Church Keeps Ancient Practice Alive
Lutheran Church of the Redeemer hosts weekly dinner services this month.
How could the rites of an ancient people bring meaning to people today? What could people from such vastly different times possibly have in common? Where's the connection? The connection is made each week at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer at their celebration of Advent Dinner Church.
Through the ministry of Pastor Keith Anderson, who has been minister there for the last seven years, people from the congregation come together to share a special meal each week for four weeks as the celebration of Christmas approaches. The four weeks prior to the Dec. 25 celebration of Christ's birth is the period known as advent. Anderson has taken this highlight in the church calendar to do more than anticipate the coming of Christ as relived each December. He has added a dimension which invites believers to pause for reflection on a church practice which embodies the very acts of Christ's ministry.
"I wanted to engage in something that would heighten our awareness that God is incarnate," Anderson explained. "He continues to be born because he comes again to us in other people. It is through the tangibles of people, place and things that we come to know God's love. Coming together in the celebration tonight is a particular way to make those tangibles real."
How does that work exactly? It is part of the Lutheran beliefs that through his teaching and through his example Christ demonstrated the love God holds for mankind. One of the cornerstones of these beliefs is built around a passage from the bible which recounts an event from Christ's life.
This sharing of the Eucharist as it came to be called, was a tangible way to link followers to the divinity of Christ and through him to God, his father. It also left Christ's believers with a ritual they could use to renew and affirm God's abiding presence and his love. After Christ's death, early Christians recreated the first Eucharist when they came together. They would pray and share a Eucharist meal.
As practiced by those in attendance at the Church of the Redeemer on Wednesday, Christ's actions were again recreated extending that long held practice into their own lives in a kind of unbroken chain. The group stood around the tables with hands held forming a "peace chain."
Anderson asked them "to think of someone who allows God's love to come through. Someone who reminds you that God's love is real because it touches you."
Then members of the congregation came forward to light the table candles as the pastor read the passage that describes that first Eucharist.
"Loving glow of God's own face ... " they all sang. " God of daybreak, God of shadows come and light our hearts anew."
Then Anderson held up a large loaf of bread whose light aroma hung briefly in the air. Breaking the bread into large pieces he gave each table a share and asked those at table to break a piece and offer it to the person next to them. In similar fashion the wine at the table was also offered from one to another. Everyone had the benefit that comes with connecting through the ritual and in the conversations that flowed.
When the meal was done, congregation member Katie Osweiler who had led those gathered earlier in the service sang with them again as those assembled together rose to conclude the service.
"You have looked with love ... " they proclaimed in song. "As you promised to us kindness forever more."
Susan Dollhopf Palmer offered this perspective.
"It's a season, not just a day, that's about hearts and the coming of a child," she said.
When asked what drew her to attend, Beda Anderson said, "I'm a single mom with three children. There is so much craziness in our times, I need a place that feeds my soul. Here I find a sense of love and intimacy. There is a feeling of God's presence here. This experience recharges me."
Advent dinner services will be held again on Dec. 15 and 21 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.