23 December 2007

The Rhythm of Life

No, I'm not thinking of the late-80s Scorpions song, but of the Christian faith and life in daily prayer and the weekly Divine Service, the Sundays and Seasons of the Church Year, and the sanctoral cycle of feasts and commemorations. That's where I live, mostly, and I love it. I do it for the sake of the Gospel, for the sake of faith and piety, for the benefit of my congregation and anyone else who cares to hear the Word of God, to receive the gifts of Christ, and to pray, praise and give thanks. The Apostles deemed it most necessary that they devote themselves to the Word of God and prayer, and I can't imagine that I ought to become preoccupied with anything else than that. In this way, all things are sanctified to our use and received with thanksgiving.

The fundamental cornerstone of the Christian faith and life, and of the whole Christian Church on earth, is the celebration of the Lord's Supper in the Lord's House on each Lord's Day. Of course, there have always been those who find themselves unable to sanctify the Holy Day in this way, on account of infirmity or conflicting vocational obligations; for those folks, other ways and means are found to serve them with the gifts Christ freely gives. Otherwise, to be a Christian is to be in church at least every Sunday, to hear the Gospel and to receive the Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. It is as fundamental to the spiritual life as breathing and eating and drinking are to earthly life. Which is precisely why the devil, the world, and the sinful old Adam conspire together and work so hard to prevent the children of God from being gathered around His Table in His House.

Over the past several weeks, the devil has worked particularly hard here in the South Bend area to make going to church downright difficult. As I recall, Luther makes some reference to the way the devil messes with the weather in order to harass Christians, and that has surely been the case lately. This morning I kept thinking of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song," as we have been living in the land of ice and snow, without any midnight sun that I know of, but the harsh winds were blowing all day today! (I know that Robert Plant actually sings of the "hot springs" blowing, but it's always sounded more like "harsh winds" to me, and that's what we actually had today.) Two weeks ago it was a treacherous layer of ice on the roads and everything else. Last week it was a foot or more of snow that fell between Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. And then the incredibly strong and bitterly cold winds today, which took down trees and power lines all over town and managed to make a mess of things everywhere. I'm somewhat amazed, impressed and pleased, that the attendance at Emmaus has actually been pretty good, in spite of the weather; though certainly not what it would have been otherwise. The people of Emmaus are pious and faithful and generally rather gumptuous, but the worse sort of winter weather can be hazardous for some of our older members, who end up missing out when the going gets tough. Of course, the Lord remains the real Weather Man, and He only allows the devil a limited degree of latitude to muck about. As He continues to provide food and clothing, shelter and protection for the body all year long, so does He nourish and sustain the spiritual body and life with His means of grace, both in season and out of season.

From the 17th of December through the Feast of the Epiphany on the 6th of January, Emmaus is gathered at least once a day: for responsive prayer on each of the last seven days of Advent (in addition to the Feast of St. Thomas on the 20th and the regular Sunday Divine Service), and for the Divine Service on each of the Twelve Days of Christmas and the Epihany of our Lord. I pray that the devil is not given the leeway to mess up the weather on all of those coming days!

Even with my faithful assistant to help me with the preaching during Christmas Tide, it is still a lot of work to prepare for and administer all of the Services. It is a rigorous undertaking, as is the similar rhythm of Holy Week and the first Octave of Easter Tide. But I relish it and revel in it, nonetheless. It saddens me, actually, that more Christian pastors and people do not experience the blessed peace and tranquility that derives from the daily hearing and receiving of the Gospel. If I could keep this pace all year long, I would gladly do it. As it is, there is something to be said for marking Christmas and Easter in such a uniquely emphatic way.

Christmas Eve will begin with Lessons & Carols (at Evening Prayer), and then the Midnight ChristMass to celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord. Christmas Day in the morning will be observed with the order of the Chorale Communion (LSB Divine Service Setting Five). The next several days are festivals commemorating St. Stephen the Martyr, St. John the Apostle & Evangelist, and the Holy Innocents. The Fifth Day of Christmas, and other non-festival days in the course of Christmas Tide, will be marked with a brief spoken Divine Service. The First Sunday after Christmas, New Year's Eve, and the Feast of the Name & Circumcision of Jesus (on the 1st of January) will each be celebrated with appropriate festivity. Finally, the Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord will be marked with particular solemnity, as the grand culmination of our corporate celebration of the Incarnation of the Son of God. Of course, we continue to confess and celebrate His Incarnation and Manifestation throughout Epiphany Tide, and really throughout the entire Church Year, but the Feast of the Epiphany on the 6th of January provides a grand and glorious pivot from the festival Season of the ChristMass to the regular rhythm of the Church's faith and life in Christ. I'm already beginning to savor it now!


Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Okay, so that Scorpions song might actually have been "The Rhythm of Love," but I was close enough for rock 'n' roll. Life and Love are of a piece, anyway, or ought to be.

Karin said...

Hey, we love this time of year! Obviously the head of our household will risk life and limb to get us there.....sigh. Really, we SO appreciate the hard work you guys do and I would have no clue what that Scorpians song might have actually said....