After two weeks of Lloyd Omdahl’s opinion articles in the Minot Daily News and other major newspapers throughout the state, criticizing clergy and churches, I have to speak up.
First, Omdahl made the comment, “We have prominent preachers trying to be kingmakers in secular politics.” (This was in his “COVID-19 message for the clergy.”) I see the same thing of him. I see a politician and bureaucrat trying to be a pastor or theologian. It is evident from his article that he is neither a pastor nor a theologian. He misquotes the Bible text that he uses, he takes them out of context, and he only uses some parts of Scripture leaving out the rest.
The Christian lives in the physical realm (left hand kingdom) while also living in the spiritual realm (the right hand kingdom). The Scriptures deal with our living in both kingdoms. Omdahl speaks only of the left hand kingdom when he quotes what we are to do as Christians in this world. Yes, we are to obey the authorities that God has given us for peace and tranquility while we live here on earth. He did not mention the right hand kingdom words of Scripture such as Matthew 18:20:20, “For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I among them (ESV).” Also, Hebrews 10:25, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” We are to worship together and in this pandemic we should be gathering together to encourage one another all the more as this is another risk of life that “The Day” (either the Lord’s return or our death) is always drawing near.
We always have lived in risk, are living in risk, and always will be living in risk in this life; we never know what is going to take us from here to the Lord, which is why we are happy to look forward to eternal life. A personal example: On Nov. 1 (All Saints Day) I preached on the Church Militant (Church on earth) and the Church Triumphant (the Church in heaven) at St. Mark’s Lutheran in Minot in the morning. In the afternoon I needed to travel to Lisbon for a church meeting in the evening. As I was traveling a farm truck pulled out in front of me about a half mile ahead. He was hauling large round bales. They were a single layer of three wide and about four deep. As I was passing at 65 mph I saw a big round bale right in front of me coming off the load out of the middle of the load. A second earlier or a second later and I would have hit a round bale at 65 mph head on or it would have hit the side of my pickup putting me into side roll down the highway. That, more than likely, would have resulted in my entrance into the Church Triumphant.
From 1 Peter 5:8 we read, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” God has given us the Church, the Body of Christ, to be joined together to encourage, strengthen, and protect one-another. Animals in the wild congregate together to protect each other from the wolves, lions, and tigers that are outside of the congregation waiting for one of them to wander from the security of the congregation and devour them. Another example for worshipping together is: Take a coal or log out of the fireplace and lay it on the hearth, or take one out of a camp fire and lay it aside, and see what happens to it. It loses its glow and warmth and dies. We need each other to be a light on a hill for all to see.
Omdahl also stated: “And the churches seem to think they are entitled to kill their parishioners and it is none of the public’s business." As the district president for the North Dakota District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, I travel and visit the LCMS congregations of North Dakota. As I visit these churches I see them being very careful with their church services by distancing, masks, and having hand sanitizers available. In the bulletins I read things like: If you are sick stay home. Hymns and liturgy are printed in a bulletin that you pick up and are asked to take with you. Offerings are taken at the door. These and many more precautions are taken. You see, we do care about our parishioners and are obeying the government and its suggestions while we still try to do as we are asked by the Lord to be served by Him in worship services with His Word and His Sacrament of the Altar.
The clergy are working extra hard through these times. They have had to learn and provide online services for those who are at higher risk with COVID-19 along with doing regular worship for those who desire to come. During the week the pastors have made themselves available for private communion and more.
I am proud of my pastors and churches and the extra good and hard work they are doing.
Lloyd, please stick to politics. Let the State be the State, and the Church be the Church.
The Rev. Arie Bertsch, Minot, is district president for the North Dakota District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.