
 
We chatted. He told me that at the age of 65 he had suffered a heart attack. His cardiologist told him that if he wanted to live long he would have to keep his heart strong. Walking could do that. So, Mr. Bracher resolved to walk three to five miles per day. “Just about every day since, I’ve walked those miles,” he told me. “So, I visit people all over northeast Portland so I have some place to walk to.”
 
“You’ve done this every day since you were 65?” I asked to get clarity. 
 
“Yes, indeed,” he said triumphantly.
 
I then asked the obvious, question, “How old are you, Mr. Bracher?”
 
His answer: “96.”
 
Case closed!
 
Pastor Ted

Posted By: 3/1/2021 11:52:13 AM

From Ashes to Ashes and Dust to Dust
 
 
Pastor Ted’s Timely Take:
From Ashes to Ashes and Dust to Dust
 
“Remember, you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This is what the pastor says to you when inscribing an ashen cross on your forehead each Ash Wednesday. This reflects Genesis 3:19; and up until recently it was said in Latin, “"Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris."
 
 
 
In Genesis 2:7 God creates the first human being by taking dust from the earth and breathing into it. “The Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.” God shapes the dust into human form just like a potter molds clay.  God is the potter, and you and I are the clay. God breathes into the clay figure the breath of life. And we become a living being.
 
This means you and I are a combination of soil and spirit, dust and breath, earth and heaven, The word for ‘spirit’ and the words, ‘air’ and ‘breath’, are all the same: ruach in Hebrew and pneuma in Greek. The first sign that we are dead is that we no longer breathe. When the breath—that is, when God’s spirit—departs, we die. We become only soil, only dust, only clay.        
If we get buried, we literally return to the soil. If we get cremated, we then turn into ashes. When we are dead, no breath is in us. No life.
 
On Ash Wednesday and through the 40 days of Lent, we think about our birth and death, our origin and destiny. We match our own life with the life of Jesus. Jesus, like us, was born with the breath of God and then lost it in death. Yet, on the first Easter Sunday, God re-breathed into the dead Jesus the breath of eternal life. Jesus rose never again to die. Hallelujah!
 
Christians East and West for centuries have marched through Lent at a deliberate pace, pausing daily to recall: “Jesus suffered and died; and so will I.”
 
To remind us of this inescapable fact, we change a habit or two. We practice abstinence—that is, we deny ourselves something we cherish so that we maintain an awareness of our vulnerability. Jesus was vulnerable to persecution, suffering, and even death. When we maintain this awareness of vulnerability, we can identify with Jesus.
 
If you want to diet, give up chocolate for Lent. Health enthusiasts recommend intermittent fasting: stop eating anything for 16 or 24 hours twice per week. However, the purpose of Lenten fasting is not to lose weight. Rather, fasting or any other kind of voluntary abstinence provides us with a daily reminder: “Jesus suffered and died; and so will I.”
 
Some years ago I spent Holy Week with a congregation of Rumanian Orthodox. Rumanian Orthodox churches belong to the Byzantine or Eastern tradition. We at Cross and Crown belong to the West, to the Latin tradition. The Eastern tradition developed many customs that differ from what we find familiar.
 
I experience how they treated Holy Week and Easter. From Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday I fasted. I ate no meat. I ate nothing all day until supper. I became a vegetarian for one week. Then, on Easter Sunday we celebrated with a hearty lamb feast.
 
At midnight on Holy Saturday leading to Easter Sunday, the Rumanian Christians shot off fire works and sang loudly out in the snow. They broke their fast and greeted Easter with great joy.
 
The joy of Easter contrasted sharply with abstinence and fasting. In fact, the little bit of self-denial made Easter all the more exciting for me. Easter announces that even though you and I face death and the loss of breath, God promises us a new breath and a new life. An eternal life.
 
Pastor Ted
TedsTimelyTake.com
Posted By: 2/15/2021 10:25:08 PM

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