Feasting with God
Ever since the time of Martin Luther himself, the Lutheran Church has made it a practice to review the basic teachings of the faith. In both the Catholic and Lutheran tradition, this is known as “catechism”. The word “catechism” comes from a Greek word that means “to echo back”—the idea being that when we learn the faith by heart (some might say “memorize” it), we have reliable reminders of our relationship with God. In fact, writing a catechism for the Saxon parishes of the Reformation was one of Martin Luther’s initial ministry acts. He toured the churches, met with the priests and congregation members, and realized—to his dismay—that the lay people were illiterate about their faith; many of the priests couldn’t even read the Latin biblical texts—let alone translate or teach it. Writing a catechism in German became a way to make the faith accessible to believers.
So, this year, we take up the topic of Holy Communion. Yes, we’ll talk about the basics from the Small Catechism: What is HolyCommunion? What benefits do we receive from this sacrament? How can eating and drinking do all this? And when is a person rightly prepared to receive this sacrament? But there’s so much more to consider.
Holy Communion is more than just a religious ritual. This sacrament is packed with the biblical imagery of feasting or fasting, hunger or satisfaction, of trusting God or hoarding, welcoming or rejecting God’s company, of looking to have our primal needs met – and encountering a God generous beyond belief.
Time after time, Scripture paints with vivid brushstrokes a portrait of the beautiful relationship God continues to forge with us human beings. A picture in which we, who come to God with empty hands, find ourselves surprised by abundance. And we, who come to God with plenty in our pantries, feel moved to share what we have and then
experience gratitude for the opportunity to care for a hungry neighbor.
Please take the opportunity that this Lenten season provides to meditate on what it means for us to sit at the table with a God who in Jesus fasts, hungers, teaches us about what is enough, welcomes us to eat with him, and there provides for us abundantly.
How you can be involved
Worship: Make a Lenten resolution to attend worship more frequently. Maybe that means every Sunday. Or maybe it means both Sundays and Wednesday nights (with “Holden Evening Prayer”). In each of these services, you will hear stories about how God interacts with us, providing for us—even when we may not realize we have any need.
Sunday Movies with a Moral: On two Sunday afternoons in Lent (March 12th and 26th at 1:00 p.m. in the Social Hall.) you are invited to the movies. These movies are all about food: Babette’s Feast and Chocolat. If you’ve seen them, you know that they are worth seeing again. If you haven’t seen them then, well, you have no excuse; you need to be there. We’ll wrap up each viewing with a conversation about God and food.
Red Wagon Food Drive: Bring non-perishable food items and other essentials (paper towels, etc.) and lay them before the Altar—literally. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have every one of us collect 40 items (one for each day of Lent) for the Multi-Service Center? God provides, so we do too. Let’s fill the Altar area so full that it’s an audacious witness to God’s generosity.
Midweek Study: On Wednesdays, we will interrupt our normal 10 a.m. Bible Study and instead have Noon Soup and Conversation. We’ll gather for a light lunch, (yes, we invite you to bring soup or bread), and explore one of the rich biblical stories about Feasting with God. At 7 p.m., we will sing “Holden Evening Prayer” and look at the texts we studied at Noon.
Dinner Groups: So far, 5 groups are currently scheduled to meet at least twice during Lent. These groups will gather for a coordinated meal of their choice, and discuss the book, Bread and Wine, by Shauna Niequest. If you missed the opportunity to join one of these groups, and have a hankering to be a part of the conversation, contact the Office, and we’ll set you up.
Get ready for the Feast!
Songs of the Season
Sing to the Lord a new song; Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. Psalm 96:1-2
For the season of Epiphany, I got to pick out the hymns we are singing in church. Much like other times in the liturgical calendar, I was reminded of great songs that I love to sing. The Epiphany themes of light and discipleship are used throughout these musical pieces and I was again amazed at how profound the lyrics are. We are often tempted to sing without even listening to the words. But when we stop to pay attention, the words have an important message for us to hear.
One example is “We are Marching in the Light.” This was the sending hymn and Bobbi McClain convinced me it was necessary to dance a little bit in the aisle as we walked down. As members were singing loudly, I listened to the words because I knew they had something to teach me. What did it mean for me to march, dance, sing, and pray in God’s light? For the other hymns, I also reflected on the fact that Jesus is our light and that he calls us to follow him.
In reality, a lot of these songs speak to the light that we have felt in our lives. This light is what continually calls us into discipleship as a response to the love and grace that we have received. Think of the classic hymn, “This Little Light of Mine.” The lyrics say that Jesus gave me this light and I’m goin’a let it shine everywhere I go. It doesn’t say anything about the special things that I have done or the failures of my life. No, it’s all about what Jesus has done.
There was even a hymn that I put in twice on the calendar because it is so meaningful to me. When I was growing up in Salem, OR, my church repeated a lot of the same songs. There are a few that always make me think of that place. One of them is “Here I Am, Lord.” It talks about the bigness of God but also God’s faithfulness. The lyrics invite the singer to respond to Jesus.
Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.
Again, though, if you look at the lyrics you will notice who does all of the heavy lifting. Jesus has “borne his people’s pain,” “wept for love of them” and “has set a feast for us.” The words say that we will be given hearts of love to replace our hearts of stone.
Today our nation and world seems especially dark and divided. We have forged hearts of stone instead of opening up our hearts to one another. As we move from the time after Epiphany into Lent, let’s pay attention to the songs of each season and what they have to teach us. To listen to the light that has come down for all people. Then, we can sing those great hymns while knowing that we are asked to respond to Christ present in our world today. Our response though is not a forced one, but rather we can just say, “Here I am, Lord.” Here I am and help me to hold all your people in my heart.
Intern Pastor Jake Shumacher
“Here I Am, Lord” by Dan Schutt © OCP 1981
Used by permission. OneLicense #A-706774
Looking Ahead to Lent
A Friendly Church
Dear Calvary Members:
Happy New Year! Can you believe it’s 2017?!
What better time than a new year, for all of us to consider new ways for our congregation to be open and welcoming to newcomers?
For the past several months your Council has been working hard to read,discuss, and discern how Calvary can be a gracious space for new people. In part we are having this conversation because it is apparent that we are an aging congregation that struggles to attract and keep younger adults and families. The younger families and adults we have here already are wonderful people, but we can’t expect them to be the only reason that newcomers might want to join us again. So why not consider some very practical ideas about how each of us can help to make Calvary an inviting place for visitors to return?
Please read this article with yourself in mind. Ask yourself, How can I help make welcome happen? What concrete action can I take to encourage newcomers’ continued presence with us here at Calvary? How might my prayers affect the growth we hope for in members? Your small acts of love will help others to see Calvary as a hospitable and safe place to worship and practice their faith.
May God give us the courage and the will to claim this new future for ourselves.
Your sister in ministry,
The article below is by Lyda K. Haws and originally appeared in Leading Ideas, April 25, 2012. Used by permission.
A Letter to Churches Seeking New Members
by Lyda K. Haws
My husband and I moved to the city a few years ago and have been “between churches.” We’ve been to visit quite a few of your churches and have some observations you may find helpful in encouraging more new members: No public humiliation. Please don’t make us stand in a room full of total strangers and introduce ourselves. We want to be anonymous since we’re not sure we want to see you again; and, frankly, we’re still seeing other churches. It’s not you; it’s us. We just don’t know you very well yet.
Acknowledge we exist. Being anonymous is not the same as being invisible. We’re probably going to be a little confused about what to do and where to go, so having someone greet us and ask if we have questions is most appreciated. Plus, if you act like we’re not there, we start to think we might as well not be there.
Put it in writing. Spell out everything we need to know in the bulletin: when to sit or stand, where to find the words. Even if you have one of those groovy new digital displays, include in the bulletin what will and won’t be on the screen.
No stalking. Please don’t chase us down the street to tell us you were glad to see us. When you act like it’s a miracle of God that you have visitors, it freaks us out. We may or may not fill out an information card, but that doesn’t mean we don’t like you. It may just mean we found everything we needed on your website.
Remember us. You get a gold star if we come back and you remember our names, but just a friendly “nice to see you again” makes us feel like you noticed we were there.
Have a website. If you don’t have a website, we won’t be coming to your church. That alone tells us you aren’t ready for new people. There is simply no excuse not to have one.
When, where, what. There are basically three thing we want to know when we come to your website; when your worship services are held, where you are located, and what you believe. And we really like to see all three on the home page, but at least make them SUPER easy to find and no more than one click away. If you are having special services like Christmas Eve (when visitors like us are likely to attend), please put those special worship times on the home page. We have encountered any number of church websites that seem to be more interested in looking pretty than actually being useful. You don’t have to be fancy to get what we need to decide whether to come visit.
Tell us what you really believe. Be proud of what you believe and spell it out on your website. Progressive? Great! Theologically conservative? Super! But what do those things mean in the life of your community? It’s really helpful before we show up waving rainbow flags to know that you’ll be waving our rainbow flags to know that you’ll be petitioning for an Intelligent Design curriculum in the local schools. If that is your belief, wonderful, but we both know we’re not going to be a good fit there, so let’s save each other the frustration. We’ll find out soon enough, so let’s get that awkward part out of the way online. There is someone out there who would love to find a community like yours if only they knew it existed.
Finding a new church home is not always easy, especially if the one you came from was such an important part of your lives. We were very, very close to our previous faith community; it’s hard to think of anywhere else coming close. Or maybe we’ve never been to church, and we want to explore that spiritual side for the first time; but it’s all so new and confusing. Or perhaps we’re broken and need a place where we can be broken, and it’s still okay.
Any number of the things that might bring us to your doorstep can make it hard to do much more than show up, sit quietly in the back, and sneak out afterward. But that’s the beautiful thing about church communities—they bring new people into your life, they can open your heart and mind to new experiences, they can mend those deepest of wounds, and affirm your relationship with God. With all that on the line, don’t let the little things mentioned above get in the way of connecting people to the Good News.
You can also read 50 Was to Welcome New People from The Lewis Center for Church Leadership at https://www.churchleadership.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/50_Ways_to_Build_Strength_in_
Practicing What You Preach
A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is
greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. Luke 22:24-27
In my limited experience of writing sermons, I have really enjoyed the process of studying and thinking about the message I want to communicate to the congregation. Inspiration comes from many different sources. I often realize that what I am writing is just as much for myself as for a person in the pews. I hear the difficult words that come with a gospel text. And the weight can be overwhelming. I’m supposed to get up in front and to talk about the reading while struggling to actually live out the message in my own life.
One clear example was when I read Luke’s account of the Last Supper. (This comes right before Christ’s crucifixion, which I preached on for Christ the King Sunday.) At this meal, Christ begins a new covenant. He tells the disciples to be servants of all. Then Jesus models how he wants us to be servants of all as he lays down his life for all people on the cross.
As I read through this passage, I was struck by how powerless I felt. Powerless to be a servant like Jesus would want. Powerless to effectively live out what I was just about to preach. Every sermon I give is preached knowing I fall very short of the very words that I am charged to bring. This is also why I write the sermon for myself. But I am also called to proclaim the grace that has come precisely because we aren’t able to practice what we preach. The message of grace says that we can’t do this on our own and we need help! This is why we bring every sermon back to the greater message of the cross and what Jesus has already done for us. This is also what Advent is saying to us: Jesus has come (Advent means “the arrival”) in the flesh for our sake because we have failed at living as Christ would.
In our powerlessness, Emmanuel has become like us in order to save us and to redeem the world. God took on the messiness of humanity in order to save it. If we could have done this on our own we wouldn’t have needed Christ. But we couldn’t and we can’t. Our message of hope is not in what we can do but in what God has done for us.
This is what Advent is all about. This is where our Advent journey will take us, but it’s not where we will stop. The grace we have received propels us forward to practice and preach grace into a world that needs God desperately. So as you celebrate the Christmas season by decorating a tree, buying presents and putting up Christmas lights, make sure to return to the promises that we hear this season: That Christ has come to us and practiced what he preached for us.
Intern Pastor Jake Schumacher
Rev. Lori A. Cornell