From the President's Desk:

The Church: Separated, but United

This issue of The Voice focuses on ministry and missions related to those who serve in the Armed Forces. Missouri District mission grants support the important work of our congregations in Knob Noster and St. Robert. Also featured are stories about those who have served in the past and those who currently serve our nation. May God continue to bless and keep all those have fought to defend our freedom! We pray that God would bless our nation to be a people united.

Church at its most basic definition means an assembly. The COVID-19 crisis has been taxing of health care professionals and civic leaders at every level. It has also challenged individual congregations while being called on to refrain from gathering out of concern for one another. How are we still the Church when we do not assemble? How are we still the Church when we do not meet together? Dear friends, the history of the Christian Church has seen times when groups of Christians were not able to gather. Though we have been distant and separated during this crisis, we are still united!

We can rejoice and give thanks to God for the blessing of technology that has allowed the saints of God to assemble in different ways than in the past. Throughout this crisis, pastors and tech-savvy laypeople have adapted to the circumstances so that the Word of God can continue to reach the members of the flock. Streaming and recorded services have enabled us gather around the Word in our homes as it continues to dwell richly within us. This gift of technology should not be taken for granted, but is something for which we can rejoice as the Church has continued to assemble together to receive Christ, present in His Word.

However, a streamed or recorded service is never the ultimate goal. We are not content to be simply hearing the Word of God as it is proclaimed via technology. What we find described and portrayed in the Scriptures is a community of believers who gather around Word and Sacraments, praise God for His mercy and grace, offer our gifts to the Lord for the work of His Church, and finally to pray for and care for one another. It is a beautiful thing to behold when a community of faith cares for another, flowing from the font, the lectern, the pulpit and the altar. Since Christ has so loved you, what a blessing it is to show care and concern for the other members of your community of faith.

This pandemic should highlight the unity that we have in Christ Jesus. During a time of distance and separation, like St. Paul, we have longed to see our fellow believers and to celebrate the unity we share. Though we may have different opinions over how restricted or open our communities or even our congregation is during this time, we are united in Christ. Christians can disagree while bearing with one another in love. Elders may not be in complete agreement on when a congregation gathers for worship. School board members may find unanimity difficult in determining when to reopen the school. In spite of differences of opinion of such decisions, we are united in our confession of faith, in the mission that Christ has given to His Church, in the works of mercy that we can show to our neighbor in need, and ultimately in our certainty of God’s love for us in Jesus.

Our congregations will not all reopen on the same date. Even when our congregations do reopen, there will be individual members who are not able to return because of their own health concerns. Yet we are one people, united in Christ, in confession, in purpose, in mission. These are certainly trying times, but our Lord continues to be at work through the Church and our individual congregations even in these dark and latter days. May God bless your congregation with a unity of faith and purpose as God continues His work among us!

Fraternally in Christ,

President Lee Hagan