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According to the information released from the Texas Department of State Health Services, a cumulative total of 4925 tests for COVID-19 have been given in Wharton County since late April, with a cumulative total of 590 positive cases of COVID-19, with an estimated 329 active cases, and 17 total deaths.
When we look at the averages of positive test results compared to total tests performed, the last two weeks have shown around 17-20% positive.
For comparison, two weeks ago those numbers were 14-16%. When we met in June for 1 Sunday, cases were around 6%.
So what can we do?
I know I include this part every week, but it is important. Viruses are dealt with by changing our behavior so they cannot spread. There are 5 specific things that we can do as Christians to assist in slowing and stopping the spread of COVID-19.
- Pray for God’s mercy and protecting hand to sustain the health of the ill, the vulnerable, the elderly, those who must work to provide for their families, the medical workers who care for the ill. Pray that everyone considers the welfare of their neighbors, of the vulnerable, and those who need our support to avoid being put at risk of contracting COVID-19.
- Take this seriously. Remember that the majority of the people who are infected with COVID-19 show few if any symptoms. In fact – strange as it may seem – people tend to be the most contagious before they develop symptoms. In addition, we still do not know about long term health effects, but physicians report seeing high rates of blood clots (causing strokes), inflammation of and damage to the heart muscle, cardiovascular damage, lung damage, neurological symptoms, and kidney damage. We are still learning what this virus does and how to treat it. This is NOT ‘just a flu’ and we cannot afford to treat it that way.
- Wear a mask. Your wearing a mask protects me. My wearing a mask protects you. The virus itself is tiny, but is spread between people in ‘respiratory droplets’ – small droplets formed from our speaking, breathing, coughing, sneezing – that travel from an infected person to a new host. Even a cloth covering traps most of the respiratory droplets and reduces the spread of the virus. As the state opens up and more people are out in public, wearing a mask becomes more important – not less.
- It is worth noting that the CDC, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Wharton County Office of Emergency Management, all encourage or mandate the use of masks in public. In addition, stores such as Apple, Best Buy, Costco, CVS, Dollar Tree, Kohl’s, Starbucks, Target, Trader Joe’s, Verizon, Walmart, and Whole Foods all require masks to be worn while inside their stores.
- Wash your hands. In addition to the respiratory droplets, objects around an infected person can become contaminated and help spread the virus to a new host. (These contaminated objects are known as ‘fomites’ ) Washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds breaks down the virus, and helps prevent its spread. Wiping down faucet handles, door knobs, and commonly touched surfaces with a disinfectant helps prevent fomites from infecting new persons.
- Social Distance. Limiting face to face contact with others is another way to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This ties in with wearing a mask – staying out of the range of any droplets the other person produces from singing, talking, breathing, coughing, sneezing, shouting – and keeping distance from any fomites the infected person creates around them.
As part of our own exposure to God’s Word, a group has started to read Immerse: Messiah again. This will allow us to read through the entire New Testament in 16 weeks, with an average of 30 pages a week.
This week we are reading pages 61-89 our books. We will then meet on Monday evenings at 7:00pm via video chat and phone for our discussions of the readings.
Anyone is still invited to participate with us. If you need a new copy of the book, please reach out to me, as I have several extra copies in my office.
For those participating, there are lots of resources available here: https://www.tyndale.com/sites/immersebible/messiah-resources/ , including an audio recording of the readings, if you prefer to listen.
There’s also an introductory video for this week’s readings, which can be found on the page above, or right here: https://youtu.be/hNPt5sgTVYs
Everyone is welcome to send an email to me at any time during the week with any questions, concerns, or insights you find. I can either answer them or bring them up during a weekly meeting.
For our video chat, here’s the information from the software we’re using for this:
Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (571) 317-3112
Access Code: 841-954-213
New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:
If you use the computer, tablet, smartphone, you’ll be able to see me and anyone else using a webcam. You *don’t* have to use a webcam if you don’t want to. If you prefer to just call in, use the phone number and access code.
As I wrote at the beginning of July, I am putting out a series of articles on what is called ‘systemic racism’ or ‘institutional racism.’ These articles are in direct response to the murder of George Floyd on May 25th, 2020. As a result of this, protests are still happening in various places across the county, with Portland, OR receiving most of the media attention.
I am not writing any of this as an official stance of the congregation or the synod. I am not writing as an attack on any member or their beliefs. I am writing to give clarity to often confusing terms and situations, and to show what options are and what they mean. I am writing to help apply God’s Law and His Gospel to an aspect of sin that we have not addressed. What we cannot do is refuse to confront a problem by denying that it exists. That is an old strategy that Satan uses to blind people to the reality of their sins and thereby to hold them in bondage. Since denial involved a refusal to recognize, confess, and repent of sin, it is a matter of grave spiritual consequence. When we deny sin, God cannot enter with his forgiveness and with his healing power. We, not someone else, then become the victims of our own self-deception. However God is also merciful and just, and has given us the promise that he “will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).
In my last article, I quoted an editorial on the personal perspective of a woman of color with her experiences with ‘White Privilege’. I would like to emphasize that White Privilege could be described as ‘People don’t respond to my skin color in a way that hinders my ability to live my life.’ It is NOT saying ‘Everything is my fault because I’m White.’ I am also using examples of people sharing their stories as I think it can help us understand their perspective better than a scientific report or paper. I encourage you to listen and hear these stories in humility, and perhaps begin to see some of the vast differences in justice and mercy that occur in our world today. Indeed, it is even tempting to try to justify what happened in some of these stories in our own attempts to avoid the discomfort and pain of dealing with and processing them. That is worth another article by itself.
Today I would like to highlight a short series of video that you can watch on Youtube, lasting 4-6 min each.
The videos are the personal experiences of Amber Ruffin, who is a comedy writer for ‘Late Night with Seth Meyer’ On June 2-5, as a response to Mr. Floyd’s murder, instead of a typical opening monologue Ms. Ruffin was invited to share her own experiences with the police.
I do want to make clear that I am not speaking out against the police officers of Wharton. My near total experience with them has been to wave at them as I walk through the neighborhood, and I try to make it a habit to introduce myself if a cruiser is stopped around the church property. I could not with any authority state if they were doing a good job or bad, or tell you about their reputation and relationships among the different communities of Wharton.
Ms. Ruffin describes her experiences with the police in Chicago. My uncle, a brother in law, and a nephew are police officers. To be dedicated to public safety and good order is an honorable job, and this calling is fulfilled by honorable men and women across the country.
Ms. Ruffin describes her experiences with police in Chicago. As a student, vicar, and pastor I have had the privilege of building relationships with People of Color in multiple cities in California, Oklahoma City, St. Louis, Houston and its surrounding areas. I have visited or worked in public places, hospitals, prisons, mental institutions and schools. I have heard and seen similar stories from my clients, neighbors, and students wherever I have lived. This begins to approach what is meant by ‘systemic racism’ – when we are not talking about an individual action or event, but a pattern, – a system – where the end results in injustice. As Christians we are called to speak out against injustice when we see it. As I said before, this can be difficult and painful to do so. And that pain is part of what is included when Jesus calls us to pick up our cross and follow him. We die to self, to be more like Jesus, including how in how we treat each other.
The videos are linked below. I encourage you to watch them, and consider the story being shared.
Amber Ruffin’s Experience with the Police: Driving as a Teen
Amber Ruffin’s Experience with the Police: Skipping in Chicago
Amber Ruffin’s Experience with the Police: When I Tell You to Stop, You Stop
Amber Ruffin’s Experience with the Police: It’s a New Day
I will set up Communion for the church the week of Aug 9th. Details will be in next week’s email.
As always, if you have any concerns, if you have need for guidance, if you have questions, you are always welcome to call, text, or email.
I remain your servant in Christ.
Pastor R.W. Lutjens