In July, 2013, I found the grave of my great great grandfather, David Fisher. He is buried in the cemetery at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in the small village of Creagerstown, MD. Since that day I have desired to return to Creagerstown and worship with St. John’s. Organized in 1732, St. John’s is the oldest Lutheran church in continuous operation in western Maryland. The building in which my great great grandfather worshiped was built in 1834 and is still in use in the summer. The building used during the greater part of the year was built in 1908.
This past September 27, my wife, Marcia, and I worshiped with the congregation of St. John’s, in the 1908 building. As the hour came for worship to begin, as in ages past, the bell, not a digital recording, but the old church bell in the belfry rang declaring to the village that it was time to worship God. This was our first experience of Lutheran liturgy. A different tradition of worship, a new experience for both of us. What particularly moved my heart was the eucharist, the Lord’s Supper. As in our own tradition, St. John’s celebrates the Lord’s Supper every Sunday. What was different, new to us, touched my heart.
The minister read the words of Christ, which He spoke concerning the bread and the cup. In turn each row of worshipers walked to the railing before the pulpits, picking up a glass communion cup. You can see the tray holding the glasses, and see the railing, in the picture. At the railing those who were able kneeled down on both knees. Marcia and I kneeled down. The minister distributed to each worshiper a piece of the loaf. To each worshiper he said, “This is the body of the Lord given for you.” The bread was then eaten. Following the minister, the lay minister poured wine from a flagon into each worshiper’s cup. As he did so he said to each worshiper, “This is the blood of the Lord shed for you.” The worshiper then drank the wine. As each group of worshipers rose to return to their pews, the minister encouraged them, “Now go serve the Lord.” After all had partaken, the congregation stood. The minister said, “The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen you and keep you in his grace.” The congregation said, “Amen.”
The forms we choose with which to carry out the acts of worship are important. The question of form is whether the form we choose fits the meaning, and enhances the meaning, of the act of worship. I found the form chosen by St. John’s to partake of the of the Lord’s Supper very helpful and meaningful. I do not know what is taught in the catechism but I know what this celebration of the Lord’s Supper meant to me.
Approaching the front of the sanctuary and kneeling down at the railing brought me humbly and reverently before Christ on the cross. Kneeling before Him, the words spoken, the bread and the cup, I remembered the awful cost the Father’s love paid to save me. Humility and reverence, a trembling fear, before the cross, so meaningfully filled my heart in the simple act of kneeling as I ate the bread and drank the wine. Then rising to return to the pew, to return to the routine of life with the words encouraging me, “Now go serve the Lord.” What joy, for it was like walking to the tomb only to find it empty. The Lord is risen. Life is given. New life lived in service to Him who died, was buried, and rose, to give me salvation and life. The blessing of the Lord strengthening me and keeping me in His grace.
Humility, reverence, joy, are what I experienced in this different Lord’s Supper tradition. An experience I cherish and desire to experience again.