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Eat your bowl first.

Dear Brothers in Office,

Else Maria Litwin lived through the horrors of WW II in Germany. She told me of the great joy her town experienced when the American troops arrived. Things had gotten so rough: there was no food, no health care—it was nearly hopeless. 

After the Americans liberated her town, she was able to get into a commercial kitchen and with food provided by American troops she prepared soup for many hungry Germans. How delighted she was to serve her neighbors that first day when the window was opened to distribute the piping hot soup. She ladled out the healthy sustenance to the impossibly long line. Though weak, tired, and hungry herself she scraped the bottom of the kettle and gave it away. It was heartbreaking to have to close the window with nothing left to give. 

But Else learned something else that day—a vital lesson for me as well: she had to eat first. 

Her teacher was the American soldier who brought her food to make soup. He convinced her that she must eat the first bowl of soup before serving others. Otherwise she’d be no good to anyone.

Brothers, we are up against a rapidly changing situation which is very challenging. If the horror out of Italy is any indication, our older members are probably at great risk. As LCMS missionary Lyman Stone has noted, pastors themselves are at greater risk than others during an outbreak

We must learn from Else Maria—we need to receive first. You are not enough for this crisis or for any crisis. You have nothing to give of yourself that will be of any lasting value. But your Lord is enough. Enough for you. Enough for all you are called to serve. 

Receive your Lord’s word of forgiveness, peace, comfort, strength, and hope every day. Every spoonful of His holy, Spirit-filled Word will give you the strength and encouragement you need for these gray and latter days—when it appears nearly everything is shaken. Remember who you are, a precious son of your Heavenly Father who never will leave you or forsake you. Remember who He’s called you to be: a servant of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God for the burdened souls around you. 

Remember the Lord’s tender care for exhausted, broken Elijah: “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” (1 Kings 19:7) It is too much for us, too, and our dear congregants. But it is not too much for our Lord Jesus who bore fasting, temptation, agonizing suffering, and crucifixion. He rose, guaranteeing that your work in His kingdom is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). Not now. Not ever. 

Be of good courage and be sober minded. Keep your head, be careful, wash your hands and pray without ceasing, serve in joy and love, and receive Jesus’ daily care for you.

You are in our prayers—Hal, Bev, and I. We are eager to help you any way we can. We’ll be chasing after you, but if you need us before we get to you, don’t hesitate to email or call. 

Peace and Joy in Christ,

David Fleming

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