Right now, there is a lot of discussion about “reopening” the economy. The nation, states, counties, and cities are wondering what should and what should not be safe, vital, necessary. The discussion is important. There is also lots of talk about “reopening” the church. If I may parrot Bishop Michael Burk a bit, the church has never closed in this time.
Over and over, during Jesus’ public ministry, ministry happens and community is built around the breaking of bread. From the Wedding at Cana to the Feeding of the 5000 and, of course, the Last Supper, one thing seems abundantly clear: when Jesus wanted to convey a particularly important or meaningful lesson, it was often done surrounded by food and in the context of sharing a meal. In fact, after the resurrection, one of the most notable “aha!” moments, in which the disciples recognized the Risen Lord, occurs when Jesus breaks bread at the table.
I miss church. I miss seeing you at to worship. I miss the gathering of the church school children. I miss hearing the choirs sing and the congregation blend their voices in song as we belt out some of those favorites. I miss the Lord's Supper and sharing the meal with you as we are assured that the Lord is with us. I miss baptizing babies and sharing the joy of this special moment of God proclamation of love. I miss shaking your hand after worship. I miss the rhythm of worship, that predictable flow of the Lutheran liturgy that has cradled me through the good times and the hard times in my life. It is not the building that I crave. It is the experience of the Divine. So where is God, the Divine One, when we can't gather for worship?
U.S. Surgeon General warns that the coming week “…is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives.”
This grim headline greeted me as I logged into Facebook on Palm Sunday in order to join the HTLC “Watch Party” for virtual worship. How strange, I thought, that the terror, which has been building in our nation for weeks, would reach its supposed pinnacle during the holiest week of the church year.
Monday, January 6th was Epiphany. Some know it as the day to take down our Christmas trees because the 12 days of Christmas have passed. But we also know it as the day that Christ was made known to the Magi in Bethlehem. The story is found in Matthew, chapter 2. It’s interesting to me that the story of the Magi’s journey and visit to the Christ child is longer than the story of the Christ child’s birth, which tells me that Matthew thinks this story is important for us to hear and know. A key point in the story is worship.
The twelve days of Christmas are rushing by us. That means cleaning up the decorations and finishing the leftovers. A new year, a new decade, is upon us. That means it is time for resolutions and new beginnings. In the Church, the next festival is January 6th – The Epiphany of Our Lord. That means we celebrate the way in which God is revealed to us in Christ’s incarnation, teaching, ministry, death and resurrection.
In churches throughout North America and Europe, manger scenes, complete with blonde-haired, blue-eyed versions of baby Jesus, are ready for the celebration of Christmas. Of course, this representation of Jesus is historically inaccurate (and many pastors, including this one, seem to relish pointing out the inaccuracy). If our representations of the Christ child lead us to an exclusive Messiah, one that looks like us to the exclusion of others, then we have a problem… a heresy, really.
It has been a particularly difficult few weeks in our shared life together. By my count, there are currently eight families in our community who are navigating grief and mourning in the midst of a season that is supposed to be all about hope and expectation. After all, the shopping malls have proclaimed this the happiest and most wonderful time of the year with calls to put emotions that are anything but joyful on the backburner until some other, more “appropriate”, time in the future.
A lot has happened in the world over the last week. Last Thursday, the schedule said, “Give thanks.” So, with tables piled high with food and football on the TV, we gave thanks for all the stuff we possess, and the loved ones who benefit. Seems we also took note of what we did not have in the process, because “Black Friday” called us to rush into every available retail outlet to push, shove, and harangue to get whatever we lacked to make life full.