Spiritual Reflections

Since we cannot assemble weekly in person for a full range of experiences of Christian community, I am endeavoring in the first weeks of my pastorate at Resurrection Church to offer weekly spiritual reflections in addition to my Sunday sermon videos. I see these mid-week written reflections as an exercise of my teaching ministry as a pastor, especially during this time of global pandemic and necessary sheltering at home and social distancing. Resurrection Church has a rich tradition of substantive adult Christian Education. These weekly reflections seek to fill, in some measure, the void created by the absence of our Sunday morning adult educational experiences. I long for the return of those Sunday morning offerings in person which feature the substantial gifts of our own members, but for now, I give you what I can in these weekly reflections. These messages also serve to nurture a sense of our Christian community during this time when we are apart.

May God in Christ bless your engagement with these pastoral offerings in the power of the Holy Spirit for your ongoing Christian formation for your journey of faith for such a time as this.

Week of the Second Sunday of Easter

Dear Christian Friends:

Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!

It may be some combination of pandemic fatigue, more people receiving their vaccinations, and a more palpable sense that we are seeing light at the end of this very long and dark tunnel of the pandemic, but I am aware of a greater extent of conversational energy in our congregation around the question, “When is Resurrection Church going to open up again for worship and other activities indoors?”

In this week’s message, I offer my own observations on this question, informed by deliberations among our congregational leaders to date. I pray that my thoughts contribute to the ongoing conversation and discernment that will lead to our coming decisions. I offer this pastorally and not prescriptively, for there are many conversation partners, and major decisions in our life together are made communally and not by an individual. As your pastor, I will be among the many leaders that will ultimately make the decision to return to indoor activities.

Which is to say, in terms of our organization and process, conversations about returning indoors have been focused in an ad hoc group formed last summer, the Reopening Planning Group, which now meets monthly to assess where we are in the discernment to reopen in relation to the many complex, moving parts and twists and turns of the pandemic. This group, in its informal capacity, does not make decisions, but offers recommendations to the Congregation Council for their further deliberation and decision-making. It is ultimately the Congregation Council that will make the decisions that will determine the date when we will return to activities indoors in the church.

Taking up now my reflections, it strikes me, first of all, that the word ‘reopening’ is something of a misnomer. Which is to say, our congregation has never been closed. We’ve simply redirected our activities elsewhere than inside the building – principally online and in person outdoors. It’s the building that will be reopened for indoor use, not the congregation!

Easter Week 2021

Dear Christian Friends:

Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!

While we would have preferred to be indoors for the fullness of our usual routines for Holy Week and Easter, we were not lacking for rich worshipful encounters with Christ at home and outdoors during the holy days of pandemic year 2021.

Excellent and beautifully crafted resources provided opportunities for worship at home on Palm and Passion Sunday, on each of the Three Days, and on Easter Day, Resurrection of Our Lord. If you engaged the fullness of these bulletins and their outlines and contents for worship, you had what you needed for faithful observances of these Holy Days. I very much hope and pray that you claimed opportunities to explore the riches of these materials. Thanks so very much to Gordon Lathrop and Gail Ramshaw for again providing these resources to the people of God at Resurrection Church, but also for making them available for use throughout the wider church.

Home worship videos also framed our experiences on Palm and Passion Sunday and on Easter Day. Thanks be to God for, and our sincere thanks to, our readers, prayer leaders, singers, other musicians, videographers, and all others who share in the teamwork of putting together these videos for our worshipful edification.

Moreover, we gathered numerous times in person outdoors for worship. Here are the numbers: 30 braved the wet weather for worship outdoors on Palm and Passion Sunday. The combined attendance for the two Maundy Thursday services was 42, even with a cold, blustery wind. 38 braved similar conditions for the two liturgies on Good Friday. 20 were present for our Easter Vigil. And 95 filled the church and parsonage yards on Easter Sunday after a continental Easter breakfast – with thanks to all those who baked and otherwise put together this breakfast offering. These attendance numbers are respectable and encouraging.

But it’s not about the numbers. Rather, it’s about being gathered by the Holy Spirit to plumb the depths in liturgy of the core realities of the Christian faith. Resurrection Church’s nave was bereft of people, in its own way sepulchral and sad. In contrast, our Memorial Garden, more typically a lonely place, was full of life, well-peopled, and served as centerstage, as it were, for the liturgical drama of The Three Days. On Maundy Thursday it was the Garden of Gethsemane, when those assembled, including an ensemble of choir members, gave voice under Barbara’s leadership to Psalm 88, a psalm of lament, recalling Jesus’ prayerful agony in the garden. On Good Friday, the Memorial Garden was Golgotha, where a roughhewn wooden cross was planted after the procession, and worshipers lined up to place votive candles at the foot of the cross, a gesture of adoration of our Lord Jesus who suffered there. During the Easter Vigil, in our mind’s eye, we could see the Memorial Garden as the place of Jesus’ tomb, a place of resurrection.

These liturgical acts had the effect of consecrating in new ways our Memorial Garden, the place of repose for the remains of many of our beloved church and family members. It was most poignant for me to consider the Memorial Garden as a place of resurrection for those who rest there, when Christ returns at the resurrection at the last day to consummate the fullness of the divine reign.

We often take for granted liturgical spaces. But the pandemic’s strictures of forcing us outdoors help us to take a new look at the places where we worship. Recall that in the Gospels’ reporting, much of Jesus’ ministry took place in settings outdoors where the weather inevitably had effects on the goings on. Our nave is warm in the winter, and cool in the summer, that is to say, always comfortable. Then there was the varied weather this past week for our worship outdoors. On the days of greatest solemnity, focused on Jesus’ Passion, the weather was appropriately and fittingly bracing with precipitation and the threat of rain (and even some snow on Maundy Thursday), along with stiff, cold winds. As the fulcrum shifted in the course of The Three Days, when we arrived at the first celebration of resurrection at the Easter Vigil, the weather, again fittingly, had moderated – clear skies, more comfortable temperatures, and the absence of a bracing wind. Thus, we could sense in our bodies climatic conditions that matched the mood of the narratives of Jesus’ final earthly days that we were remembering and liturgically re-enacting.

Additionally, during the solemn silences of The Three Days, worshipers noted the songs of birds and the sounds of wind chimes on neighbors’ porches, providing another kind of accompaniment to our liturgies.

Also of note, we dared to sing again – “All Glory, Laud, and Honor” on Palm and Passion Sunday, Psalm 88 on Maundy Thursday, some chanted portions of the liturgies on Good Friday and at the Easter Vigil, and then the robust singing of “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” on Easter Sunday morning. Indeed, how wonderful it was to give voice in song once again to gospel proclamation after a full year’s hiatus from this central Christian practice. Likewise, how wonderful to hear our choir again in person and live. As I have said, the videos of our choir which Barbara weaves together are quite fine. Choral music live, though, is such a more magnificent gift and aid to proclaiming the good news.

And then, on Easter Sunday, for the church and parsonage yards to be filled with the Resurrection faithful, enjoying coffee and goods baked by the loving hands of our members, was a sight for sore eyes. I’ve never before preached, nor led worship from a house’s outdoor deck, but that location made a fitting chancel for our day’s celebrations. Over the course of the days of Holy Week and Easter, we journeyed from the Memorial Garden on the Potomac Street side of the church to the ground on the Powhatan Street side that contains our “Plot Against Hunger,” our church’s vegetable garden, the donated produce of which benefits those in need in our community. Thus, with this shift in location, and in the joy of and thanksgiving for Christ’s resurrection, our attention was turned to the needs of the world which is our mission field in loving service to our neighbors.

The long and the short of it is that in my estimation, our worship outdoors was not lacking in aesthetic and spiritual poignancy and meaning. The outdoor contextualization in many ways allowed the familiar narratives we heard and re-enacted to speak with new, or at least nuanced meanings, meanings which may have remained hidden and obscure if we were indoors.

Here’s to the spiritual and liturgical silver linings in this year of pandemic deprivation!

In thanksgiving for these opportunities to give new expression to our proclamation that Christ is risen, Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Pastor Jonathan Linman

 

Tuesday, 30 March 2021 20:52

Midweek Message: Holy Week 2021

Holy Week Schedule

The Three Days (April 1-3):

  • Engage our bulletin for worship at home for The Three Days – Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil: pdfThree Days Bulletin
  • Maundy Thursday – Outdoor worship at 11:00 am and 7:00 pm with Confession and Forgiveness
  • Good Friday – Outdoor worship at 11:00 am and 7:30 pm with the Passion According to John, Bidding Prayers, and Procession of the Cross
  • Easter Vigil – Outdoor worship at 7:00 pm with new fire, Easter Proclamation and Affirmation of Baptism

Easter Sunday (April 4):

  • Engage our bulletin for worship at home along with our worship video – links to the bulletin and videos forthcoming this weekend.
    A Continental Easter Breakfast begins at 9:00 am with serving concluding at 9:45 followed by Outdoor Worship at 10:00.

 

Holy Week’s Three Days: A Guide to Worshipful Devotion

Dear Friends in Christ:

In lieu of separate homilies for Holy Week, what follows is a set of suggestions for how you may worshipfully and devotionally engage features of the coming dramatic Three Days – Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Vigil of Easter. The Three Days are actually a seamless liturgical drama that occurs over the course of the holy days. Here we journey with Jesus Christ to the Upper Room, the cross, and ultimately the empty tomb. I pray that this guide will be of salutary use to you for deepening your holy encounters with God in Christ in your worship at home and perhaps also in person outdoors at the church.

Week of the Fifth Sunday in Lent

Midweek Lenten Worship and Presentation, 7:00 pm on March 24:

A Zoom link for Wednesday's Midweek Lenten Worship and Presentation on Faith Informing Life's Work will be sent via Constant Contact. If you are not receiving our Constant Contact messages, please contact the church office.

Reflections on the Coming Holy Days

Dear Friends in Christ:

As our second pandemic Lent soon draws to a close, we are on the brink of observing and celebrating among the holiest of days in the Christian calendar, namely, Palm and Passion Sunday, The Three Days – Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the Vigil of Easter – and Resurrection of our Lord, Easter Day.

As usual, we will provide resources for worship at home for Sunday of the Passion, The Three Days, and Easter Sunday. Included will be worship videos for Passion Sunday and Easter Sunday. But there will also be occasion for those who desire and are able to worship in person outdoors on each of these occasions.

In whatever ways appropriate to your circumstances, I invite your robust participation in these Holy Days at home and in person, again if you are safely able. For what these days hold forth for us are the central mysteries of our faith centered on the cross and grounded in the empty tomb. The liturgies for Holy Week and Easter make for our personal and direct participation in the sacred drama of these days both at home and outdoors in person, albeit in truncated ways.

We won’t be able to do all of the things called for in our liturgical enactments. Current pandemic protocols preclude, for example, unabridged readings of the Passion stories outdoors, the laying on of hands for individual forgiveness and the washing of feet on Maundy Thursday. Likewise, the abbreviated and partial Easter Vigil outdoors will not feature the multiple readings, though the bulletin for worship at home will include a rather full complement of readings. Most strikingly will be the absence of the holy supper, the Eucharist, on the days we would normally celebrate it.

That said, there will still be plenty of holy liturgical features for our worshipful engagement outdoors – the blessing of palms and a procession with palms and the reading of the Passion from Mark’s Gospel on Passion Sunday; physically distanced individual absolution and the chanting of Psalm 88 at liturgy’s on Holy Thursday when otherwise we would strip the altar of its adornments; a reading of a portion of the Passion according to John, bidding prayers and procession with a wooden cross with opportunity to adore the wonder of this instrument of salvation on Good Friday; lighting of the new fire and Paschal Candle with Easter Proclamation, and Affirmation of Baptism at the Easter Vigil; a continental Easter Breakfast and worship outdoors along with an Easter Egg hunt for children on Easter Sunday. On each of these occasions, I will offer brief homiletical reflections on the readings and on the significance of each day. There may even be a small ensemble leading some singing on some of the occasions, all the while masked and physically distanced as is appropriate during these times.

For those worshiping at home, the worship resources provided for your domestic use will likewise contain as full a set of observances as possible for worshipful use at home. As usual, the Sunday Worship Videos will feature hymns and anthems led by our choir.

All of this, of course, does not add up to what we would do and celebrate in person in our beloved nave and elsewhere on our church property. But while abbreviated and incomplete, the coming holy days and their ritual enactments for our worship will be means through which the Holy Spirit will draw us more deeply into the holy mysteries, again centered in the death and resurrection of Christ. Our observances and celebrations at home and outdoors will be means through which the Holy Spirit will again generate, regenerate, and renew our faith, our trust in the Trinitarian God whom we see most intimately in the face of Jesus Christ whose last days of earthly ministry and mission are featured in the coming holy days.

May God in Christ bless our worshipful engagements in the power of the Holy Spirit for the sake of the world’s life and its healing,

Pastor Jonathan Linman

Week of the Fourth Sunday in Lent

Midweek Lenten Worship and Presentation, 7:00 pm on March 17:

A Zoom link for Wednesday's Midweek Lenten Worship and Presentation on Faith Informing Life's Work will be sent via Constant Contact. If you are not receiving our Constant Contact messages, please contact the church office.

Springtime and Lent and More

Dear Friends in Christ:

In these last few days of winter, Spring has sprung. Winter during the pandemic had its own unique rigors. One of the silver linings amidst the pandemic lock down were the occasions to go outside for walks to enjoy sunshine and fresh air, and that in season. As the pandemic spring entered into summer and progressed into autumn and finally winter with colder days of abbreviated sunlight, I found it more challenging to get outdoors. So, the lock down during winter felt in palpable ways more locked down. Add to that a winter season marked by cold and snowy-icy-slushy conditions, and it was all the more bleak.

Now, however, the days are again longer and brighter. Daylight Savings Time has returned. While it’s still officially winter for a few more days as I write, a change of seasons is quite evident. The rabbits have again appeared in the parsonage yard. The birds are more active. I notice again their song. A falcon has even been hanging out on occasion in the parsonage yard. Given the birds’ increased activity in the yard, I notice that my cats are engaging in their version of screen time, hanging out at the parsonage windows watching “Cat TV” by staring intently at the birds. That the birds are in the yard so much also reveals that the wealth of living things in the soil is springing to life. The birds are seeking out those living things for food. On the botanical side of things, one lone daffodil came into blossom in the parsonage yard earlier this week. Now it is joined by many others and some crocuses.

Living in the parsonage with its yard, I am much more keenly aware of the change in seasons, the rhythms of how the sunlight courses through the day and illuminates different parts of the yard according to season. During my years in New York City, one had to go looking for signs of seasonal change, especially in Spring. Here in Arlington, you cannot miss it.

And for all of this I am thankful, relieved, and given a renewed sense of hopefulness that the rigors of a pandemic winter will soon be behind us. This sense of hopefulness is made the greater by the increased pace and extent of vaccinations against Covid-19.

All of this coincides with Lent. In fact, the English word ‘Lent’ derives from an Old English word, ‘lencten’ which means “spring season.” As the Lenten season draws closer to Holy Week with its Three Days culminating in the festival of Resurrection, our gaze is drawn to the final days of Jesus’ earthly ministry with particular focus on the cross, Jesus’ death and the mystery of the resurrection. “Easter,” itself another word from Old English, also has naturalistic origins associated with the rising of the sun at dawn and connections to a goddess of fertility and spring.

But here’s the thing: as wonderful as extended sunlight, and new plant life and more active animals are, as wonderful as Spring is, all of this pales in comparison to the mysteries of the cross and empty tomb which confound, transcend and supersede systems of nature. The wonders of contemporary science that have given us effective vaccines in the space of a year’s time have their own miraculous feel. But what God has done in raising Jesus from the dead is so much more than modern science.

I am relishing and delighting in all of the signs of life about me in the parsonage and church yards. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all magnificent. But the message that is central to the Christian gospel is so much more. Spring is about life from life, renewal from a state of dormancy. The Christian message is about life from death. And that’s a whole different set of realities than natural cycles. In fact, the gospel breaks open these natural cycles to new promised realities. That’s the wonder of it, the mystery of it, the grace of it, inspiring and reawakening and renewing our trust in it.

Yes, Lent happens amidst Spring. Yes, popular secular and some religious observances of Easter employ symbols of renewed life – eggs and bunnies and flowers – in an effort to communicate the meaning of the season. But the Christian message of the Three Days is about Christ’s victory of resurrected life over death, of breaking and transcending natural cycles of sin and mortality.

Thus, may we be drawn to celebrate the magnificence of the Christian message even as we enjoy the delights of Spring. Yes, bask in the warmth of the sun, to be sure. But may God inspire us to bask ever more in the Son, whose rising knows no setting.

With hopefulness rooted in Jesus Christ, the one who died, and the one whom God raised,

Pastor Jonathan Linman

Week of the Third Sunday in Lent

Midweek Lenten Worship and Presentation, 7:00 pm on March 10:

A Zoom link for Wednesday's Midweek Lenten Worship and Presentation on Faith Informing Life's Work will be sent via Constant Contact. If you are not receiving our Constant Contact messages, please contact the church office.

From ‘I’ to ‘We’ – Toward a Shared Vision for Ministry and Mission

Dear Friends in Christ:

On Sunday afternoon, March 7, our newly constituted Congregation Council met via Zoom for our annual retreat, an occasion to look at the bigger pictures of our life together in ministry and mission. The focus of conversation was the set of vision statements that I shared and commented on at our Annual Congregational Meeting in January, and which I have begun elaborating on in some of these Midweek Messages.

The retreat conversation on Sunday began in earnest the movement from statements of vision which I have made as new pastor here to statements that we, our leaders, can embrace together.

The fruit of Sunday’s conversation is a revised set of vision statements that broadly address most facets of congregational life. These are revisions in language and word choice which reflect the sensibilities of this current configuration of Council members.

The Congregation Council will soon continue conversations about processes for how best to share these emerging communal statements of vision with our wider congregation membership, and this toward a fuller communal embrace of shared vision for ministry and for mission. Watch for invitations to participate in future conversations concerning these vision statements.

As the statements of vision are more widely known and embraced in the congregation, we will make plans to begin to live into the statements of vision practically and concretely. I would hope that these statements would guide how we craft Council meeting agendas, so that we do not lose sight of our vision amidst the details of our life together. I would also hope that the statements of vision will guide the work of our congregation committees and our other initiatives. Likewise, I would hope that the statements of vision would inform and focus how our staff members undertake their work. The statements of vision will certainly guide and focus my work as pastor. Moreover, assessment about how well and effectively and faithfully we are living into the statements of vision can serve as the criteria for which our life together can be evaluated.

None of these statements is written in stone. They are and should be subject to change and revision given likely changing circumstances in church and world. And certainly, how we might decide to live into the visions will change from month to month and year to year, again given our ever rapidly changing world.

But even in provisional form, the statements of vision promise to provide focus and grounding amidst what otherwise is the swirl of competing demands and needs and opportunities in the complex mission field that we are privileged now to engage.

The time for worship at our Council Retreat centered on the passage from the prophet Ezekiel where the prophet was given a vision of a valley of dry bones which were knit together again along with flesh and sinews and new life breathed into them by the prophetic word of the Lord. The vision birthed proclamation which resulted in new life and restoration for God’s people.

May it likewise be so for us in the community that is Resurrection Lutheran Church.

Respectfully in Jesus’ name,

Pastor Jonathan Linman

Week of the Second Sunday in Lent

Midweek Lenten Worship and Presentation, 7:00 pm on March 3:

A Zoom link for Wednesday's Midweek Lenten Worship and Presentation on Faith Informing Life's Work will be sent via Constant Contact. If you are not receiving our Constant Contact messages, please contact the church office.

“It’s Been a Whole Year”

Dear Friends in Christ:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

It’s been a whole year. On Sunday, March 1, 2020 you voted to call me as your Pastor. On that day, none us anticipated what would be before us. Though the coronavirus was making its way throughout the world, the pandemic had not yet been declared. But by the mid part of March, we all were in lock down. It’s almost been a full year of that unwanted series of events which turned the world upside down. Few at the time had awareness that this would go on for a year, and likely then some.

I’ve never run a marathon. Perhaps some of you have. The author of the letter to the Hebrews employs the image of the race to describe the journey of discipleship in Jesus’ name. Let us remember that we undertook this journey of pandemic deprivation in Jesus’ name. Yes, we were obedient to protocols established by government authorities, but we also began our fast from regular Christian assembly indoors, in person for Christ’s sake out of a commitment to love of neighbor, especially those most vulnerable among us in society, a central commitment of Lutheran social ethics.

Our fasting from central Christian things has been going on almost a year (I keep saying that, because it seems hard to believe). It’s been a marathon, a long race. Signs suggest that we may be entering the last phases of pandemic-related communal deprivation. The vaccination roll out is increasing in pace and extent. And that there are vaccines available at all this quickly is a wonder of contemporary medical science. But we still have a good bit of the race before us, with possible twists and turns and as yet unforeseen obstacles.

Again, I’ve never run a marathon, but I have some history with twenty-mile-long mountain hikes. I recall just how taxing and challenging it was during the last legs of these journeys when my body was on a kind of autopilot to reach the destination.

I need to confess to you that I am exhausted and often feel as though I am running on empty. The social isolation of pandemic discipline is taking its toll on my sense of well-being. Normal pleasures – like going out to dinner at restaurants with friends – are not consistently available. The richness of the DC area is closed off precisely when Nathan (when he visits) and I would love to go on adventures of discovery. Like many of you, working from home at the parsonage means there is little meaningful separation between personal and professional life. I am not at my best at this point in the season of pandemic. In short, I am running the race with quite the limp.

Perhaps you have your own tales of comparative woe at this point in the journey. I offer mine in honesty to invite your own honest, self-assessment of how you are doing.

That said, I also am drawn to offer words of encouragement. Responding to the exhortation of the author of the letter to the Hebrews, we look to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Therefore, as your Pastor, I invite you to set your eyes on Christ if they are not already fixed there, for such focus can draw us forward. Now is not the time to let up, but to persevere in our discipline, continuing on, limps and all. We persevere in the power of the Holy Spirit whose energies we know in our admittedly truncated but nonetheless real encounters with the means of grace – in the reading and proclamation of the word, in our varied times of worship at home, in person outdoors, via Zoom, in words of forgiveness, in our holy conversations with each other.

In this past Sunday’s gospel reading we heard again Jesus’ instruction, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34) Most of us have to date lived pretty cushy and easy Christian lives in which cross-bearing specifically for Jesus’ sake and the sake of the gospel has not much been asked of us, we who are privileged members of what has been known as the mainline church. But I believe it is true that our decision to refrain from regular Christian assembly has in fact been a very real expression of denying ourselves to take up the cross to follow Jesus. This past year of deprivation from central Christian things has been cruciform indeed. Awareness of this heartens me and renews a sense of purpose and meaning in what otherwise has seemed to be a year often lacking in meaningful, life-giving experiences. I pray that naming our cross-bearing self-denial which began in Lent 2020 and now continues into Lent 2021 edifies you as well.

I thus conclude by returning to the author of Hebrews who also writes this for our encouragement, “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.” (Hebrews 12:12-13)

May it be so in Jesus’ name,

Pastor Jonathan Linman

Week of the First Sunday in Lent

Midweek Lenten Worship and Presentation, 7:00 pm on February 24:

A Zoom link for Wednesday's Midweek Lenten Worship and Presentation on Faith Informing Life's Work will be sent via Constant Contact. If you are not receiving our Constant Contact messages, please contact the church office.

“A Vision for Worship and Music at Resurrection Church”

Dear Friends in Christ:

This message continues the series elaborating on proposed statements of vision for mission and ministry in our life together as a congregation. This week’s focus: worship and music. Resurrection Church has a particularly strong foundation on which to build when it comes to its worship and music practices. This liturgical and musical legacy is one of the major reasons that I was attracted to serving as pastor of this congregation.

It is undeniably clear that inspiring worship and music are hallmarks of thriving, growing congregations. So, here’s the vision statement: I envision Resurrection as a congregation that builds on its legacy of faithful liturgy and musical excellence to offer inspiring worship and music that more fully expresses the global and diverse nature of the Church.

This particular vision has its source in my experience over many years of attending ELCA Churchwide Assemblies in various capacities – as voting member, volunteer, Church Council member, Synod staff member, and visitor. What I have observed over the years is what I a drawn to call the maturing of our church liturgically and musically. The Renewing Worship process, which resulted in the publication of Evangelical Lutheran Worship in 2006, ushered in a new era for us as a church liturgically and musically. Available to us is a wide array of liturgical resources that vary seasonally and support worship for the Sunday assembly as well as a number of different occasions, settings, and circumstances. These resources are not just in the ELW as a book, but are also available in the online platform, Sundays and Seasons, which Resurrection Church also uses.

Musically, recent years have featured tremendous growth in hymnody and other songs, particularly new texts, often wedded to familiar tunes, that express our church’s current theological commitments and sensibilities. Moreover, there is available to us an increasing number of hymns and songs from the wider global and ecumenical communities, from the many nations, that build on and expand beyond classical Lutheran foundations from European contexts.

These developments have been consistently evident at our ELCA Churchwide Assemblies where the liturgies, in my experience, are faithful to the church’s liturgical traditions and these liturgies are carried on music that reflects the global nature of the church with instrumentation that honors diverse practices of many nations and cultures – and it’s all been offered in recent years with excellence and vitality. This is what I envision also at Resurrection Church.

Because our congregation has such a strong foundation on which to build liturgically and musically, my vision for worship and music here does not in any way imply a “throw the baby out with the bathwater” dynamic. Not at all. Rather, I see a continuation of this congregation’s liturgical and musical practices enhanced by a still fuller embodiment and making use of the many resources available to us in the ELCA liturgically and musically.

The particular ways we live into this vision, of course, remain to be seen. However, much will center on the person we end up hiring as our regular Director of Music. Another concrete step toward living into the vision is the planned purchase of a new hymnal supplement from Augsburg Fortress, All Creation Sings, which contains still more liturgical and musical resources that again reflect our wider church’s commitments liturgically and musically.

Other possibilities I see include making still more use of the fullness of the resource that is Evangelical Lutheran Worship, finding occasions in our life together, for example, to pray Morning, and Evening, and Night Prayer, seeking creative ways to remember in worship and prayer those who are remembered in our church’s calendar of commemorations, looking for occasions to celebrate festivals during midweek, and more. We will discern how best to do this together.

This vision for worship and music relates importantly to the vision statement about spirituality and faith practices which I addressed in a previous midweek message. Lutheran spirituality and Lutheran faith practices are principally grounded in the church’s liturgy. When I make reference to inspiring worship and music in the statement of vision, I intentionally chose the word “inspire” with the Holy Spirit in mind (‘inspire’ has at its root the word for spirit), for the Holy Spirit uses the means of grace, Word and Sacrament, to generate and renew our faith for the sake of the world. The Spirit’s activity in the means of grace is cradled by our liturgies and in our music both on Sundays and in our various other gatherings during the week, including our administrative meetings. I also hope that this vision would extend into our homes, where we would not lose what we have experienced during the pandemic, namely, the practice of also worshiping at home, claiming Evangelical Lutheran Worship as a source for domestic devotion alongside our Bibles.

There is much more conversation to be had among our leaders and the whole congregation concerning our emerging shared vision for worship and music at Resurrection Lutheran Church. But I conclude this initial message with some reflection on the centrality of the global and diverse nature of the church, and why it is important for us at Resurrection Church to seek to embody global diversity. Christianity, from its inception, has always been a diverse tradition reflecting the cultures and languages of the many nations. So, our commitment to seeking to reflect in our worship and music this global diversity is not driven by ideological motives, but by seeking to be faithful to what Christianity has always been. Remember that a hallmark of the Pentecost event recorded in Acts 2 is when the Holy Spirit gave Jesus’ followers the gift of proclaiming the good news of Christ’s victory over death in the languages of the nations. Thus, faithful worship and music reflect the global and diverse nature of the whole Christian tradition throughout the centuries and into our present day as the Spirit continues to guide us into all truth (cf. John 16:30).

Respectfully in Jesus’ name,

Pastor Jonathan Linman

Ash Wednesday, February 17:

Worship at Home – click below for access to the bulletin for home worship on Ash Wednesday

pdfAsh Wednesday Home Worship Bulletin 2021

Outdoor Worship in Person with Confession and Signing with Ashes – 11:00 am and 7:00 pm near the Potomac Street entrance to the church.

 

Dear Friends in Christ:

I offer this reflection for your devotion on Ash Wednesday in lieu of a sermon.

Nathan, my son, was born on Transfiguration Sunday in 2009. When he was but three days old, we brought him to the chapel of General Seminary where I was a faculty member for the liturgy on Ash Wednesday. Thus, Nathan’s first time in church, even before baptism, was the solemn occasion that begins Lent. My child’s first liturgical experience was having ashes signed in the shape of a cross on his little forehead. Talk about a poignant experience for a new father to hear the words of the presiding minister directed to my newborn, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” It brings tears to my eyes yet again even as I type these words.

Who knew that ten years later, while still a precious young child, Nathan would have a near fatal stroke caused by a vascular malformation that was likely congenital? Which means that even on that Ash Wednesday when he was three days old, Nathan carried in his flesh the condition that would have caused his death at a tender age if it weren’t for quick and effective surgical intervention.

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Each of us carries in our flesh the conditions of human mortality. Ash Wednesday is an occasion to remember and acknowledge with complete, naked honesty this stark reality. Each of us one day will die.

Week of the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Dear Friends in Christ:

This week’s message continues a series in which I elaborate on emerging visions for our life together as a congregation. The first, and I would argue, central statement concerning such vision for ministry and mission at Resurrection Church focuses on spiritual vitality, faith practices and spiritual experiences. Those who study congregational health acknowledge that thriving, growing congregations are marked by spiritual vitality.

Here, therefore, is my statement of vision concerning spiritual vitality: I envision Resurrection as a congregation that seeks to incorporate into all of its activities – including business meetings – various faith practices that make it possible for all regularly to experience the presence of our gracious God in Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

On first blush, this statement of vision may seem obvious, straightforward and simple, perhaps even simplistic. Of course, church activities should include faith practices that cultivate spiritual experiences. However, in my experience of churchly routines, living into this vision with intentionality and robustness is quite difficult indeed. Attempting to do so is perhaps one of the most counter-cultural and, in a sense, subversive things that so-called mainline Christians can undertake.

Lutherans, in my experience, tend to be pretty shy about going public with their personal faith experiences. We may be reluctant to give expression with others to what’s going on spiritually deep inside ourselves, and we may conclude that faith is more of a private matter. That may be, but there are those occasions when, for the sake of proclaiming the gospel, we do well to share our experiences, to give testimony to what God may be up to in our lives. Doing so is a first step in our evangelistic efforts which may lead to membership growth, another one of the vision statements for our life together.

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