Sola Scientia

The Covid-19 Chronicles: Reflections in a Pandemic, Part 9

I’m a big fan of science. Having spent six years of my college and graduate education and the first seven of my vocational years in chemistry, science is in my intellectual DNA. As a pastor-theologian, the only chemistry I practice these days is in the kitchen and meticulously studying those fine-print sheets that accompany prescription medications. However, the recent Covid-19 crisis has reawakened my science brain. With hockey and baseball down for the season, I now spend my free time perusing abstracts from Cell, Nature, and JAMA, and watching scientists discuss real-time, collaborative science on a global scale. I may never return to sports. Who could have foreseen the day when Dr. Anthony Fauci of the NIH would have a bobblehead, a T-shirt, and a parody on Saturday Night Live? This is the revenge of the nerds.

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Ecclesia Virtualis

The Covid-19 Chronicles : Reflections in a Pandemic, Part 8

“Our churches also teach that one holy church is to continue forever. This church is the assembly of saints in which the Gospel is taught purely and the sacraments are administered rightly.” – Augsburg Confession VII

The Covid-19 crisis has catapulted the church into the internet age of live-stream, Zoom, and audio/video services – the virtual printing press of our time. Unable to gather in groups due to health concerns, congregations are resorting to virtual gatherings as a placeholder for corporate worship. It’s the next best thing to being there. Or is it?

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Eucharistic Fasting

The Covid-19 Chronicles : Reflections in a Pandemic, Part 6

The Covid-19 pandemic has created something of a crisis of communion in the Church. The Orthodox churches have largely suspended communion where they cannot gather. So also have the Roman churches. For non-sacramental protestants, this is not as much of a problem because music, preaching, and Bible study can be live-streamed or recorded. But for the sacramental churches, quarantine at home measures pose a serious challenge to theology and practice. Many Lutheran churches have resorted to a variety of extraordinary measures, attempting to comply with local health directives and sanitary practices while offering the Sacrament to the faithful. These measures include serial small group communions, private communions, drive-in communions, and in a few cases, virtual communions over the internet.

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The Covid-19 Chronicles : Reflections in a Pandemic, Part 5

“There were some present at that very time who told him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.  And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus?  I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” – Luke 13:1-5

I’ve chosen to title this essay “Metanoia” rather than the usual English rendering “repentance,” to avoid the common misunderstanding associated with the word. When we hear the word “repent,” especially coming from religious circles (though it is not originally a religious word), we tend to think in terms of “stop sinning and straighten out your life,” in the way of a Kentucky revival preacher.

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Word and Prayer

The Covid-19 Chronicles : Reflections in a Pandemic, Part 4

“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day….” Revelation 1:10

John was in exile on the island of Patmos, a bishop separated from his congregations. He had neither pulpit nor altar. It was Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the Day of Resurrection. What was John to do on his island of exile? John prayed. He was “in the Spirit,” worshipping in spirit and truth.

When the church is gathered as a body, we speak of “Word and Sacrament.” This is what the gathered church is gathered around – the preaching of the Word, the Breaking of the Bread, and the communal prayers of the church (Acts 2:42). This is the church’s koinonia, her common life together. But what happens when the church is scattered, for whatever reason, be it persecution or pestilence? What then?

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Exiled in Babylon

The Covid-19 Chronicles : Reflections in a Pandemic, Part 3

When the Babylonians ransacked Jerusalem and destroyed the temple in 586 BC, the residents of Judea were carried off into exile, as prophesied by Jeremiah, who didn’t exactly win popularity points with a people who thought they were invincible as God’s chosen people. During their years in Babylon, the Israelites built homes, raised families, opened businesses, and settled into life in a land not their own. Some, like Daniel, Shadrach, Mishach, and Abednigo rose to high positions in the Babylonian government. 

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A Shake Test

The Covid-19 Chronicles : Reflections in a Pandemic, Part 2

I remember my 8th grade art teacher, whose classes were not so much art as they were craft. Lots of styrofoam, tooth picks, paper mache, white glue, and tempera paint. When evaluating our work, she would always pick it up and give it a firm shake to see how well it was constructed. “If it’s going to last, it has to be made well,” she’d say.

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