Martin Luther’s “Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague” is Helpful to Meditate Upon Regarding Our Recent Move to Online Webcast Worship Services During the Coronavirus Pandemic

For Lord’s Day, March 29, 2020

Dear Saints,

It has been a long time since I’ve done an e-devotion.  My apologies for that.  I’ve been working on one to share along with an online video which I’ve referenced in several sermons not long ago.  But I could use more time, and I just received a timely sermon selection by Martin Luther in an email from brother Mike Delgado that relates to our situation with the coronavirus which I’d like to share instead with you this evening while providing a link to tomorrow’s bulletin and mp3s of Psalms to sing for your reference and preparation (see the end of this email).  As we went to online webcasting of our worship services from the manse last week, a reminder that we still have our live 10:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. worship services through a video box tool on our homepage (www.puritanchurch.com); www.sermonaudio.com/puritanchurch; or (a new link I learned of that will open the video large in a new screen for easier viewing): https://www.sermonaudio.com/player/webcast/puritanchurch/; (it also can be listened to on a phone line at 712-432-3410 (dial 2 to select a church and then enter our code: 53205).

Below follows the sermon by the Reformer Martin Luther as shared on the weekly Aquila Report (a website resource I highly recommend to you, and you can sign up for their top ten weekly emails).  You can search the sermon to learn of the context that is very much relative to our situation with how to handle the coronavirus as the Church presently (and as Mr. Delgado notes in sharing it with me, it would seem to support our church’s present practice as shared in our letter to you per email that is also still available on our website or direct link here: http://puritanchurch.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Corona-Virus-Letter-to-Church-About-Public-Worship-03.21.2020.pdf). 

While I did not notice a selected themed Scripture text for Luther’s sermon, let me remind us of Romans 13:1-10 (last week’s morning message text, see especially verse 9) and the Sixth Commandment: “Thou Shalt Not Kill” (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17).

From a sermon by Martin Luther, “Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague,” [source: https://www.theaquilareport.com/whether-one-may-flee-from-a-deadly-plague/]

“Others sin on the right hand. They are much too rash and reckless, tempting God and disregarding everything which might counteract death and the plague. They disdain the use of medicines; they do not avoid places and persons infected by the plague, but lightheartedly make sport of it and wish to prove how independent they are.

They say that it is God’s punishment; if He wants to protect them He can do so without medicines or our carefulness. This is not trusting God but tempting Him. God has created medicines and provided us with intelligence to guard and take good care of the body so that we can live in good health.

If one makes no use of intelligence or medicine when he could do so without detriment to his neighbor, such a person injures his body and must beware lest he become a suicide in God’s eyes. By the same reasoning a person might forego eating and drinking, clothing and shelter, and boldly proclaim his faith that if God wanted to preserve him from starvation and cold, he could do so without food and clothing.

Actually that would be suicide. It is even more shameful for a person to pay no heed to his own body and to fail to protect it against the plague the best he is able, and then to infect and poison others who might have remained alive if he had taken care of his body as he should have.

He is thus responsible before God for his neighbor’s death and is a murderer many times over. Indeed, such people behave as though a house were burning in the city and nobody were trying to put the fire out. Instead they give leeway to the flames so that the whole city is consumed, saying that if God so willed, he could save the city without water to quench the fire.

No, my dear friends, that is no good. Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate the house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence or has recovered, and act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city.

What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body? You ought to think this way:

“Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal. Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it.

I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.

If God should wish to take me, He will surely find me and I have done what He has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others.

If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.

Moreover, he who has contracted the disease and recovered should keep away from others and not admit them into his presence unless it be necessary.

Though one should aid him in his time of need, as previously pointed out, he in turn should, after his recovery, so act toward others that no one becomes unnecessarily endangered on his account and so cause another’s death. ‘Whoever loves danger,’ says the wise man, ‘will perish by it.’”

Martin Luther, “Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague,” Luther’s Works, Vol. 43: Devotional Writings II (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 43; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 43: 131–132.

Perhaps it is beneficial to close with the sermon title from last Lord’s Day’s morning service: “Submit to the Government Serving God to Save Lives.”

Stay safe, beloved. And preserve and protect the lives of others. And let us gather together via tomorrow’s webcast as a covenanted church to worship the Lord on His Holy Day (all who get this e-devotion are most welcome to join us).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Here is the link to our website’s Services page with the updated bulletin for this week: http://puritanchurch.com/services (or the direct link to the bulletin  here: http://puritanchurch.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Bulletin-TEMP.pdf). 

Click here to scroll to the following audio Psalms to play and practice in your family worship for what we will sing for corporate worship together by our lead from the manse: http://puritanchurch.com/services/psalms/ 

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

PS: we are now mentioned on our local Christian radio station’s list of live worship webcasts while dealing with the coronavirus: https://kprz.com/content/church-service-live-streams

Mr. Delgado also found the full sermon [cited above] online in the Lutheran Witness.  You can read it here: https://blogs.lcms.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Plague-blogLW.pdf

Redeem Your Time While There is Time

For Lord’s Day, May 14, 2015

Dear Saints,

This week, in this blog, I saw this cartoon:

This reminded me of this cartoon I saw on the wall while visiting Isaac’s doctor recently:

These just seem to go together and invite serious meditation.  I’ll let them speak for themselves, and close with this:

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant