Rituals and Traditions

easter-lilyRituals and traditions allow us to hold on to special stories and memories.  I’ve been reflecting and savoring some of these traditions lately.  Though I try to not think of it and try to live in the present moment, I have been acutely aware that this will be my last Lent, Holy Week, and Easter at Saint John Lutheran.  I love all the worship services and the time spent with people but what also makes it special is the small rituals and traditions that have sprouted up over the years.

Traditions including Wednesday night dinners before worship, which give time to see more people and sit and have conversation.  And the Lenten worship services where different voices are heard preaching the gospel through meditations in worship and the singing of the liturgy from the Holden Evening Prayer, which just happens to fit perfectly into my vocal range, and my soul is filled as I get to belt out the leader parts.  Not only that, Pastor Jon and I have gotten the harmony down and the team atmosphere by which we work takes on a tangible form.

Then there are the other “hidden” traditions.  Each year, for the past 6 years, Deb makes me meals.  It started my first year at Saint John when she was worried that all I would eat for a week would be peanut butter sandwiches.  She wasn’t wrong.  She lovingly portions out cut up fruit, salad, muffins, treats, egg bakes, and casseroles into easy-to-grab containers.  Even more, it is packaged in a picnic basket with bows on it.

On the Monday before Easter my friend Carla, also a pastor, and I go get pedicures and then out to eat.  We talk through our sermon ideas for Holy Week and Easter and also have some time to catch up on our lives.

holy-weekThen there’s Maundy Thursday where Pastor Jon
and Marcia invite me over for wine and cheese following the evening worship service.  A lot of the work has been done and there’s still more to do, but for a couple hours we all sit and enjoy each others company and laughter.

Then Friday, Good Friday, when I head to the coffee shop & bookstore in downtown Omaha that is sponsored by a Methodist church.  You generally see at least 4-5 pastors in their clerical collars, typing furiously on their computers with the slightly panicked, over-caffinated look about them.  The past three years Jeremy and I would go to worship mid-day together.  It would be one of the few times we worship together throughout the year and would go hear portions of Jesus’ last words preached.  That won’t happen this year, as he is out in Washington, but it is still a ritual and memory I hold dear.

On Saturday night Pastor Jon and I “team preach.” Generally we focus on a part of Luther’s Small Catechism–communion, baptism, the Lord’s Prayer, the office of the keys, etc.  This year we have written a liturgy and reflections surrounding the Apostle’s Creed.  We go back and forth, with liturgy and meditations, a different, creative type of worship leadership for us both and meaningful for all those worshipping.

Easter morning arrives quite early and coffee is an important commodity.  It took a few years but I’ve finally figured out the perfect coffee consumption to make it through the day and still function until about 2:00pm.  It starts off with a mug as soon as the “morning” (read “middle of the night”) comes.  I arrive at church to the quiet of the morning.  Pastor Jon puts on the Hallelujah Chorus and I generally beg another cup of strong coffee from his personal store before the 6:30am sunrise service.  Just before the 8:00am service PatShannyn and Jon 2ricia brings two cups of coffee from Starbucks: one hot and one cold.  The hot latte is drank immediately, the cold is put in the refrigerator to be consumed before the 9:30am service.  By this time the caffeine is flowing, but even more the joy of the resurrection brings such energy and brightness to the day.  We see family, friends, and parishioners.  We see college kids who are home for the holiday and families who have come into town.  We have just enough time to greet everyone, enjoy a treat, and head back into worship once again.

Tired yet with full hearts, another Holy Week and Easter worship services come to a close midday.  Jeremy and I are invited over to Pastor Jon’s house to celebrate and eat with his family.  The pace slows and there are no expectations as his family understands the energy outputs of the past 7 days.  The food is always excellent as is the conversation.  Eventually the exhaustion sets in and we drag ourselves home for a long, deep nap.  That evening Jeremy and I break open a bottle of champagne, sit on the couch together, and toast another Lent, Holy Week, and Easter.

Some of these rituals and traditions seem trite but to me they all add to the power and joy of Holy Week as in the midst we share in relationships and fellowship with one another. I am grateful for all these rituals and traditions and will continue to hold them in my heart.



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