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Every crisis brings disorientation. Whether you’re dealing with a natural disaster, political unrest, or something as strange as the COVID-19 pandemic, life changes. In the middle of crisis and change, Jesus Christ remains the same. As Christians, we are called to live by faith in Christ and in love toward our neighbors. Faith in the Shadow of a Pandemic discusses the impact of upheaval, important lessons learned from COVID-19, and how we can best serve our neighbors during times of chaos.

Your Neighbor in Need Is Christ to You

“It’s not the size of our neighborliness that Christ receives through the neighbor but the work of mercy stemming from a foundation of faith. And to do those things, be they big or small, is to exercise faith and therefore to draw near to Christ. And that is the second thing: in our neighbors in need, Christ draws near to us.”

“Martin Luther offered needed perspective in addressing these questions. In the letter to Pastor Hess, the reformer offers wise advice for combatting the spread of the plague, uses this opportunity to remind his readers of the necessity of being prepared to die, and makes a vivid application of his understanding of the biblical teaching of vocation.”

Luther’s Response to the Plague

Bearing the Burden of Masks and Social Distancing

“What this means, in terms of your neighbor, is that you wear a mask not because of your own fear of getting infected but out of proper concern about infecting someone else. This is why not wearing the mask manifests as a lack of love. It shows not that one is comfortable with increased danger to self but that one is comfortable with increased danger to the neighbor.”

“No matter where you are, be it in quarantine, homeless after a tornado, waist-deep in mud after a flood, or isolated in a hospital bed, you have the utterly reliable name of the Lord. You might not be able to join together with the congregation gathered in His name, yet you are not forsaken by the Lord of mercy. Your Baptism gives you that certainty.”

Discipleship from a Distance

The Lord’s Supper and COVID-19

“In some cases, pastors and congregations are electing to have services limited to ten people at a time. In other places, they have opted to “fast” from the Lord’s Table until such a time that the whole congregation may again reassemble. Then there are Christians in hospitals or care facilities, where a visit from the pastor is not allowed. What are faithful Christians who know their deep need for the Sacrament to do?”

“Death is magnified under the lens of the Law precisely that we might see it as the enemy that it is in reality. This enemy is not just waiting at some unknown moment in the future. Death projects itself back over every moment of life, even though we tend to ignore, deny, or suppress it. A global pandemic makes such a denial more difficult.”

Death in the Pandemic

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Meet the Authors

Rev. John T. Pless is assistant professor of pastoral ministry and missions at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He also serves as the director of field education for the seminary. Previously, Rev. Pless spent 17 years as a campus pastor at University Lutheran Chapel at the University of Minnesota. Rev. Pless is co-president of the International Loehe Society, a regular lecturer at various conferences, and a member of the LCMS Committee on the Sanctity of Human Life. Rev. Pless received his BA from Texas Lutheran College and his MDiv from Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio.

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Rev. Dr. Jacob Corzine is assistant professor of theology at Concordia University Chicago, where he teaches courses in Christian doctrine and, occasionally, German. Previously, he served in university ministry in Pretoria, South Africa. He holds a BA from Bradley University, an MDiv from Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne), and a ThD from the Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany.

Download a sample of Faith in the Shadow of a Pandemic to read about trusting God’s promises amid a global health crisis.