This Sunday, Trinity’s Worship and Music Team and Altar Guild will sit together and imagine what our worship space will look like this spring and summer. We will also review the Season of Lent and Holy Week. So I have been remembering the way Lent began for me.
A few weeks before Ash Wednesday I received an email message from a colleague belonging to a congregation which just began celebrating Holy Communion weekly. “Do you have an extra processional cross or know where we could find one?” We do not have an extra processional cross so I directed him to Reilly’s Catholic Supplies and suggested maybe they could find someone within the congregation to build a cross. I was reminded of how much I appreciate our weekly processions at Trinity.On the morning of Ash Wednesday our church office took a phone call from a congregation a few miles away: “Do you have any extra ashes?” Our office administrator wasn’t sure but when he gave me the message I checked the sacristy. We had burned last year’s Palm Sunday palms and had more than enough ashes. We delivered them to the congregation up the road that afternoon.
Then a Centering Prayer Group with people from a variety of Nampa congregations chose to attend Trinity Lutheran on Ash Wednesday.
Someone came to Trinity the week after Ash Wednesday for food from our pantry. She asked if we had any extra ashes. Thankfully our altar guild members had set the ashes, still in the stone container, in the cupboard. I took my minister’s desk hymnal edition, ribbon still marked at the Ash Wednesday service, and we walked into the sanctuary. I read the prayers, performed the imposition of ashes, we prayed again. She told me about her faith journey and I asked if I could tell her about Trinity.
I don’t know what the fruits of these encounters will be. It does seem to mean that the Spirit has been stirring something up in Nampa. This is my default, to observe. I want to understand why people and worship communities are hungry for and interested in ritual, ashes, processional crosses, and the liturgical year. What are the commonalities? Why were people turning to Trinity? I don’t have any answers but I finally decided the answers are not important. It is a wonderful thing when I have to get out of my head and act. We, our congregation, simply need to keep showing up, being present, serving, and practicing what has been passed down to us from ancestors in the faith, just as long as it still points to Jesus.
A member of a congregation I served was married to a man who would attend worship maybe once or twice a year with his wife and family. One day he dropped in and asked if I would baptize him. I said I would be honored and we could do it “next Wednesday.” But he said, no, that he wanted to be baptized on a Sunday during worship; we set a date. From then on he attended every Sunday. Three or four months later, the congregation gathered together for a potluck lunch, and a few of us were standing around outside smoking cigarettes. And one of the men asked me why this man had begun to participate. I said I didn’t know, but right then he came up to where we were standing and I said, ask him; here he is. And he said, “i saw the pastor (me) smoking a cigarette and I figured if he could make it into heaven, then so could I” He further indicated that it was important for him to make a public statement of his faith from within the context of Lutheran liturgy, since that helped him to show that he stood within a tradition that went all the way back to John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles.
P. S. I do not recommend using smoking as an evangelism tool. But we never know!