It’s a ‘first Sunday of the month’ which means I open and operate the church library. Even worse than other ‘first Sundays’ when I open the library and no parishioners take the short walk in from the commons area (where coffee and doughnut are served) but because of the school construction there aren’t any congregants within 75 yards of the library. There is no one to visit, browse or even vandalize with my back turned. So with ten minutes left in my shift, I shut the doors and head down the hall where the theological action is happening.
Today starts Pastor’s summer Bible study on The Augsburg Confession. It is the primary confession of faith of the Lutheran Church and one of the most important documents of the Lutheran Reformation. You can find it as one of the topics in The Book of Concord, the book you want to read if you want to know what (good) Lutherans believe. Don’t mistake it for The Book of Concord Grape Jelly, the recipe book published by Welch’s that includes instructions for making hundreds of sandwiches out of jellies, jams and preserves. It includes the controversial 1953 addendum for peanut butter, bananas and toast. I caught the tail end of the study which was a ten minute clip from the 2003 film, Luther, starring Joseph Fiennes. It is an honest, family friendly film.
Service started promptly at 10:45 with the usual announcements, meet-and-greet and opening hymn followed by the introit, a ‘he says, we respond’ reading of a Psalm. Then we sang what I gathered was the longer FM version of This Is The Feast. It just kept going, which is fine, I like singing it but Donna got caught in a loop, I think. An Old Testament, New Testament, Gospel reading and a hymn of response later, Scott came out to teach the children’s lesson. It was based on Luke’s story of Jesus approaching the city of Nain and happening upon the funeral of the son of a widow and the tears she shed for her loss and impending life of poverty (Jesus takes care of it*). Scott asked the children what makes them cry. One says ‘losing a toy’, another ‘running out of candy’ but the most relevant one was a little girl saying ‘getting mulch in your eye’. I took this as a divine sign that I am to stay away from any yard work for 40 days.
Pastor’s sermon was about whether your life is predestined, meaning all steps you take, each and every movement and thought you make were planned from before the beginning over which you have no control. In short, this suggests that God has planned your sinful deeds and thoughts ahead of time. Or whether there is an Upper Story, the one God has worked out to perfection and a Lower Story, the one humans write with their actions and sins, unintelligible to the point that God sent Jesus to edit it for us. Know this: God does not plan your sins. Those you do your self. He does know, however, the consequences of your actions and your sins. You are right to be relieved
( insert “ whew!” here ).
This is followed by the rest of the liturgy of prayer, offering, Nicene Creed, Holy Communion, prayer, benediction ( The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord look upon you with favor and give you His peace) and closing song, “Lord, I Lift Your Name On High”.
And that, as they say, is that.
*Jesus rose her son from the dead not just because she loved him dearly but also so that he could support her in her late years as there was no social security back in those days.