Letter to Governor Walz after his 5/13/2020 Press Conference

Here is a letter I wrote to Governor Walz regarding his press conference May 13th which announced the opening of businesses at 50% capacity.

Dear Governor Walz:

First, I would like to thank you for doing everything within your sphere of authority to keep the residents of Minnesota safe and healthy. I believe you have the best interests of all Minnesotans in mind as you go about your work. I am sure that this is not an easy time for you, either as governor or personally, as you make difficult decisions about how best to uphold the welfare of the people whom you have been elected to serve. I also appreciate that from the very beginning of this pandemic, you have recognized faith-based leaders as “essential workers.”

Please know that we here at Christ the King Free Lutheran Church in East Grand Forks keep you and all our other elected and appointed leaders in our prayers regularly and by name. According to Holy Scripture, we believe that all governing authorities are put in place by God for the good of the citizens of our cities, states, and country (Romans 13:3-4).

Under the Fourth Commandment (the command to honor one’s father and mother), we believe that governing authorities are an extension of parental authority, and therefore, we must fear God so that we do not despise or anger our parents or superiors, but honor, serve, obey, love and respect them. We always strive to keep that commandment and carry out our vocations as citizens of this state. God has appointed you to uphold the law of this state and to protect its citizens by the means granted to you by the Constitution and laws of this state.

We also believe that God rules in two ways in this world. He rules by means of the governing authorities of a particular place, to keep order and protect the citizens of that place. But He also rules in another way, by means of His Church, in which Jesus alone is Lord; who saves and forgives by His death and resurrection; and who grants and sustains faith by means of His living and proclaimed Word and Sacraments. As Christians, we strive to uphold and submit to both of the ways by which God rules in this world, first as members of Christ’s Church, and then as citizens of this world, this country, state, and of the city.

We also believe that neither the Church nor the governing authorities have the power to interfere or try to rule in the other’s realm. The Church does not, and should not, have the authority to make civil law or enforce it. Likewise, the State (in the broad sense) does not, and should not, have the authority to rule within the Church or to instruct the Church on how God’s Word is preached. That belongs to Christ’s explicit command, and not to the rule of the civil governing authorities.

In light of that, I believe you have overstepped your God-given sphere of authority by issuing the Emergency Executive Order 20-26 of May 13, in which you continue to prohibit faith-based gatherings. I do not accuse you of targeting any specific religion – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or any other specific faith. But because I am a Christian, I can only speak as a Christian.

Since we also believe that under the Fifth Commandment (that one must not murder) we are commanded by God not to harm our nor cause any suffering to neighbor in his or her body, I understand and agree that we ought not do anything that might intentionally cause our neighbor any harm, including spreading the COVID-19. Instead, we Christians are to be active in promoting our neighbor’s bodily welfare. We have many people in our congregation who fall into the various categories of higher risk for contracting the virus, and even if you had not issued any directives, we still would have done everything in our power to care for the members of our congregation and community by taking important health precautions. For the sake of health and the well-being of both the congregation and the community, as well as in our voluntary submission to you as our governing authority, for the past several weeks we have held services by way of YouTube recordings.

As a citizen of Minnesota, I ask you to continue to keep and uphold the law of our state, and to continue your good and God-given work of protecting the citizens of Minnesota. I will continue to pray for you and for your administration as you strive to do that.

But as a Christian pastor, responsible before God for the work of the Church and the congregation I am called to serve, I would ask you to remove the current restrictions on gatherings of faith-based communities so that they are consistent with the current restrictions on businesses. Again, I can only speak as a Christian, but we can take reasonable precautions as to how we would worship together.

In your address on May 13th, you mentioned that small businesses are critical to the communities and residents of Minnesota. As a pastor to many small-business owners, I agree, and I would also argue that churches holding worship services are at least equally critical. You said that turning the dial on activities needed to consider three factors (I quote):

  1. “How close are you and another person in a given setting or activity?”
  2. “How long are you in that close proximity to another person?”
  3. “How predictable that setting is.”

While we desire to gather together in our sanctuary as an entire congregation, we could add additional worship services and have families sign up for those services to ensure that we do not exceed 50% capacity. We could shorten our worship services. We could make changes on how and where people are seated to ensure that we maintain the recommended social distancing. We could thoroughly clean and sanitize after each service. We could hold our worship services outside. All of the current recommendations for a business can be done just as easily at a church.

So, I ask you to reconsider your prohibition in 6 c of your Emergency Executive Order 20-56. Please trust us to act reasonable and responsibly as you trust other small businesses.

In many of your statements and declarations, you mention that you want to keep the residents of Minnesota safe. That is a godly and right duty that you are to carry out as the authority of this state, and I hope that you do so. You are to keep the people of Minnesota safe from people who do evil. But the government has limitations, both by law and by ability. You cannot keep people safe from things in God’s creation – like fires, floods, and COVID-19 – that are beyond anyone’s control. Yes, protections and precautions can be made, but when those things threaten us, we trust in God to protect us if He wills because no earthly authority can offer shelter from those. And I hope that you do not feel that you have to carry such an impossible burden.

Again, thank you for your clear desire to carry out your office with honor and care. Thank you as well for your time and consideration of this matter.

Respectfully,

Rev. Samuel Wellumson

Pastor, Christ the King Free Lutheran Church

East Grand Forks, Minnesota

Dispelling the Myth: “My Kids Know about Jesus Because I Take Them to Church”

Parents, it’s time for a wake-up call:

Ask yourself “How much time do I spend each day teaching my kids about Christ and the Scriptures?” Take some time. Think seriously about it. And answer honestly.

Does your family regularly have devotions together, and if so, how long does it take?
An hour? I seriously doubt it.
Half an hour? Yeah, unlikely.
Fifteen minutes? Maybe.

How often do your conversations with your kids reflect upon Scripture as it intersects with everything going on in your and their lives? As you eat together and talk about the day, do you remind them of Christ’s love for them when they are upset about the kid who said something nasty or hurtful to them? As you drive them to school, do you pray for and with them for their day?

Time is the great equalizer. Rich or poor, healthy or sick, urban or suburban or rural – EVERYONE has the same amount of time.

Hours per Year in Ping Pong Balls

Photo used from FaceBook user Cory Austin

Look at the picture. That tall tube of orange balls represents the time you have with your kids each year. Three-thousand hours or about 8.22 hours per day. That sounds fairly accurate. The little vase of orange balls represents the average amount of time kids spend in church (I’m not sure where they got that number, but go ahead and double it if you think it’s a fair assessment for your kids). That vase of balls, even if you double it, would easily fit into the tube.

Now, let’s color those balls. Orange for the time spent rushing them to whatever sports practice and games, for the time spent doing homework and studying for tests and quizzes, for watching television, for when you just want a break and go on your mobile device and send them off to be on theirs. And white for the time spent in God’s Word and prayer.

Now, take those 3,000+ balls, mix them together, and pour them back into the tube. How much white do you see? Maybe, you’ll get lucky and a majority of those white balls will land on the outside of the tube. Maybe, the white balls will all land in the middle and all you see is orange.

Bringing your kids to church, Sunday School, and youth group isn’t enough. You, (yes, you) need to be bringing Christ and faith in Him into every part of your kid’s day.

And I can already hear the objections, “But our schedule is full already.” “But they have so much homework, and they have to learn.” “But sports teach them important life skills – what it means to be a team, a good work ethic, how to be healthy, etc.” “But the house isn’t going to clean itself. They need to do their chores or the house will be chaos.” “But I need a break from a hard day at work.”

You are right. Absolutely right. I’m a parent too. I know.

Let’s try something else with those pesky balls and their color. What if you do the little things? What if you do actually pray with your kids when they bring up something made their day difficult? What if you take the time to thank God for something good that happened? What if you point them to Scripture that fits with each joy and disappointment in their lives? And each time you do one of those things, that orange ball gets a white dot on it. It’s still mostly orange. But little specks of white land on a lot more balls. At least you see a peppering of white speckling in that sea of orange. This is all well and good.

This is how God designed parents to teach their children the faith. Deuteronomy 6:6–7, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

But, remember parents, you can’t teach what you don’t know. You can’t connect the events of your kid’s life to the Bible and faith if you don’t know what the Bible says.

Parents, you have 8,760 hours in a year. How many of your ping pong balls are completely white? Are you at church hearing the Word of God? Are you attending Bible Study? Are you in Bible class while your kids are at Sunday School? Are you reading your Scriptures and praying daily? When was the last time you read something in the Bible and went to ask your pastor about it? (You’d make his day if you did that! I can speak from personal experience [Gal. 6:6]). If you aren’t doing those things, start.

Yes, those orange balls are important. God wants us to work and learn and enjoy creation and take care of ourselves and the things He has given us. But, in the end, everything orange pales in comparison to the white.

Parents, do your job. Teach your children the faith. Your pastor and your church are here to help you every step of the way. But it needs to come from you. Feed them and be fed for them.

Philippians 3:8, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Php. 3:8).

For Thirty-Four Years, I Am Baptized

Thirty-four years ago today, my parents did the best thing they could do for me. They brought my sinful, not-so-little infant body to the waters of Baptism. And they didn’t stop there. They, then, did the second best thing they could do for me (and the thing that I am learning is constantly difficult) – they continually catechized me in the Word of God.

In those waters of baptism, God joined me to the death and resurrection of Jesus (Ro. 6:3-5).

Baptism 2In those waters of my baptism, the all-consuming Flood of God condemned all that was unbelieving in me while God safely placed me in the ark of His catholic Church.

In those waters of my baptism, God led me out of slavery to sin and drowned all the evil that pursued me. Yet, I went safely through the waters.

In those waters of my baptism, God led me into His Promised Land.

In those waters of my baptism, God sent His appointed messenger, not with a burning coal to touch my lips, but with a few handfuls of water to splash on my forehead.

In those waters of my baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon Me, and God said, “You are my beloved son.”

None of this was my own doing. It was God’s. He washed. He condemned. He delivered. He absolved. He chose. He elected. He predestined.

I was passive through it all. Check that. I was kicking and screaming and resisting.

Like Naaman, I and others often scoff at the idea that water could cleanse me of my leprosy of sin (1 Kgs. 5:1-14). However, the Scriptures repeatedly promise that it wasn’t simply water. It is water with a promise. A promise of God. God said it. Baptism saves me (1 Pe. 3:21). I can’t change it – and neither can God. His promises are sure, certain, and unchangeable.

Cross and CommunionThe best part of all of this: today, God is going to continue to make promises to me. God is going to feed me with His Body and Blood. The resurrected Body and Blood of Jesus will be placed in my mouth so I know my sins are forgiven and also that I too, like Jesus, will rise again on the Last Day.

Exodus 15:1b-18 is now my song as it is the song of all the baptized:

1 “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;

the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.

2 The Lord is my strength and my song,

and he has become my salvation;

this is my God, and I will praise him,

my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

3 The Lord is a man of war;

the Lord is his name.

4 “Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea,

and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.

5 The floods covered them;

they went down into the depths like a stone.

6 Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power,

your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.

7 In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries;

you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble.

8 At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up;

the floods stood up in a heap;

the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.

9 The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,

I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.

I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’

10 You blew with your wind; the sea covered them;

they sank like lead in the mighty waters.

11 “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?

Who is like you, majestic in holiness,

awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?

12 You stretched out your right hand;

the earth swallowed them.

13 “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;

you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.

14 The peoples have heard; they tremble;

pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia.

15 Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed;

trembling seizes the leaders of Moab;

all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.

16 Terror and dread fall upon them;

because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone,

till your people, O Lord, pass by,

till the people pass by whom you have purchased.

17 You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,

the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode,

the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.

18 The Lord will reign forever and ever.”

Thirty-four years now, I am baptized. And for that, I praise God.