My Responsibility to my Neighbor amid Coronavirus, Covid-19

 Psalm 121:1

<A Song of Ascents.>
I lift up my eyes to the hills — from where will my help come?
2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
8 The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.

So in an attempt to keep some normalcy in the midst of the abnormal situation we find ourselves within I am going to be doing a short update and reflection each day about how my faith helps me understand how I am to respond in the midst of the situation. I’ll share about the plan for this week at the end of this reflection but today I want to talk about my responsibility to my neighbor:

We all know the two great commandments: to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We trust in God, but we are also called to live responsibly in respect to our neighbors. I’ve seen a lot of things online that are not helpful, where people mock the careful actions of social distancing.

Martin Luther did deal with the issue of a pandemic in his writings. Now the pandemic in the 1500s was Bubonic plague and thankfully we are not facing something as lethal as that was for Europe, but his frame of reference is how we treat our neighbor and our responsibility to our neighbor.

In the same way we must and we owe it to our neighbor to accord him the same treatment in other troubles and perils, also. If his house is on fire, love compels me to run to help him extinguish the flames. If there are enough other people around to put the fire out, I may either go home or remain to help. If he falls into the water or into a pit I dare not turn away but must hurry to help him as best I can. If there are others to do it, I am released. If I see that he is hungry or thirsty, I cannot ignore him but must offer food and drink, not considering whether I would risk impoverishing myself by doing so. A man who will not help or support others unless he can do so without affecting his safety or his property will never help his neighbor Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, 742-743

Others may have seen the following quote from this work circulating over the last couple days, but if you haven’t its worth sharing:

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 of others. If my neighbor needs my, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely…See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God. Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings 749

We do what we can to protect ourselves and our neighbor, but if my neighbor has a need a part of our calling as Christians is to respond on our neighbor’s behalf.

I’m always looking for things particularly well said, and I found this poem by Lynn Ungar written at the end of last week profound and beautiful.


What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

–Lynn Ungar 3/11/20

We are all in this together and we are all in this with God where our help comes from

Some updates about things coming this week:
Here is what I am planning for video  discussions:
Monday- My responsibility to my neighbor
Tuesday-Staying connected as community
Wednesday-Our normal Wednesday night Lenten service digital
Thursday-Caring for ourselves and others in this time
Friday-Spiritual practice- Prayer
Sunday-Virtual worship

We also just set up on our website a place where people could ask for items or volunteer items in case of needs as they arrive. We are coordinating with the groups that have used our building and the local schools to see how we can work together to meet the needs at this time.  Not sure how this will evolve but we’ve created a space for this.


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