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.

Issues Etc. Vidcasts: Liturgy and American Revivalism

Driving across Wisconsin and Iowa, while exhausting and tiring, was a great time to get caught up on some Issues, Etc. podcasts that had been piling up. Issues, Etc. works great on the road espescially when you have series, which thanks to Pastor Will Weedon, I did.

I’d referenced this before, but I wanted to mention again how great Dr. Larry Rast’s podcast on American Revivalism is. It goes a long way to showing how dangerous emotion-driven Christianity and the idea of “new measures” are. Dr. Rast, I hope you write a book on this.

Acts 2 has to be the most-abused chapter in all of Scripture. The feminists use it to justify woman pastors, the non-dems use it to justify throwing out the liturgy, and the real extremists use it to justify universal redemption.

Singing A Capella: Growing the Liturgy into Every Day Life

On a Sunday this past year when I was sitting in the congregation at St. John (a rarity-half the time I’m either in the back for worship committee or in the choir loft to record the service) as we began to sing the Te Deum in the latter half of Matins. I have loved the Te Deum since I was a kid, because of how it puts the creed so simply. We began to sing it, and then Paul Soulek, St. John’s fearless organist, stopped playing the organ during the fifth stanza, and that left the congregation sinking A Capella. I don’t mind that once in a while, but this time, Paul didn’t pick up the music until after there was key change from verse six to seven. I sang Matins in college every other day, and I missed that key change, as did most of the congregation.

Another time last fall, Paul again stopped playing during the middle of the Te Deum, although he picked up before the key change. But when he stopped, I lost confidence in what I was singing, worrying that I would miss the key change and ruining the song for me. I made it a point to talk with Paul about it.

Paul brought a surprising perspective to my inquiry: he said that one of his goals as our church music director was to get our congregation to sing on its own without the organ. He played the song again for me, and I did think that people lost confidence when he stopped playing. But I appreciated what Paul was saying: the more congregation sings A Capella, the more natural it becomes. Paul said that congregations that don’t have an organist would be very well off if they were able to sing A Capella, and I suppose he’s right.

As I said before, I went to morning and evening prayer office almost every day in college, and many times, we sang or chanted A Capella. It was challenging at first, but after I learned it, I was able to sing well enough. Chanting and singing liturgy isn’t easy, and I don’t think it’s supposed to be. When we sing in church, it is for the purpose of repeating and retaining Christ’s words to us, and it should challenge us. Apparently, I fell into the same trap that modern evangelicals do when it comes to church music. #thatoblivious

So now, whenever Paul stops playing and let’s the congregation sing, I remember of how important it is. And recently I have noticed that the congregation doesn’t loose confidence when Paul stops during the Te Deum, which is a great sign of growth. Thanks be to God.


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