Easter Vigil – Sisters of Katie Luther

Today there’s an article on the Sisters of Katie Luther about my favorite church service of the year, the Great Vigil of Easter. If you’re unfamiliar with this service, or you’ve just always wanted to learn more about it, I encourage you to take a few moments on this Holy Saturday to read about what makes it such a beautiful, unique bridge between Good Friday and Easter Sunday!

So, what does the Great Vigil of Easter look like? What is a vigil, anyway? (That one is easy…it’s a devotional watching, often the night before a church festival.) Why should you go to a service on Saturday night (sometimes quite late, although often in the early evening instead), when you’re going to be up early on Easter Sunday morning anyway? What is the benefit of this service?

Now, I am may be biased, but the Great Vigil of Easter is my favorite service of the church year, and the one I have learned the most from over the years. The service is divided into four main parts: The Service of Light; Readings; The Baptismal Remembrance; and The Service of The Lord’s Supper. (Some churches also count the Service of Prayer, and the Service of The Word as unique parts). Each part of the Easter Vigil has a unique purpose, and the totality of the service bridges the gap from Good Friday to Easter morning.

via Easter Vigil – Sisters of Katie Luther.

Children Really Need to be in Church!

I’ve posted before about the importance of bringing children to church, from pretty much the moment of their birth on. I was reminded of why this is so important this morning. Even I can be surprised once in a while!

Chickadee was being her normal toddler self in church this morning, while our pastor was preaching on the Gospel text of John 4 about Jesus and the Samaritan woman. She was coloring on the bulletin, climbing on the pew (and falling off of it), and turning pages in the hymnal. Basically, doing anything other than paying attention to the sermon.

Or so I thought.

Suddenly, she looked up and (embarrassingly) shouted, “Drink water!”

She was listening.

She heard our pastor preaching about the Living Water that only Jesus gives, heard him and repeated it. Now, I’m not saying she understood what he was saying. (Because I can’t fully understand how the Holy Spirit works, however, I’m also not willing to say she didn’t understand on some level.) But she was listening, in her own toddler way.

That’s why we bring children, even very young children, as young as possible, to church, instead of leaving them at home or in the nursery, or giving up on church ourselves until they’re older. Because they are hearing, even when it looks like they’re not, and we know, because the Bible tells us, that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

That’s why we’re there every Sunday, even when it’s hard and our children do embarrassing things and it seems like they’re never going to get anything out of the service. Because they are getting the very most important thing out of the service. They are hearing, and their faith is growing.

That’s why our children need to be in church!

Der Weihnachtsgottesdienst

Tonight, we had the opportunity to attend a German Christmas service at Trinity Lutheran Church in Nashville, IL.

I took the children to a German Good Friday service this year, and that was an experience–very meaningful and somber. But there’s something about a Christmas service in German that makes you wonder if you’re actually in Heaven. The liturgy, although German, was familiar, even to the children. Even the sermon wasn’t impossible to follow, (although I did find the printed prayers, other than “Das Vaterunser,” more difficult to understand). And the hymns! All the standards you would expect: “Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen,” “Von Himmel hoch,” Müde bin ich,” and, of course, “Stille Nacht.”

Following the service, there was even an opportunity for some good, old-fashioned gemütlichkeit in the church fellowship hall, where they had some delicious homemade cookies. It was a great night, and I’m so thankful we had the chance to go, and that the children got a taste of Christmas in Germany!

Top Ten Reasons Why We Use the Liturgy

This is a great article by the Rev. William Cwirla on why Lutherans worship according the western, catholic liturgy. Keep reading at Higher Things to find out what those 10 reason are!

“Why the Liturgy?  First a definition and a disclaimer.  By “liturgy” I mean the western catholic mass form as it has been handed down by way of the Lutheran Reformation consisting of the five fixed canticles – Kyrie, Gloria in Excelsis, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei.  Pardon the Greek and Latin, but it sounds cool and we still use ‘em.  “Liturgy” also includes the assigned Scripture texts for the Sundays, feast days, and seasons.  Most of what I will say about the liturgy of the Divine Service will pertain to “liturgical worship” in general.

Now, why do we worship according to the western, catholic liturgy?”

via Higher Things : Top Ten Reasons Why We Use the Liturgy.

Easter Evening

We have been blessed in the last 24 hours to attend three beautiful worship services. Though they were all very different, they did share common elements–the full proclamation of the Gospel, a celebratory air befitting the Savior’s resurrection, and, of course, the return of “Alleluia!” I love this weekend every year, because of how much time we get to spend at church.

With apologies to my pastor, (who I hope got a well-deserved rest this afternoon following the whirlwind that is Holy Week), it makes me wish that there was such a thing as an Easter Evening service. I would love to gather with the Eleven in that locked room, and witness their reactions to their risen Lord and Savior, just I traveled to the tomb with the women this morning, and rejoiced with them when they learned that Jesus was alive.

Basically, I guess I just don’t want it to end. I’m grateful that we have a whole season of Easter, but even then, it seems like we return to “normal” too quickly. The more time I spend at church, with my church family, hearing the Word, and receiving the Sacrament, the more I want to be there. Between the Wednesday services all Lent, and the extra services of Holy Week, I feel a little let-down now that it’s over, and we’re back to our usual one service per week.

Then again, I suppose if we had extra services all the time, I’d get so used to it that I’d be complaining about them taking up too much of my time. I guess it has to end sometime!

Karfreitag

I had the opportunity to take the children at a German Good Friday service at Holy Cross, Wartburg, this morning.

It’s a beautiful old church. From what I was able to gather while there, the congregation is 170 years old, and the stone tower is almost 100–that’s some major American Lutheran history!

It was a wonderful experience. I’ve somehow managed to never make it to a German service before, even though I’ve always wanted to. I really enjoyed being able to worship in the language of my grandparents and great-grandparents, and I discovered that after all these years, my high school German stuck with me enough that I was able to (mostly) follow the service.

I was also impressed with how Turkey was able to follow along. That’s one of the beautiful things about the liturgy–if you know it in one language, you can figure out what’s going on, even in a foreign language. The rest of my children weren’t as interested in following the service, they just wanted to watch and listen. And it was quite something to hear all of those voices singing in German!

The part of the service that really choked me up (I knew there would be something!) was the Benediction. Not really sure why, but I really enjoyed hearing something so familiar and comforting in the language of my ancestors:

“Der Herr segne dich und behüte dich.
Der Herr erleuchte sein Angesicht über dich und sei dir gnädig,
Der Herr erhebe sein Angesicht auf dich und gebe dir Frieden.”

Churches without Organs?

Between the economy, and our society’s obsession with praise worship, this article really doesn’t surprise me. It does, however, make me very sad. Not just for a suffering business, (and I really do hope the Wicks Organ Company sees that pendulum swing in the future, and is able to go back to not just repairing, but also manufacturing, pipe organs), but for a loss of something beautiful and historic.

There was nothing my father liked better than a great pipe organ. Emphasis on great, because he was something of an organ snob. His idea of a good evening was listening to records, and later CDs, of organ concerts. Now, I can’t say I ever totally understood that, and while I do appreciate a good organ, I don’t feel as strongly about it as he did. Still, to me, an integral part of worship is the congregation’s singing being accompanied by an organ.

I really feel badly for people who don’t appreciate, don’t even want, that kind of music in their churches. I’m not saying you must have an organ to be saved or anything, but it’s historic, an art form, (and I do fear that many modern churches have lost sight of what art is and how beneficial it is to worship), and more importantly, an element of worship, that shouldn’t be so easily discarded.