By Pr Meggan Manlove
Simple meals of soup and bread followed by a service of Evening Prayer–these spiritual practices have been part of my Lenten journey since my two years as a confirmation student at Custer Lutheran Fellowship. At Trinity we have fun coming up with special names for the soup people bring, adding modifiers like Delicious, Northwest, Surprise. For some people this is the one home cooked meal they will eat during the week but the simplicity of the meal remains. This was even clearer to me as a confirmation student. Before and after the season of Lent, the meals I ate with the other students included pot-roast, lasagna, scalloped potatoes, and often a tasty dessert. The switch to soup and bread was a reminder that we were in a different kind of season, one in which simplicity reigned supreme.
Two weeks ago someone told me she had talked with a relative back in the Midwest who was preparing for his own congregation’s soup supper and service of Evening Prayer. Coast-to-coast, this pairing of food for the body and food for the soul is a commonality for Lutherans each Lent. Winter has been with us for a few months. Usually our clocks spring forward during the 40-day journey and instead of arriving at church in the dark, the daylight extends to the beginning of worship. We take time over a warm meal to catch up on each others stories–whether we spend our days in the classroom and playground, workplace, volunteer organization, civic groups. There are athletic events and spring break adventures to hash over. People have started planning or planting gardens. The supply of stories is as full as the pots of soup and baskets of bread. We process from our dining area to the sanctuary where we are filled up again, this time by our shared story. Though it takes on a different theme every year for every congregation, the story is God’s salvation history–purest if each week we read and explore a text from the Easter Vigil. This year at Trinity we are overhearing conversations by the cast of characters from Holy Week. The story all of us hear in some form is the story of God’s love and how God’s love led to the Cross.
Today Lutherans use a variety of Evening Prayer settings: bluegrass, jazz, a setting composed for Evangelical Lutheran Worship, and the still wonderful Holden Evening Prayer. When I went into the sanctuary, now the fellowship hall, in the late 1980s with my parents, our congregation had fewer choices. I don’t remember if we even used a setting. The only thing I do remember is a single piece of music. Lent was the one time of year when we turned to the canticle section in the Lutheran Book of Worship. Our pastor would sing the verses and we would all join in on the Canticle 13 refrain, “Keep in mind that Jesus Christ has died for us and is risen from the dead. He is our saving Lord; he is joy for all ages.” That refrain has stayed with me after all these years. Every Ash Wednesday I start humming it and though their are other Lent hymns, new and old, that I love, this refrain becomes my mantra for the 40 days.
I love the pageantry and richness of Holy Week but until then I will be inviting everyone in Nampa to Trinity’s final two Mid-week Lent Soup Suppers followed by Evening Prayer.