Monday, June 29, 2009

This is has been a most strange evening for me: It has been filled with the study of Lutheran Liturgy and tears for Fancy.

To begin with the latter, she has gained no ground. Her morning weight is between 60-74 grams. Her evening weight is between 80-84 grams. Whatever she gains by eating during the day (really once I get home and start holding her), she loses overnight. This evening, she started having spasms in her left leg and her breathing has become rather labored. If she exerts herself, such as moving about, her entire body heaves with every breath. She no longer wants to perch, but prefers this spot on the corner of the couch cushion, pressed against the arm. If she is alive in the morning, I shall be stunned. If she is, I am wondering if the time might have come for me to give up my vigil, to let go of this battle....

As I mentioned before, I had planned on, counted on, her being my solace when Kashi dies. I have had him since just after I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. He has been with me in all my moves, in walking away from my educational career. I know. I know that this year or the next will be his last. Fancy was supposed to have many, many more years. Being such a nuzzler, she was to help me focus on what I still have, rather than what I will have lost. Miracles do happen. This evening, however, my hope in that has all but disappeared.

In the midst of this sorrow, I have also experienced pure joy; I have spent the past four hours studying liturgy, with many a light bulb turning on!

As I mentioned yesterday, Pastor D is kind enough to answer my emails, even when he is busy and even when, perhaps, there are too many of them. Being the consummate teacher, Pastor also goes a step beyond this technology-aided teaching and sometimes sends a helpful one of his own. Today's gift was a link to this presentation on The Benefits of Liturgy.

I have Googled the topic. I have studied (rather confusedly) the Lutheran Service Book. I have read about it in the Book of Concord. I have sat in services trying to follow where to read and when, honestly not really understanding what was happening. And now I have watched the presentation three times with much thankfulness for the link. [My only negative comment is that the pastor speaks too quickly to take quality notes without rewinding repeatedly. For a conference presentation, I believe he should have taken more time in his teaching. However, truly, such a topic cannot really fit in a mere hour!]

I think what I have reveled in most from yesterday's study was Luther's comment that the Living Word is the sanctuary of all sanctuaries. The bible is that perfect refuge, that place of absolute safety and lasting salvation from our enemies. The ultimate message of that Word is the Gospel. Tonight, I heard that the point of Lutheran Liturgy is to preserve the Gospel in the Church so that we might receive its benefits again and again and again.

In one of his emails, Pastor wrote: I read your blog about the Third Commandment - it's not about the day, its about us! It's about God's Word. It's about giving us forgiveness and making us holy. That's what God desires. The Lord's Supper does that.

Obviously, he was talking about communion, but the point in both is that both the Lord's Day and the Lord's Supper is about what God desires for us: to receive His gift of salvation. So, too, is the Lutheran Liturgy.

In the presentation, one part I found particularly interesting what that one goal of Liturgy was to maintain the right relationship between God and man: Between Creator and created. Between Saviour and saved. Between Giver and receiver.

When I first wrote about liturgy, oh so long ago, it was that I had never met anyone who worshiped through liturgy the way Pastor does. It was something strange and wonderful to behold, to witness. And this was just in bible study!

Now, I understand the breadth and depth of each piece of the Liturgy and honestly wonder why such a tradition would be abandoned by so much of the Church in America today. Just a couple of weeks ago, one of the women in the evening bible study commented that she couldn't understand how anyone could get along without [Lutheran] liturgy. My mental thought was that I had done so for 31 years; it wasn't all that hard...not like my struggles to follow the service for the past couple of months. Boy, am I glad I kept my mouth shut! Even so, I also know that there are things that are not present in a Lutheran Confessional church that I miss. I need more time to reflect on that, but I also know that it is good and right to have ceremonies that, as the presenter quoted another pastor as saying, give all Glory to Christ and all comfort to poor sinners.

This is such a different approach to Sunday services than I have encountered. So often I have heard that you go to church to give, not to receive. That if all you desire is to be fed, then you should re-examine your motives for being there.

Yes, God is a giver, but what are you giving back? seems to be the common thread that has been woven so closely with the justification-by-faith-but-judgment-by-works position that is so prevalent. That leads to such a desperate, futile life, when God desires so much more for us!

I want to write more, such as about the ordinaries, but I am not sure I am spelling that right, nor could I begin to spell all 5 of them. Perhaps it would be best if you were to invest a mere hour of your time to listen for yourself. Even if attending a Lutheran church is the furthest thing from your mind, the message on how services should be--preserving the Gospel--is one that fits in all Christian denominations.

And while you are at it, you might want to read Pastor's blog entry "A Plea to Pastors." A soapbox of mine for years has been to bemoan the insanity of how often pastors/preachers/ministers/priests end up apologizing for reading aloud Scripture..."I know it's a bit long, but bear with me." My goodness, I want to stand up and shout. You are apologizing for reading the Word of God in His own house! Pastor's entry mirrors the hollowness that I feel in those moments.

As long as I am quoting Pastor's emails (and hoping fervently that he does not mind), I would like to add a snippet from another one, also on communion. While the topic is the Lord's Supper, what he is saying really points to the that which I keep repeating to myself over and over and over again. Grace is objective. It is a gift I am given rather than something I have to earn by "good enough" works!

And so to receive the Lord’s Supper worthily is to believe: I am a sinner, I need forgiveness, and my Lord has promised that in His body and blood, given to me here, I receive that forgiveness. Worthiness has nothing to do with being good, being holy, having a strong enough faith, etc. True worthiness is the recognition that I am UNworthy, and the my Lord is coming to me here in His grace and mercy to give me what I am not.

No comments: