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On Faith: Vaccination is the Christian thing to do

In the Lutheran tradition we affirm the idea of now and not yet. This is particularly important as we bask in the post-Easter glow. God's promise of new life and resurrection has come to pass and yet it has not been realized in its fullness. We have the down payment, the first installment but the day is yet coming when all will be brought to fruition.

We find ourselves in such a moment more than a year on from the outset of this pandemic. Vaccines are available to nearly everyone or soon will be. There is a very real hope that things have and will continue to improve. It is a welcome relief after a difficult and heavy year. It is important to remember, however, that we are not there yet. Many more need to be vaccinated before we can truly put all of this behind us. There is still a considerable amount of ground to cover before we reach our destination.

I am reminded of a quote from Martin Luther, who was commenting on a Christian's responsibilities and duties in such a time as this. In Luther's day it was the deadly plague that often flared up in Europe from the Middle Ages up until the Renaissance period.

"I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.

"If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God."

Luther reminds us that though we always pray for God's protection in such times, we ought also to exercise caution. We should do our part to curtail the spread of disease and make wise and judicious choices about what we do, where we go and how we act. This is a logical outgrowth of another famous Luther quote "A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all."

One of the most important things we can do right now to live out this freedom for our neighbor is to become vaccinated. In speaking with many in the community, many have taken this step and I am grateful for your efforts. I too have been fully vaccinated since receiving two doses of vaccine back in March with minimal side effects. Thanks be to God.

If you have not already, I urge you to prayerfully consider and receive the vaccines when they are offered to you. The overwhelming data suggests high effectiveness, greatly diminished rates of infection and transmission and very low rates of extreme reactions.

It is not too much to say that taking the step to become vaccinated is a spiritual discipline. It is an act to preserve not only your life but that of your neighbor who has not been or cannot be vaccinated.

Furthermore, the development of these vaccines began under one presidential administration and has been distributed under another of a different party. Despite the rhetoric, we must recognize this isn't a partisan affair. Vaccination is a powerful tool that God has provided for us to preserve life and finally end this pandemic.

In the meantime, we must also be vigilant. Vaccines have their limits. Until the pandemic ends, transmission and infection are still possible even among the vaccinated. Vaccine-resistant variants of the virus could emerge, particularly if the virus is allowed to spread among those who are unvaccinated. Precautions and judicious choices continue to be important tools in this ongoing struggle. They too are spiritual disciplines that demonstrate concern not just for ourselves, but our neighbors as well.

We are all tired of vigilance and caution, tired of masks and distancing. God willing, much of that will pass soon and already has but we must do more than pray. Prayer is a foundation for a life of faith but from it must flow the courage and fortitude to live out and participate in those things that we pray for. For freedom, Christ has set you free. Sibling in Christ, use that freedom with wisdom and compassion.

Pastor CJ Boettcher is the senior pastor at Zion Lutheran Church, 1000 Washington Ave., Cloquet. Visit him at the church or by calling 218-879-4647.

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