Week Eleven of my Finding Fingerprints adventure. I’m visiting a different church every week to see all the cool things that God is up to in the various gatherings of believers in Jesus in my community. John 17, baby — Let’s find that unity that Jesus wanted for us!
Sunday #11, Nov.16, 2014
“As We Are Able”
a Lutheran congregation of about 150 people at their second service
Message: The Parable of the Talents – Visiting Minister
We received a warm welcome as we entered the beautiful sanctuary. As we waited for the service to begin, we enjoyed the organ prelude. There is something truly majestic about the sound of a pipe organ played by someone who knows how to do it right!
The Lutheran liturgy is similar in many ways to the Roman Catholic mass, but unlike last week when I was in need of a missalette, this time we had been handed a bulletin with the liturgy laid out for us; it is so much easier to participate that way. Oddly, I would have thought that it would also make me feel less “genuine” in my worship, but it doesn’t seem to be having that effect.
The sung Psalm was unfamiliar to me and took a little getting used to. It was printed in the bulletin and I read music, so I figured this would be a piece of cake, but instead it was tricky to get my brain to know when to move to which note and when to stay put and chant on an individual pitch. I got the hang of it about half-way through, but in all honesty I wasn’t thinking much about the words of the Psalm until I figured out how to sing along. The next time I’m in a Lutheran liturgical service, I’ll probably keep my focus a lot better and know how to participate without so much concentration on the music.
Fred and I loved it that the pastor and assisting minister and acolytes bring the Bible down into the aisle to read the Gospel. Jesus came down to dwell among us, so His word is physically carried down among the people as the gospel is read. Really beautiful picture!
The visiting pastor’s message was a different take than I had heard before on the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. He framed it against the pressures of the last days in which we live, the godless world that sucks us dry, and the need to remember that ALL that we have was given to us by God in the first place. All came from the Master, all work was done in response to His will, and we only find the stamina to continue in kingdom work when we stay thankfully aware of the Source of all good.
In prayer before Communion, the pastor said something that really “made” the service for me, that “Ah!” moment that I knew I would carry with me specially through the coming week. He said, “We acknowledge that we worship You not as we ought, but as we are able.” The picture of Jesus’ grace making up the difference between my “able” and my “ought” was profound.
Fred found taking communion to be very meaningful this week. The physical process is very similar to the Roman Catholic mass with which he was raised, but here it was clear from the bulletin that we were welcome at the table as baptized Christians – whether we were Lutheran or not – and it was a blessing to take the bread and wine with thanksgiving.
I love the heart for service in the community at this church. Everywhere I looked were evidences of concern for the poor and hungry, those serving in the military and their families, and the elderly. Good stuff! Gospel in action, in the name of Jesus.