Dear Friends in Christ at Oak Harbor Lutheran Church,
We made a very difficult decision at our March 12 council meeting. Acting on the advice of our synod bishop and Island County Public Health we are cancelling all worship services and congregational activities at Oak Harbor Lutheran Church indefinitely.
Why are we doing this?
We are concerned about the most vulnerable in our society. This virus is most deadly to the elderly and those with underlying health problems. As Christians we value all human life and are willing to make sacrifices to preserve it. In gathering together for worship services, we could easily end up unwittingly spreading this virus to those least able to fight it.
We care about the members of our congregation. A large percentage of our congregation is over 60 years of age, which the CDC identifies as having a higher risk of serious complications from the virus. For a number of these stalwart members of our congregation, if we have a service, they will be there whether we encourage them to stay home or not. We do not want them putting their health at risk.
It is our civic duty. Our government is desperately trying to slow the spread of COVID-19 to prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed. A relatively small percentage of the population will need medical care or hospitalization from this virus, but if they all need it at the same time it will create the same kind of public health crisis other countries have already experienced. The government, flawed as it certainly is, is a gift of God given to maintain order and promote the public good. (Romans 13:1) As Christians we are obligated to help our government carry out its proper purpose.
This was not a decision made out of fear, then, but out of love for our neighbors. I believe it is a courageous decision, made in faith that the Lord will provide for us in the weeks ahead.
This was also not a decision we made lightly. Just hours before the meeting I was talking to an OHLC member who said, “I need to worship now more than ever.” It’s true. We need to turn to God in prayer in these hard times. At the end of the council meeting I prayed that God would lead us in finding creative ways to worship, pray, and be in the Word together. As a start, I will be doing a live stream on Facebook at 8 and 10:30 this Sunday which will include scripture, a sermon, and prayer. All you need to do is go to the Oak Harbor Lutheran Church Facebook page at 8 or 10:30 and look for the live video stream. Other options will be explored in the weeks to come. We will also be in touch with those we know are not technologically savvy, providing mailings and phone calls for spiritual care.
For the time being, the church office will be open regular hours. We will let you know if that changes. I am available for pastoral care and conversation. You can email me at email@example.com or call or text me at (360) 320-4041.
No outside groups will be using the building during this time except His Kids Preschool, which will make their own decisions about closure, and our Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous groups, for whom discontinued meetings pose their own serious problems.
It is vitally important that our members maintain their giving in the weeks ahead. You can do so by using our online giving platform, Tithely. You can download the app on your phone or find the link on our website at www.oakharborlutheran.org. You can also mail in your offerings to the church office.
It has been suggested that we form a team to bring groceries to our members who may not be able to get out to replenish their food supply. This would need to be handled very carefully, but I think it is a good idea and an example of how this isn’t a season “off from church,” but a season of new and different opportunities for Christian ministry. Let’s try to think this way in the weeks ahead.
How long will this go on?
I am hoping we will be able to resume services on Palm Sunday (April 5), but we have no way to know what the future has in store. Be assured that we will be back to our normal worship schedule and activities as soon as it is safe to do so. What a wonderful day that will be.
In the meantime, know that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear.” (Psalm 46:1-2a)
Together in Christ,
Pastor Jeffrey R. Spencer
We have partnered with Tithe.ly, a secure online giving platform endorsed by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, to provide opportunities for online giving. You can click “Make a Donation” at the top right of our website to give or download the free “Tithe.ly” app (the one with the green logo) to give a single gift or set up recurring automatic withdrawal tithes.
Join us on the Oak Harbor Lutheran Church Facebook page for our live stream worship services at 8 or 10:30 this Sunday. If we should lose our live feed at one of the services, check back for a recorded video. The video will also be emailed and posted on our YouTube channel.
Below is the order of service:
ORDER OF WORSHIP FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT + MARCH 29, 2020
CONFESSION Matthew 28:19, 1 John 1:8-9
In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
As we come into God’s presence, let us confess our sin:
Merciful God, I confess that I have sinned in thought, word, and deed, by what I have done and what I have left undone. I repent of all my sins, known and unknown. I am truly sorry, and I pray for forgiveness. I firmly intend to amend my life, and to seek help in mending what is broken. I ask for strength to turn from sin and to serve you in newness of life. Amen.
FORGIVENESS John 20:22-23
GREETING 2 Corinthians 13:13
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
And also with you.
KYRIE Matthew 15:22, Mark 10:46-47, Luke 17:12-13
Kyrie eleison, Lord, have mercy.
Christe eleison, Christ have mercy.
Kyrie eleison, Lord have mercy.
PRAYER OF THE DAY
Let us pray: Almighty God, our redeemer, in our weakness we have failed to be your messengers of forgiveness and hope in the world. Renew us by your Holy Spirit, that we may follow your commands and proclaim your reign of love; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
GOSPEL: John 11:1-45
The Holy Gospel according to St. John, the 11th chapter.
Glory to you, O Lord.
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.
SONG “We Believe”
In this time of desperation, when all we know is doubt and fear,
There is only one foundation; we believe, we believe.
In this broken generation, with all this dark You help us see,
There is only one salvation; we believe, we believe.
We believe in God the Father, we believe in Jesus Christ,
We believe in the Holy Spirit, and He’s given us new life.
We believe in the crucifixion, we believe that He conquered death,
We believe in the resurrection and he’s coming back again;
We believe. We believe. We believe.
PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Go in peace, serve the Lord.
Thanks be to God!