A Reflection by a United Methodist Pastor

A Reflection by a United Methodist Pastor

We are undoubtedly living in a bizarre time. Covid-19 hit us hard around the world. The United States leads the world in Covid-19 deaths. There is pressure around the country to reopen for the sake of the economy. There was a protest in a bid to return to “normal” before it is safe to do so. Recently, the Wisconsin Supreme Court deemed the “Safer at home” extension unconstitutional.

As I struggle with missing seeing my church people every week and not being able to visit them, I draw encouragement and strength from our Holy Scripture. Our founder, John Wesley is famous for using what we refer to as “The Quadrilateral”: Scripture, Experience, Tradition and Reason.

In our Scripture, Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was. He did not recite the Ten Commandments at the people. Instead, he replied, “The first is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind soul and strength. The second is to love your neighbor as yourself.” How do we love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength in a time when we cannot and should not gather in person? Truly I tell you, that schools may be closed, restaurants may be closed, travel may be prohibited but Church is not and can never be closed. For we the people of Christ, are the Church. You cannot close people. Wherever we are, however we praise and worship, that is where the Church exists.

I believe that we love God by loving our neighbor. Again, a man asked Jesus who his neighbor was, to which Jesus replied, “Everyone.” That’s the summary of the parable of the Good Samaritan. We love our neighbors by caring for them. We care for them by not putting them in harm’s way. How many of our people would come to weekly services if we opened up again? I fear it would be too many. I hate keeping the doors closed every week. I hate not being able to interact with the people I love and care for. I love them too much to rush into starting our in-person worship too soon.

Our Experiences tell us that the disease is easily spread. Our experiences tell us that everyone is susceptible to contracting it. Our experience with another disease of this proportion, the Spanish Flu, that ravaged the world between 1918-1920, was even deadlier in the following waves than it was in the first wave. Way back then, people were too eager to open up businesses for the sake of the economy. They too believed that it was in remission, only to be proven quite wrong. Let us not succumb to that mistake again this time around.

It is in our Tradition, as United Methodists, to follow the wisdom of God as well as our founder John Wesley. He had three simple rules: 1) Do no harm, 2) Do good and 3) Stay in love with God. Our tradition commands us to “Do no harm.” It breaks my heart to see people around our nation have such little disregard for the well-being of their families and their communities by gathering in such large numbers, close together, with no masks, mingling with people from who knows where and exposing themselves to many germs. We do no harm, simply by minimizing our physical contact with the people around us. It is tough, I know.

To top this all off, we come to Reason. It stands to reason, that God created us all in the image of God. We each have different strengths according to the grace given to us. Some have the gift of teaching, others have the gift of preaching, others have the gift of hospitality, others have the gift of healing along with so many gifts. The beauty of God’s creation is that not one person has all of these gifts. We are all unique. So, when a medical professional, made in the image of God, tells me that it is not safe to gather in large groups, I will listen to them. I am not a medical expert. These medical professionals are God’s gift to each of us. I will listen.

I am calling on each of us to be an example to our community of what it means to be disciples of Jesus Christ. Let us strive towards transforming our world by listening to the wisdom of those God has put in our lives. May we stand in solidarity with the doctors and the nurses and our governor who are all striving to keep us as safe as possible.

May we love God with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength as well as love our neighbors as ourselves by doing no harm, doing good and staying in love with God.


God Bless you all,

Reverend Christopher Van Beek of Chetek United Methodist Church

Reverend Mary Anne Conklin of First UMC of Barron and Ridgeland Dallas UMC

Reverend Susan Oeffler of Canton UMC and First UMC of Rice Lake

Pastor Mike Brubaker of Cumberland First United Methodist Church

Reverend Mark Peacock of Parkview United Methodist Church