From My Perspective

Reflections through a Lens of Faith from Pastor Jen

Week 4 – Worship

Week 4 - Worship

You may notice that although Lutheran worship is never the same every week, it typically follows a particular pattern. This ancient pattern has four parts: Gathering, Word, Meal, and Sending. It’s called the Ordo, a Latin word meaning “order.” Within each part there is great freedom…next time we’re in church you can pull out a hymnal and notice all the “may” pieces written in red. Confession and Forgiveness may begin the service; one or more hymns may be sung; an offering prayer may be said, etc.

There are a lot of options in the worship…but one piece of worship that is not optional is that worship is participatory. It is not something just one pastor or a few worship leaders do. The word “liturgy” means the “work of the people.” Worship is active. (A few years ago at a youth gathering I saw a tee-shirt with “Lutheran Aerobics” in large letters at the top followed by clip art of the things we do in Lutheran worship: sit, stand, kneel, pray.)

With many of you, I have been missing one key part of worship during this pandemic – the meal. I am pleased to say that beginning on Maundy Thursday (April 1), continuing on Easter Sunday and the Sundays following, we will be offering the meal during our online Zoom worship as well as in the outdoor services we will have starting with Easter sunrise and hopefully regularly beginning in May. (Please read my article about how we came to this decision and how you might prepare.)

For the online services, our home tables will be our altars and we will prepare our tables with bread (or crackers) and wine or grape juice and trust that the Word of God in Christ extends throughout our community online. “Gathered around our tables, we are gathered around the one table,” as our Presiding Bishop Eaton said. (Living Lutheran, 6/2019) In the meal, “we are fed and forgiven, reconciled and released, crucified and raised.”

Sit. Stand. Kneel. Pray….and Eat.

In Christ,

Pastor Jen

Week 3 of Lent: Pray

Week 3 of Lent: Pray
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

In her book Holy the Firm, Annie Dillard writes about visiting a church in the Pacific Northwest:

There is one church here, so I go to it. On Sunday mornings I quit the house and wander down the hill to the white frame church in the firs. On a big Sunday there might be twenty of us there; often I am the only person under sixty, and feel as though I’m on an archaeological tour of Soviet Russia. The members are of mixed denominations; the minister is a Congregationalist, and wears a white shirt. The man knows God. Once, in the middle of the long pastoral prayer of intercession for the whole world — for the gift of wisdom to its leaders, for hope and mercy to the grieving and pained, succor to the oppressed, and God’s grace to all — in the middle of this he stopped, and burst out, “Lord, we bring you these same petitions every week.” After a shocked pause, he continued reading the prayer.

Indeed. My personal prayers often seem repetitive. The prayers of the church often seem repetitive. The list doesn’t change much. There are people who are sick, people who are grieving, people who are hungry and homeless, people calling out for justice, nations in conflict, disasters which destroy people and property, loved ones needing guidance, communities asking for discernment, and so on and so on.

“Lord, we bring you these same petitions every week!” (Exclamation point is mine.)

Why do we keep at it?

God doesn’t need my prayers (Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. Psalm 139:4) – but I do. I need to remember that in times of sorrow and struggle, joy and thanksgiving, God is present with me, working on me, changing me, transforming me so that I become more loving, caring, compassionate, and giving for the sake of others.

For someone, I will be God’s answer to prayer. And so I keep praying to open myself to be a vehicle of God’s love to others.

Keep praying. God will act. And sometimes it will be through you.

In Christ,

Pastor Jen

Week 2 of Lent: Learn

Week 2 of Lent: Learn

Many people of faith wish they knew more of the Bible. At times the Bible can seem confusing or difficult or outdated or mysterious. Very often people tell me that they’ve tried to read the Bible but at some point, they just gave up.

This week is week 2 of Lent and the spiritual practice we focus on is “learn.” In particular, the invitation is for you to learn more about the Bible, to read it, to ask questions about it.

Here are my 5 quick tips to get started on (or get back to) reading the Bible:

  1. Start with the book of Mark.

Reading the Bible is not like reading other books where most people start at the beginning and keep reading until the end. The Bible is more a collection of books than a single book. By starting with the gospel of Mark, you’ll get a good overview of the life and ministry of Jesus. From there you can move to other books – perhaps Genesis for an overview of God’s promises to the Hebrew people, or Jonah for a comedic story about a wayward prophet, or the Psalms for a time of prayer.

2. Use a study Bible.

A study Bible has an introduction to each book with a summary of its contents. It also provides helpful footnotes to explain unusual concepts and maps to show the places discussed. A couple of study Bibles I’d recommend include the Lutheran Study Bible from Augsburg Fortress or the Harper Collins Study Bible

3. Join a Bible study.

Faith has a Tuesday morning Bible study which studies a book of the Bible over a number of weeks verse by verse. It’s a great way to learn from others and develop connections with other people as well. The group is currently meeting on Zoom which makes it accessible from your own home!

4. Choose a Bible that fits your style.

The bottom line is that the best Bible is one you’re likely to pick up and read – so style of font and print size is important as is the weight (the study Bibles I recommended above are quite hefty). Translation also matters. The Bible you received at your Confirmation may not be the best one for you now. Perhaps it was the King James Version – which is lovely English, but not the easiest to understand today and from a scholarly standpoint, often not a translation of the original language (the King James was translated from a translation). The ELCA generally uses the NRSV translation (New Revised Standard Version) which is considered a good translation of the Hebrew and Greek original languages of the Bible. Other less-formal translations often in use include the Contemporary English Version (CEV) or the paraphrase (which is different from a tranlation) version called The Message.

5. Write in, highlight, mark up your Bible.

The Bible isn’t meant to be sitting on a shelf to be kept in pristine condition. Well, maybe it was at one time when it was difficult for people to obtain their own copies. But with the advent of the printing press and the Kindle reader, the Bible is meant to be marked up and highlighted with copious questions and exclamation points in the margins so you know where to turn back! Don’t be afraid of dogearing pages or leaving it around where your golden retriever might chew some corners of the gospel of Luke (yes – it happened to me). The Bible is a living word and meant to be explored!

Blessings on your study!

In Christ,

Pastor Jen