Lord Jesus, You have said, “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand” [John 10:27-29]. Lord, this still remains true no matter what the circumstances are in which we now find ourselves.
♦ Lord, whatever those circumstances had been, they have radically changed for all of us over the last two months. On top of the other effects which we ordinarily suffer by living in a sin-cursed world, You have now allowed the CoViD-19 pandemic to befall us. It has upended our lives. It has forced us to separate from one another. It has forced some into utter isolation. It has forced the physical closure of our churches and schools. It has forced the closure of many businesses leading to the loss of jobs and income for many. It has forced many of us into new patterns of life, adding a new meaning of “Zoom” to our vocabularies. [
♦ Lord, our public health and political leaders have had to struggle with difficult decisions, first about what restrictions to impose and now what restrictions to ease. The path forward is unclear. Life-changing, even life-threatening, choices seem to be before us with very little clarity as to the proper bases for wise decisions. The shape of the future seems dark and unknowable.
Yet, Lord, what is knowable and absolutely certain is that You are God Almighty. You know all the circumstances of our lives — what You have allowed and why You have allowed it. You remain firmly in control. You know the path forward and how You will bring us into the future You already have planned for us and for all.
♦ Lord, as You hold us in your hands and carry us along that path forward, help us to hear Your voice, help us to not be afraid, help us to trust that You will provide for us in the all the ways we need. We do boldly ask for You to remove the pandemic from us. But until that day, guide the decision making by leaders in the government, in the medical field, in business and industry, as well as in Your church as we adapt to the changing facts of the pandemic. Preserve the health of those not infected with the corona virus; grant rapid and full healing to those who have CoViD-19, including Maxine Maly a member of our church, or who have any other disease or injury; grant peace, comfort, and the certain hope of the resurrection to those who have lost loved ones. Also, grant us hearts of gratitude for all your ongoing gifts and blessings.
♦ Lord Jesus, all this we pray in Your holy name. Amen.
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
It has been two months since we have been able to gather together in the Lord’s house to be on the receiving end of His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation, and then to respond with sacrifices of prayers and praise. Nevertheless, we rejoice and celebrate the fact that the Word of God has not been silenced. Through God’s gift of technology we have been able to record worship services and listen to the voice of our Good Shepherd through those means. We rejoice and celebrate the receiving of Jesus’ body and blood by way of our drive-through distributions of the Lord’s Supper. We also rejoice and celebrate that we have been able to finish our school’s academic year by utilizing online, distance learning.
But how long will we need to continue in these ways? Significant restrictions remain in place in Polk County. However, Governor Reynolds has lifted the restriction limiting group meetings to 10 people or less state-wide insofar as it applies to religious services. The leadership at Mt. Olive has discussed what we should do in light of this restriction change. The percentage of members of Mt. Olive who fall in the vulnerable categories by virtue of age or underlying health conditions is quite high. We do not want to do anything that will put God’s people at any
unacceptable risk for harm. Additionally, the numbers of people who have contracted CoViD-19 and the numbers of those dying from it are still climbing in Polk County. Given these considerations, we have determined that we will NOT resume face-to-face worship at this time even though the governor would permit it.
God willing, we will be returning to in-person worship sometime soon, but NO tentative date for that to happen has been set. We will continue in an ongoing way to assess the pandemic situation as it develops. We are certainly open to hearing any thoughts that any of you would like to share. You can contact me, any of the elders or officers of the congregation to do so.
In the meantime, I would encourage you to continue to make use of our recorded worship services. We are now releasing those at noon each Saturday. Also, I would invite and encourage you to participate in our drive-through celebrations of the Lord’s Supper. These are being done so as to minimize the possibilities of any transmission of the corona virus. Assuming that you are not living in a closed facility, if you would like for me to come to you to share the Lord’s Supper, I am also very willing to do that. Just give me a call on my cell: 515-721-4737.
I also want to invite and encourage each of you to make use of God’s other Means of Grace. Daily, as you shower, bathe, or wash your face, remember your baptism by making the sign of the cross and speaking God’s name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In your baptism you received the forgiveness of your sins and became a beloved child of God. Confession and Absolution is another sacrament that can be shared, using the gift of technology. A simple phone call can be the means for confessing sins that are burdening you and for receiving the Lord’s forgiveness from me as Jesus’ under-shepherd, His called and ordained servant at Mt. Olive.
If you find yourself in need of prayer or pastoral counsel, please do not hesitate to call me — even if it is 3:00 am. I’m not joking. This is why God has called me here as your pastor. Make use of me. If you have a concern or need, please reach out to me. If the thought floats through your mind, “Perhaps I should call Pastor Mark,” call! In addition to calling me, call one another. It doesn’t have to be a close friend. Simply call and say, “Hi. The Lord brought you into my mind, so I wanted to call and see how you are doing.” Then let the Lord guide your conversation from there. Or, you can do the same sort of thing via text messages, emails, Skype, or various video chat platforms. We are all members of the body of Christ and this is what God intends for us to do. As Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth: “...God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be. ...[S]o that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” [1 Corinthians 12:18, 25-27].
And finally, a word about the congregational meeting that had been scheduled for May 31. The two most important things on the agenda are the presentation and approval of the budget for the church and school in 2020-2021and also the election of officers. It is the intention of the Action Board to proceed with these two items of business. There will be a recorded presentation posted online for everyone who wishes to view. We are still considering possibilities for how to proceed technologically from there. You will receive notice when the presentation is ready to be viewed, and as to the process and timing by which the approval and elections will take place.
As we go forward into the coming days and weeks, may the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make His Face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; may Lord look upon you with favor and give you His peace [Numbers 6:22-27]. Amen. Pastor Mark Kleckner