It’s New Year’s Eve service at Holy Cross. It starts at 5:30 but we arrive early so Susan can go over the readings for the evening. It’s unusual to hear Scripture spoken so clearly two weeks in a row, last week with Baiba and this week with Susan. Enunciation rules!
Our sound board man was absent and being the helpful guy I am, Susan offered my services to run the electric slideshow. I’m glad to help out when I can. The remote control I use takes until about sermon-time before it reacts the way I need it to have a smooth running liturgy. Until then it’s like rolling bones to see if the next verse of “Seek Ye First” will come up in time to prevent embarrassing ‘uh-bluh-bluh-bluhs’ up and down the pews.
We had many hymns to sing and my faves were Abide With Me (offering), Lord, Take My Hand and Lead Me* (communion), and Let Us All With Gladsome Voice (recessional). Now, what are we going to say about nunc dimittis? This is a canticle, which is a little different from a hymn in that its lyrics come from any part of Scripture except The Psalms. Nunc dimittis is Latin for ‘Now you dismiss…’. The lyrics come from The Song of Simeon found in Luke 2:29-32. It is meant to occur at the end of the service but most Lutheran synods showcase it at the end of Holy Communion. Maybe it is just me but I rarely ever sing it correctly. It is sung as a chant and in a mostly monotone voice, not that I have a problem chanting or singing monotone but it is the rhythm that leaves me by the side of the road. The best way I can describe it is if beat writer Jack Kerouac wrote the song and taught how it was to be performed.
Pastor Sattler taught a lesson on time and resurrection. He explained how long ago Eskimos were asked how old they were. To a person they answered ‘almost’. This didn’t satisfy the Western sensibilities of their American and British investigators. Eventually, they discovered that the Eskimos define the beginning of life in a very different way than they did. To the Eskimo people the beginning of life started when they woke up for the day. They believed they died when they went to sleep and resurrected the next morning. So when they answered ‘almost’ they meant that their lives were ‘almost’ over only because they hadn’t gone to sleep yet. Jesus expresses a similar concept when he speaks about his friend Lazarus.
After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
Jesus says that when we die (sleep) we will wake up to The Lord as Lazarus did when He called him back to life and out of the tomb. Perhaps this is the kind of knowledge God put forth in His creation for those who have not been touched by The Word but are given the mental faculties to interpret it.
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
Pastor showed other examples of time in Scripture. Being the end of the year, he suggested that January 1 is a good time to resolve one’s self to more (any) Bible study and prayer. He then said that any time is good for more (any) Bible study and prayer. If you start January 1 then forget on January 2, then start up again on January 3. Repeat as needed.
I find that time is hard to master. You find that time is hard to master. But more likely time will be used to master you. Appointments, deadlines, shot clocks, closing times, court orders, school bells, the weekly Friday siren, game buzzers, alarm clocks, automatic coffeemakers, the midnight train whistle, your grandfather’s clock, the baby’s stomach, the baby’s diaper, the next cigarette, and so forth and so on control your day from first blink to last nod. Bosses, children, spouses, friends, parents, businesses, families, social groups, doctors, this person here, that guy over there and whoever-that-is wanting a piece of you also take up your time. People with unhealthy motives try to steal the time you need for your self and others who truly need it. And even if there are no people to occupy your clock, time itself just rolls on its merry way with no consideration for you or your issues. So what can a human do? Many things, but the best is to pray to God for wisdom and a discerning brain when it comes to divvying up your day. That’s probably not the ‘practical’ answer you wanted to read. If that’s the case, you can always hire a ‘life coach’ you can pay to tell you what to do. I have people in my life who do that for me for free. Who is more practical than God? No one (right answer). Just show Him some patience and let Him work with you.
Pastor’s prayers included the health of our Holy Cross and our members as well as the Church universal and its leaders and members. He prayed for those who protect our neighborhoods such as firemen, policemen, EMTs, garbage collectors, mailmen, social workers, the military and all who bring order to our lives. He also, and always, prays for our local civic leaders such as the governor, legislators, judges and those who make or interpret the laws of our state. He prayed for our national leaders including the president, senators and representatives, the justices on the Supreme Court and those who work for the country’s benefit. Though we know who we are praying for, but what are we praying for? We pray that all civic (and private) leaders find wisdom in Jesus, that their decisions are for the good of all citizens not just a rarefied few who treat people harshly and judge them wrongly. We pray for the hearts of our leaders to find salvation in The Lord.
*written by Julie von Hausmann, born in Riga, Latvia, 1825. It is not a wonder that the Latvian church plays this. A lot. It is a favorite of mine as well.