Christ Our Hope Lutheran Church

P. O. Box 961690
Riverdale, Georgia 30296
(770) 997-7117                                    (770) 997-3312

Jeffrey M. Halenza, Pastor

April 1, 2020

Dear Member,

     Attached is the prayer we would have prayed tonight had we been able to hold a Lenten service at church. As I have reminded you these past few weeks, I wrote the prayers in mid-February when I did my preparation for Lent and thus they were not written with the coronavirus in mind. I do hope, however, that the attached prayer does speak in some way to what we are going through.

     I have also attached some thoughts on what a member once said to me when she was hospitalized. Even though it was thirty years ago, it has stayed with me and it often comes to mind just as it did a few days ago. Perhaps it will get you to thinking as it does me.

     Please remember that we will have a conference call tonight from 7:00 – 7:30 PM. The phone number is 877-853-5257 and the ID code is 404 176 812. If you wish to participate via Zoom please refer to Pastor Flanigan’s email sent out yesterday and click on the link. We encourage you to join in on this chance to talk with other members.

                                                           May God continue to strengthen you and shield you,

                                                             Pastor Halenza




     The other day something came to mind as I was listening to news about what people are doing in response to the coronavirus crisis. What came to mind was what a member of the congregation said to me many years ago when I visited her in the hospital. She was recovering from a serious illness and what she said to me was this: “I just don’t know what people do without a church!

     What she meant was not church in the sense of institution or dogma or ritual, but church in the sense of being church to others: supporting them, caring for them, being there for them, praying for them, helping them through whatever they are facing. The member was in her late seventies, had never been married, lived alone, and had no family except for a brother in Baltimore. Without the church, she would have had no one to turn to, no one to be there for her as we had been. And so she said: “I just don’t know what people do without a church!”

     And what do people do?  Well, we’re finding out because the majority of people in our country are unchurched, have no connection to a church. And the irony is that what many of the unchurched are doing is being church to others, church in the best sense: they are actually noticing and meeting their neighbors for the first time, checking up on them, being a good neighbor; they are showing support for health care workers and all who are at risk as they work to keep us well and safe, fed and supplied with what we need; they are finding ways of caring for the isolated and alone and lifting their spirits; they are being there for strangers; they are trying to help one another make it through. People are discovering that that they need each other, what a difference kindness makes, and all that people can do when they come together for the sake of what is good and right.

     The sadness is that it takes a crisis to remind us of this and bring out our best selves. When people are healthy and the stock market is on a roll and everything is going their way, many will believe that they really don’t need anyone else and are actually proud of it. It’s a lie, of course, but it takes a crisis to see the truth. The truth is that we need each other, that nations need each other, that only together can we make it through the crises that come. In other words, our hope lies in being church in the sense of being human one to the other, being the real human beings we were created to be and Christ calls us to be.

     But before we who are still connected to a church start patting ourselves on the back, we need to take a good look at what’s happening and ask if the unchurched are being more church than the churched. Are we truly living our belief and being Christ to others both in the congregation and beyond? I think we as a church truly are being Christ to others, are a church in the best sense – praying for one another, supporting one another, checking up on one another, being there for one another, serving others in whatever way we can. 

     But still we need to ask ourselves the question again and again because at times we fail others, fail them miserably. According to Jesus, the odd thing is that sometimes people who don’t know him are more him to others than people who do know him. So maybe the unchurched can teach us a thing or two just as we can teach them a thing or two and together we can be Christ to others in ways that Christ would recognize, no matter what we believe or they believe, and together be hope, the very hope that is Christ.

     “I just don’t know what people do without a church!” she said. And years ago it got me to thinking about how important it is to be church to others. Perhaps it will get us all to thinking and help us continue to be church in the best sense, and be the best church we can be!