Dear Friends in Christ,
I hope you all had a wonderful summer! It's great to be back from summer vacation and we are already in the thick of weekly worship and communion together.
There are two random facts that you should know about me. 1. I love the television show Glee and 2. I have a special place in my heart for communion-in fact when I was a confirmation student we had to deliver speeches on topics in Luther's Small Catechism and mine was on communion. For me, communion is the culmination of the service. It binds us together in community with our neighbors and with God.
No matter how many changes we may make to the hymns or liturgy there is a basic pattern that is followed among Lutherans. The ELCA website describes the basics of Lutheran worship as follows:
We gather. We encounter God’s Word. We share a meal at the Lord’s table. And we are sent into the world. But we do not think about worship so much in terms of what we do. Worship is fundamentally about what God is doing and our response to God’s action. Worship is an encounter with God, who saves us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Think about it like this. God’s Spirit calls us together. God speaks to us through readings from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, through preaching, prayer, and song. God feeds and nourishes us in a saving way. And God blesses us and sends us in mission to the world.
Taken together, the Word proclaimed and the sacraments -- both Holy Baptism and Holy Communion -- are called the means of grace. We believe that Jesus Christ is present in these means through the power of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we describe worship as a “gathering around the means of grace.” This is a way of saying that we trust that God is genuinely present with us in baptism, in preaching, and in sharing the bread and wine of Holy Communion. In that sense, Lutherans believe that God’s presence permeates all of Christian worship.
The cross is the central symbol that marks our worship spaces and when Lutherans worship, singing fills the air. The voices of all the people joined in song and the participation of all the people in the worship is a witness to our conviction that in worship we are being drawn in to God’s own saving story.
That is some powerful stuff! In order to help deepen your worship experience by allowing you time to meditate and focus during communion I will be playing a hymn 'mash-up' (Glee reference) from the balcony instead of leading you in a communion hymn. I will string together some of our favorite hymns as well as hymns recommended for that Sunday. Feel free to hum along!