Derek Johnson Muses

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Why go to Easter Vigil and Long Communion Lines

If you are good Lutheran, you will have been to church three times in four days by the time Easter is up, so why would it hurt if you went four times in four days? I get it: you’re physically spent, and you literally can’t go to church again. But if you live in Seward, here’s the benefit of coming to Easter Vigil at St. John: you will get to watch yours truly play with fire!

Okay, that’s a really lousy reason compared to hearing about God’s grace and reason. But it is ironic that the two major festivals in the church, Christmas (celebration of the Incarnate Word) and Easter (Celebration of Christ’s victory), are both marked by service the night before that involve candles. One is the height of all celebration, the other is an afterthought.

Pastor Will Weedon does a lot better job of explaining Easter Vigil in this podcast, but let me state this from my experience: the service is a lot of readings (not unlike Christmas day), and focuses on how the story of the Bible has culminated in the event we celebrate on Easter, Christ’s resurrection, the promised and testified to hope. If you’re home, going to bed early for 6:30 sunrise service, I understand. But you are missing out.

It’ll look just like this.

Lutherans seem talk about communion a lot, but in one of two ways: one, there are those who talk about what a joy it is to receive Christ’s body and blood, and two, how long it takes. I haven’t met a lot of Lutherans who will talk about both.

Let me just say this, since Easter is tomorrow and you’re probably going to find yourself in a long line: give thanks that it takes so long to go up for communion. You get to sing more hymns, and more time to ponder the mystery of the sacrament. And if you’re church has a lot of old people who sit in front like mine does, it’s going to take them a long time to get up there. I’m on the ushering committee at St. John, I know how long it takes.

I’m guessing there are certain congregations in the LCMS that discontinued weekly communion because it just took so long and so many volunteer hours, which I get. But while it’s up to an individual congregation to decide how often they communion, just remember: you are receiving a gift from God, with your brothers and sisters, for your eternal salvation. Do you really want to complain about how long it takes to set the table and do the dishes?

Let me share from my own personal experience. Since I usher at St. John’s, there are Sundays I don’t get to read the prayer in the front of the hymnal before I go up to take communion. Sometimes, I do feel rushed, since I communion at the end and have to tell Pastor who needs to receive communion in the pew (which is a significant responsibility). I don’t always take communion with the best mindset, but I’m there, and my receiving depends on what God does for me, not what I’m thinking at the time.

So this Sunday, when you’re in a long line headed to an assist who is standing outside the altar, just remember: you’re able to have slice of heaven this because Jesus gave up his God-head and rose from the dead. Even if you’re groggy, you’re getting Christ’s body and blood.

Christmas is Coming…Wait, that Sounds Foreboding

DSCN9632

3 hours into first big snow fall of winter 2012-2013

I am grateful I went advent service this morning instead of tonight-well, I couldn’t have gone this evening anyway, given that the first big snow of the year has started. As of right now, I’m packed in; time to get a photo show ready for the Noyes Focus room in February.

In the business of Blue River Hybrids, Christmas is time to close the office for a week and take a break from the fall test sample-grind. In my world, the only luxury of the Christmas season are the Starbucks seasonal lattes I enjoy. The world’s Christmas, for the most part, is a world that I am oblivious too. Every couple of years, I jump on a sale or two, but sales are for suckers.

It’s not intentional. For the most part, I lead a modest life, and the season of Christmas doesn’t alter that. I will buy gifts for my immediate family at the gallery (plug-Noyes Art Gallery offers a number of great gifts, and they are all originals), and I’ll give some people my pictures as presents. But if you were going to give me a gift and can’t decide, donate the money to a charity that helps needy families or feeds children, or to a missions society in my name. Tom Unger, you may have Christmas solved.

And I don’t care for how Christmas always seems to be celebrated two weeks before it actually happens. While it hasn’t been as bad this year, the networks have been trotting out Christmas programming the day after Halloween over the past five years. With school programs being moved up to December 17, Christmas feels over before it even arrives at times. Please, everyone go to Facebook and like Occupy Advent.

Over these next couple weeks, my family will eventually come back and leave. I’ll make some cookies and few other good meals. My father’s two brothers will cover for a meal, or we will go over there. We’ll exchange gifts, and may have some extra snow. At church, I’ll have some extra duties for Worship Committee, as we will be down to one service with few ushers over the next couple of weeks. Christmas doesn’t feel huge for me; it just feels like a big message in a small world.

In mid-December, I choose to live in Advent rather than look forward to Christmas. The picture in my mind isn’t garlands or trimmed trees, but of repentance. We studied Philippians 4 this  past Sunday in Bible class, and two words struck me: Paul’s exhortation to “rejoice” and his commendation of peace to the believers. At church this morning, Pastor Bruick finished our advent series on notable births, including Benjamin and Obed. Both themes welded themselves together: every birth is a time to rejoice and a time for peace, how much more so the birth of Christ! Thanks be to God!

(Christmas meditation)

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