March 11, 2020

Dear Friends,

You know that potluck we had planned for this Sunday?

Yeah, you can see where this is going.

As of today, Arkansas has its first reported case of Covid-19. It’s no surprise to anyone. It was a matter of time.

The President tonight announced that, among other measures, he is suspending all travel to and from Europe for 30 days. Tom Hanks shared on social media that he and his wife Rita Wilson, while working in Australia, have tested positive for Covid-19. At the request of the Governor of Kentucky, Southern Seminary has decided to join with hundreds of colleges and educational institutions to move all classes on line for the time being. The NBA has postponed all games “until further notice” after a player in Utah was discovered to be infected. The Governor of Michigan, now with two reported cases of the coronavirus in Detroit, has joined with more than a dozen other states to declare a state of emergency. She is advising cancellation of any gatherings in Michigan that would bring together more than 100 people. Pastors in the state – along with pastors in many states – now have to decide about whether to hold services this week.

What about us?
As we face this unique uncertainty, our goal as a church is to be wise, appropriately cautious, while at the same time, not to respond to circumstances in fear. We are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves. Part of the way we do that is by helping to slow the rate of transmission. As we contemplate our weekly church gathering, those are the factors that are guiding our decision making.

Here’s what we’ve decided. Unless things change dramatically in the days and weeks ahead, we plan to continue meeting together each week for Sunday worship. We will continue practicing good hygiene and appropriate social distancing. There will be soap and water and hand sanitizer readily available. We’ll continue to take communion on Sunday as is our practice.

This week, instead of having you bring food from home for a church potluck and business meeting, we’ll bring pizza and brownies that will be served to you by servers wearing gloves. Some of you may prefer to bring your own sack lunch. Of course that’s fine. And some of you may decide to skip the service and the business meeting altogether. We understand that as well.

I spoke tonight with our own infectious disease doctor, John Dietrich and asked for his counsel. He reinforced everything we’ve been hearing about hand washing and covering your mouth if you cough or sneeze. If you’re having any symptoms – coughing, aches, fever, shortness of breath – stay home. If you’re someone at a higher risk for infection because of age, any heart or lung issues, or a suppressed immune system, it’s probably best for you to stay home as much as possible. You can tune in and worship with us on line. And if you need anything brought to you, know that you have friends and fellow church members who would count it a privilege to serve you and bring you whatever you need.

Pastor Todd Wagner at Watermark Church in Dallas wrote an article this week about our response as believers to the current coronavirus epidemic. I found his thoughts helpful. Here’s part of what he shared:

Throughout history, Christians have often stood out because they were willing to help the sick even during plagues, pandemics, and persecutions. They loved people and weren’t afraid of death because they understood that “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). By stepping into the mess of sickness and disease, they were able to demonstrate their faith to a watching world. So, rather than just asking “How do I stay healthy?” perhaps we should be also ask “How can I help the sick?” Let’s be quick to help and slow to hide in basements.

Prayer-infused confidence, compassion, and selflessness should mark how we talk about the coronavirus. Why? Because our Savior put on flesh (John 1:14) and stepped into our sickness, sin, and death. He healed the sick and cared for the hurting. We must do likewise.

And Jim Geraghty, writing today at offered this encouragement for all of us:

The task before us is daunting but achievable. The United States has 52 million citizens above the age of 65, and according to the CDC, 21.7 percent of those people are in “fair or poor health.” We’ve got anywhere between 10 million and, say, 15 minute Americans who are immunocompromised. There is some overlap between those groups. Let’s say we have 25 to 27 million Americans who are particularly at risk from serious health problems from coronavirus…

America has 327 million people. That means that the 300 million of us who at lower risk for serious health problems from coronavirus have to figure out a way to protect the other 25 million or so. This isn’t just a crisis, it’s a mission.

As sad as it is, I’m glad the leaders of the nursing-home industry are recommending a suspension of social visits. Call your grandmothers and grandfathers, email them, Skype them. If the authorities think the risk of virus transmission from deliveries are safe, send them care packages from Amazon. Let them know you care, but for now, those of us who could be asymptomatic carriers need to keep our physical distance.

Epidemiologists suggest eight weeks might be needed to arrest this outbreak… Eight weeks from now, the initial wave of cases will have been treated and we will know whether we “kept the curve low.”

We will get through this with some common sense, some good judgment, sensible precautions, and bearable sacrifices. The best thing about facing a challenge in America is that the vast majority of Americans will rise to any challenge. If you work in the health-care industry, this is your D-Day invasion. As for the rest of us, let’s not forget to take care of our caretakers.

Men’s Retreat
This Sunday is your final opportunity to confirm your spot to join with other guys from Redeemer for a 24 hour getaway that will include time in God’s word, axe throwing, target shooting, nail driving, food, fellowship and more fun! Our speaker, Landon Dowden is risking air travel to be with us next weekend. If you haven’t signed up yet guys, it’s time!

Here’s the info:
In John 2, we have an account of Jesus turning water into wine. John calls that “the first of His signs.” The second sign comes at the end of John 4, when Jesus heals the ailing son of a local official. But as we’ll see this Sunday, the miracles Jesus performed helped reveal what was really in the hearts of his fellow Galileans.

See you in church (as long as you’re feeling okay)!

Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Bob

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