Dear People loved by God,
On February 26, we, along with countless other Christians around the world, were marked with ashes and heard the declaration, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Three days later the first death in the United States due to the COVID-19 virus was reported.
It is impossible to be a Christian and not think about death. “The wages of sin is death.” “While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’” (Rom. 6:23; Rom. 5:10; Rom. 6:3; 1 Cor. 11:26; Phil. 1:21; Rev. 2:10; 1 Cor. 15:54)
However, for most of us, death was not an immediate concern. Now, due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, we are all acutely aware of the reality of death—whether our own of that of a loved one. For much of the world, this awareness leads to fear and trembling.
Dear Christians, fear not! “Through death [Jesus] has destroyed the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” (Heb. 2:14) And “if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Rom. 6:5)
In faith therefore, and not fear, let us respond to the events unfolding around us. Recall the words of the prophet Joel, which were read on Ash Wednesday: “‘Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.’ Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber. Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep and say, ‘Spare your people, O Lord, and make not your heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, “Where is their God?”’ Then the Lord became jealous for his land and had pity on his people. The Lord answered and said to his people, ‘Behold, I am sending to you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations.’” (2:12-19)
While the entire life of the believer is to be one of repentance, according to the first of Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses, a time of pandemic is especially a time for Christians to respond with repentance, for “death spread to all men because all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) Yet our repentance always includes faith in the Lord our God, “for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.” (Joel 2:13)
On Ash Wednesday, we were reminded that we are dust, and to dust we shall return. That reminder has become all the more forceful in the last several weeks. However, Lent does not last forever, and neither does death. Easter is coming, and so too is our Risen Lord Jesus Christ. “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Phil. 3:20-21)
May the crucified and risen Lord Jesus bless and keep you in the one true faith unto life everlasting!
Daily Bible Lessons:
+ The Word of the Lord Endures Forever Podcast (see Archives for Gospel of John, otherwise currently in the book of Hebrews)
+ 40 Devotions of God’s Comfort from LCMS Disaster Relief (very appropriate for this time)
Apps for your smartphone:
PrayNow app (from Concordia Publishing House – It’s Treasury of Daily Prayer for your phone or tablet) – search your app store for “PrayNow”