We had Texas barbecue for supper tonight. It smelled wonderful! After having a rather raucous rainshower during the afternoon, it was nice to be able to eat out in the courtyard. The combination of sight, smell, and sound was unbelievable! It was a feast everywhere you looked. People were talking to people they had just met, to people they knew, to people with whom they found a commonality. After just having shared in the feast of communion, we were now sharing bread in another way.
After eating, I went inside and sat on a bench in a busy hallway. I was observing people. Some would come by with heads down, avoiding any contact. Some would nod their head in greeting. Some would smile and say hello. And a few actually stopped to talk. Of course we first had to find out where the other person was from (we knew names because we are all wearing nametags!!) But then the talk was all about worship. What classes did we attend today, did we learn anything new, what did you think of the worship services. It made me kind of wish that as a congregation we could gather after worship and talk about what we had just heard and done.
And then the bells in the bell tower chimed. These are REAL bells – big ones, that ring out so the whole world can hear. The tradition at this church is that the bells ring right before and right after every worship service.
Back to the nave we went. I love the service of evening prayer. It is such a wonderful way to end the day. This service started in a new way for me: we were invited to light a candle from the “altar” candle (more about that tomorrow) and then go to wherever we were seated to light a votive candle that was in front of a picture of Christ. I think that for some of you that may smack a little too close to Roman Catholicism. I sat for a bit, thinking that very thing. But as I watched other people do it, I could see on their faces that something changed for them. So I got up and lit a candle and then lit the votive – and then I understood. The opening words to the service of Evening Prayer are:
Jesus Christ, you are the light of the world.
And the people respond:
the light no darkness can overcome.
And that was what had just happened. I had lit the candle as a reminder and as a visible image of the Light of the World. It was very moving.
When the last people had lit the candles, out of the midst of us came the words above. We were all the leaders; we were all the responders. The group was small – 50 or so. But we were reminded that Jesus Christ is the light of the world. That the worship of the powerful presence of the risen Christ is a fitting way to end the day. The singing was almost entirely a cappella (without accompaniment) and was gorgeous. The service ended with the sharing of the peace. What a way to end the day!
Check it out in the front of the hymnal some week before worship begins – it begins on p. 320 in the ELW.