Pastoral Letter | April 22, 2020

Dear Friends:

I hope that you are all safe and well.  Know that I hold you in prayer each morning.  

I covet your prayers for my family as well. We are doing fine overall.  Everyone but our youngest is able to keep working.  Anji works with kids with autism and her center is closed.  However, since she didn’t get paid much, her unemployment compensation is keeping her at about the same level.

This morning I learned of the first Covid-19 death of someone I know personally. Dave Goulette was the long-time organist at Trinity Lutheran Church of Stillwater.  He was the organist at our wedding and at my mother-in-law’s funeral and for many other weddings and funerals I officiated in the St. Croix Valley.  His loss is felt by many.  I ask your prayers for his family and friends.

This week I want to share with you a story that a number of people have found helpful in the midst of life’s challenges.

A Chinese farmer’s horse escaped from his barn and ran away.  The neighbors gathered around to give him sympathy, saying, “Oh, what a tragedy.”

The farmer replied, “Well, we don’t know yet whether this is a good thing or not.”

The next day the horse returned, along with three wild horses who followed the stallion home.

The neighbors gathered around exclaiming about the farmer’s good luck!

The farmer replied, “Well, we don’t know yet whether this is a good thing or not.”

The following day, while attempting to gentle one of the wild horses, the farmer’s 18-year-old son was thrown off and broke his leg.

The neighbors once again gathered around to express sympathy at the family’s bad fortune.

The farmer replied, “Well, we don’t know yet whether this is a good thing or not.”

The following day the army marched through the area, conscripting every able-bodied young man.  The farmer’s son was allowed to remain home…

In the short term it is often hard to tell whether something is good or bad.  

I have found this to be true in my own life—in jobs I really wanted but wasn’t hired for; in colleges my kids wanted to get into but didn’t; even something as big as the ending of my first marriage.  What at first seemed terrible, ultimately turned out for the best.

Now, let me hurry to say that this attitude doesn’t apply to death, at least not to early deaths.  The scourge of death and great hardship brought on by this virus is clearly an unmitigated tragedy.

But some of the byproducts may be positive—the world working together, big pharma companies working together, better preparations for the next virus, neighbors looking out for one another in new ways, people burning less carbon, less frenetic schedules, new ideas about health care, and perhaps a better sense for many of us of what’s truly important in life.  I have hope, and even optimism, that in many ways the world will be different and better after this is over.  

I miss you all terribly and can’t wait to be with you once that is a safe thing to do.