Jen Krausz–Bethlehem, PA

Warm-up Question

How do you make important decisions? What factors do you consider?


According to articles by Foundation for Economic Education, a libertarian think tank, and Fox News, The World Health Organization (WHO) has revised its position to say that countries around the world should not rely on lockdowns to stop outbreaks of the coronavirus. The advice comes as the number of new COVID-19 cases is rising in the United States and across Europe, with some leaders considering new lockdowns to bring the numbers down.

“We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus,” WHO envoy Dr. David Nabarro said.

The organization said that lockdowns are causing global poverty to skyrocket. They also are believed to cause other problems like increases in mental health issues, addictions, and suicides.  “The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganize, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we’d rather not do it,” Navarro said. 

The impact of previous lockdowns on tourism, nations’ economies, and other aspects of life continue to have huge global consequences, and some argue that renewed lockdowns would only interrupt the recoveries that many countries are seeing now.  It seems that we may well have a doubling of world poverty by next year,” Navarro said. “We may well have at least a doubling of child malnutrition.”

Back in March when lockdowns began, health experts thought the death toll from COVID-19 could be as high as 5%. Six months later, the rate is thought to be less than .5%, or 10 to 20 times lower than originally estimated.  Many, however, have argued that it was precisely lockdowns and mandatory masking which have prevented a much worse epidemic.

Back in March, healthcare providers were very worried that hospitals would be overrun and that there would not be enough equipment like ventilators to treat people who needed it. Fewer hospitals than expected in the U.S. were overrun in the way that was feared.  Younger people who are now getting the virus are less likely to need hospital care. 

Because of changes like these, some suggest that lockdowns are less likely to be needed to keep COVID-19 under control. It’s not that WHO or world leaders were necessarily wrong to lock down in March and April.    Some scientists believe the death estimate from COVID is still too low due to under-reporting. The WHO suggests that countries should bolster resources devoted to testing and contact tracing, as a means to avoid future lockdowns.  

“The last thing any country needs is to open schools and businesses, only to be forced to close them again because of a resurgence,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus .

Discussion Questions

  • How were you personally impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown earlier this year
  • How would you react to new lockdowns because of a rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths?
  • Is the doubling of world poverty a sufficient reason not to lock down again, even if more people get COVID-19 in the U.S. and around the world?
  • What factors do you think should go into a future lockdown decision?
  • As the articles cited note, the poor suffer devastating economic impact during a lockdown.  When lockdowns are eased they are also the ones most likely to be be forced to work under unsafe conditions, become ill, and receive substandard treatment.  What does concern for the poor look like in this epidemic?

All Saints Sunday

Revelation 7:9-17

1 John 3:1-3

Matthew 5:1-12

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year A at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

This is the Jesus’ first recorded sermon  in Matthew, and it is very different from what some rabbis of the time would have said. The sayings commonly known as the beatitudes are not telling people what they have to do to be blessed by God; instead, they are telling them what kind of people and character qualities are already blessed by God.

Instead of requirements, the beatitudes describe what God’s grace looks like for humanity. But it is a radical departure from what the culture says about who God blesses and how those blessings come about.  The blessings described in these verses all take place when God’s kingdom through Jesus comes near. Blessings like comfort, mercy and purity come to those who life humbles, who experience sorrow, and who are merciful to others.

The prophets mentioned in verse 12 shared messages from God to the people of Israel, which parallels the way followers of Christ are called to share the good news of salvation with others. Jesus knows that not everyone is going to be open to hearing about him, and that his followers are going to face persecution.

In America today, Christians have a great deal of freedom to talk about our faith and share it with others, but that doesn’t mean it will always be well-received. Elements of the culture are still hostile toward Christians. Persecution may not include being martyred, but that doesn’t mean you won’t face some sort of negativity for your beliefs.

It may not feel like God is blessing you when you face persecution, but that’s because some of our blessings are not experienced during our life on earth. The kingdom Jesus describes starts now, but its ultimate fulfillment is in heaven.

We can’t wait until heaven to look for the blessings of Christ’s kingdom, but we also can’t expect to fully experience that kingdom in this life either. As Christians, we live in the tension between this life and the next.

Discussion Questions

  • What kind of person is going to be blessed in Christ’s kingdom? What qualities does Jesus say are blessed?
  • How are those different from the world’s view of blessings?
  • What is the difference between being economically poor and being “poor in spirit”?
  • What kind of blessings are available to us even in the middle of a global pandemic?

Activity Suggestions

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it is more difficult to fulfill spiritual needs when physical needs are not met. This is why so many churches have food banks and clothing drives. Together as a group, identify one way that you can meet a specific physical need of one person or a group of people in your community or elsewhere in the world. For example, through the Heifer Project or the ELCA’s Good Gifts program, breeding animals which  produce milk, eggs, or meat can be bought and sent to people in need, so that they can support themselves and their families. 

Closing Prayer

God of heaven, thank you for the physical and spiritual blessings you give us, no matter what is going on in the world around us. Help us to be a blessing to others in turn, and to point them to you as the author of all blessings. Amen.