Pastors' Blog

Happy New Church Year!

We live in a time when we follow an annual calendar based on the orbit of the planet Earth around the sun. New Year’s day on that calendar is January 1st. The Christian church also follows a calendar, but based on the orbit of the Christian life around the Son of God.

The scene is so familiar. Parents, children, the Divine Service, and all the “accessories” that come along for the ride—the children’s bulletins, the scraps of “scribble paper,” the Cheerios, and the crayons. Each week, we parents go to great lengths to keep our children occupied during the worship hour. We know how our children, especially the younger ones, can become when they are bored or ignored, and we really don’t want to see that in public.

But is there something beyond merely keeping our children occupied for the time being? Is there some way to move in the Divine Service “beyond Cheerios and crayons”?

At Pentecost, the wind brought the Spirit of God which re-created the people of Israel as the New Testament church. 3,000 people were baptized that day and the church was born. The name is an alternate name for the Jewish celebration of the Feast of Weeks, which occurred fifty (Latin: pente-) days after Passover.

The feast day of the Ascension has a little of everything in it—Christmas, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and the anticipation of Pentecost.

So far in the divine worship service the congregation has been the primary speakers, opening their lips in prayer and praise. At this point the congregation falls silent and our Lord himself speaks to us. We open our ears and hearts to his life giving words spoken through the Lessons.

The hymn “The Day of Resurrection” is one of the oldest hymns in our hymnary—written more than a thousand years ago by Saint John of Damascus. At the Easter Eve midnight service it is customary in Eastern Orthodox churches for worshipers to carry unlighted candles which are lighted on signal while this hymn is sung.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

On Easter Day, we celebrate the astonishing, miraculous resurrection of Jesus, an event that changed the course of history. Yet the whole redemptive work, not only the one phase of the resurrection, is the object of Easter’s celebration.

On Maundy Thursday, the church recalls the events of Jesus’ life the day before he was crucified. This includes Jesus washing his disciples’ feet and the institution of the Lord’s Supper.

Good Friday is the most solemn of all days in the Christian church year. But the English title Good Friday reflects the joy of Christ’s completed act of redemption.

The Salutation marks a new and different part of the divine service. The Collect is a brief but significant prayer related to the theme for the day, preparing the way for the reading of the lessons.

The hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” is called the Battle Hymn of the Reformation. Written by Martin Luther, it has been called “the greatest hymn of the greatest man in the greatest period of Germany history.” By 1900 it had been translated into 53 languages, and a recent estimate counts that number at over 200 languages.

Close