Grace-Filled Worship

The Goodsoil worship service last night was, as expected, a tremendously inspiring experience. Central Lutheran Church, right across from the convention center, had been slightly damaged by the tornado that touched down at midday (more on that in a minute), but was still available for our service.

The 90 year old, magnificent Neo-Gothic building seats well over 2000 people, and it was almost full. Two thousand enthusiastic, ebulient Lutherans, including (by my rough estimate) close to 75 vested clergy, including our own Pastor Lura and retired ELCA Bishop Herbert Chilstrom, sang the beautiful service with gusto and Spirit-filled reverence. It was an awesome privilege to be part of it. I often joke that I come to these meetings just for the Goodsoil worship. That's really only half-joking.

The preaching by Rev. Barbara Lundblad was spine-tingling. (I'm running out of superlative adjectives.) She is a member of the LGBT community, and is a favorite preacher for LC/NA and Goodsoil worship, for good reason. A professor of preaching at Union Theological Seminary, she knows how to capture a listening congregation and thow to keep them at rapt attention.

She preached on the Gospel story of Jesus calming the storm (Mark 4:35-41), and drew fabulous parallels between our experience as an inclusive community, what we are experiencing here in Minneapolis, and that ancient story. I hope to get a transcript today of that sermon, so that I can share quoted bits with you, but I will do my best to wing it.

The first thing that really struck me was her reminder that Jesus and the disciples were in the boat on the Sea of Galillee in order to go to the other side. That was alien, foreign territory. A people who were not recognized by the people of Israel to be worthy of inclusion or even consideration. It was a potent reminder that Jesus informed his entire ministry with inclusivity and full acceptance.

Pastor Lundblad also noted that the storm of change is frightening, but Jesus is present with us, calming the storm and reminding us to have faith. She also, quoting from the second reading (1 Corinthians 12:12-27), reminded us that we are all one bady, and that all parts are necessary. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it. My take on part of the sermon -- the one based on the passage of Jesus to "the other side" -- indicates that this story is not just a metaphor for the outsider, but that Jesus reaches out to all sides.

As promised, we are bringing home some marvelous worship resources. In particular, there was an incredible affirmation of faith ( a creed -- like the Apostles' or Nicene Creeds that we use), and a way of doing prayer that was so beautifully overwhelming that I could do nothing but sit and listen, with tears in my eyes.

This worship is something that should be shared -- if only I could do it justice in mere words. I just wish that all of you could have been there to share it with us.

And now for the tornado story. I was sitting in my hotel room when I heard what sounded to me to be a VERY large truck rumbling by -- and then I remembered that I was on the 8th floor. I looked out the window and saw, to my amazement, a tornado tear down the street and destroy the outside structures that Central Lutheran had set up for assembly hospitality. Trash was flying everywhere, trees were bent low, and street barriers were toppled. I found out later that some of the chairs from the outdoor cafe on the church plaza were found on the roof of the convention center next door. We were also later told that the tornado had caused an auto accident on the street behind Central, that semi-trailers parked in the loading docks of the convention center were moved about, and that the central steeple of the church had been damaged. It was a very scary, but awe-inspiring experience.

There was talk in the assembly that our opponents, specifically an organization called Lutheran CORE, were saying that the storm was a sign of God's displeasure with what was going on in the business session (i.e. discussion of the sexuality statement), but one of the Goodsoil leaders later pointed out that it was right after the affirmative vote was taken that the sun came out. So there.

At any rate, it was an eventful, momentous day for the entire assembly, no matter which side of "the aisle" you were sitting on. It will remain to be seen if the ELCA will be able to prevent a fracture of the denomination, but I personally have a lot of faith that if anyone can lead us through the difficult period we are facing, it is Bishop Hanson and his team. They are truly and fundamentally committed to the health and unity of this church, and we would all do well to follow his generous and competent lead.

I'll post the events of today so far a little later in the day. For now, keep the prayers coming. They're working!


Laura B

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