Tuesday's Tour & Prayer
 
September 29, 2020
Altar Rail
 
 Welcome to the week's edition of "Tuesday's Tour & Prayer." Every Tuesday this email features a scene from Millcreek Lutheran Church (MLC) along with a brief Scripture reading and prayer. Some weeks (like this one) there will also be a little teaching piece. This week we will learn about the altar rail.


´╗┐Scripture
“But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him!”” (Habbakuk 2:20, NRSV)


Teaching
One of the things I love about church buildings—even as one as elegantly simple as the one we enjoy at Millcreek Lutheran Church—is that all of the official furnishings and appointments have a story; sometimes a surprising one. That is the case with altar rails.

The first thing to be aware of is that—while we often use the word “sanctuary” to define the worship space—technically speaking the sanctuary is the actual floor space on which the altar stands. In many cases, including ours, this area is raised just slightly in modern church architecture. (In older church architecture, the sanctuary was often raised by three to six steps.) The altar rail sets this sanctuary apart from the rest of the worship space and creates a sacred space within a sacred space.

Ralph Van Loon and Anita Stauffer point out that this rail (which is also sometimes called a “communion rail”) has an interesting history. Because the earliest Christians worshiped at home, Holy Communion was celebrated on the family dining table. The Emperor Constantine validated Christianity in 313 and church buildings became more common. Because there were many other religions operating in the Roman Empire, congregations protected their altar from being violated an profaned by erecting a low barrier. The faithful stood to receive Holy Communion until the late Middle Ages, at which time kneeling to receive Holy Communion became the norm. In order to make kneeling more convenient, the existing altar rails were increased in height and allowed the faithful to kneel more easily.

The current teaching of our denomination (the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) is that “Either standing or kneeling is appropriate when receiving Holy Communion.” The posture of standing is a sign of resurrection and helps us remember that Christ’s resurrection is what makes him present among us. The posture of kneeling is a sign of humility and penitence and helps us to show God that we are aware of our sinfulness and need the forgiveness that comes to us in Holy Communion.

Prayer
Let us pray. We give you thanks, O God, that in Holy Communion you refresh us through the bread of life in Jesus Christ, strengthen us in faith toward you, and nourish us in fervent love for one another. Give all who taste this holy feast grace to live in faith and love throughout our lives, until at last we all behold you face to face at the heavenly banquet where your saints and angels praise you forever. Amen.

´╗┐Live as children of light! Pr. Scott.
 

September 15th 2020
Pipe Organ
 
 Welcome to the week's edition of "Tuesday's Tour & Prayer." Every Tuesday this email features a scene from Millcreek Lutheran Church (MLC) along with a brief Scripture reading and prayer. Some weeks (like this one) there will also be a little teaching piece. This week we will learn about the pipe organ in our sanctuary.




Scripture
“[Mortals] sing to the tambourine and lyre, and rejoice to the sound of the pipe.” (Job 21:12, NRSV)

Teaching
For many Lutherans, a pipe organ is synonymous with traditional worship. The organ at Millcreek Lutheran Church has an interesting history.

The organ was designed and built by Charles D. Wilson of Harrisburg. This organ—like almost all pipe organs—was custom built for our building. (A noticeable exception are small practice pipe organs, which are frequently mass built.) Our organ consists of 616 total pipes. 190 of these pipes and 20 chimes were from an older organ. The organ was officially dedicated on Sunday, May 21, 1967 with the builder at the console. (More than one person has reported that Mr. Wilson’s organ company did not last very long, which makes our organ even more unique.)

Our organ was upgraded in 1997 by Jacob Gerger & Sons, Inc, (a third-generation company founded in 1907). This was done with strong encouragement by Pastor Wilson, who believed pipe organs to be “an investment of faith in the future.”

This information was gathered from the congregation’s history and Congregation Council minutes from 1997 all of which are helpful and, to some interesting. What is even more interesting; however, is a conversation with our dedicated organist, Debbie Tice. As we look forward to soon being able to gather for worship in the sanctuary we celebrate visionary leaders who have helped us get here and our faithful God who keeps us here.

Prayer
Let us pray. Lord God, before whose throne trumpets sound, and saints and angels sing the songs of Moses and the Lamb: we give you thanks for musicians and instruments who lead the worship of your church, so that with the voice of music we may proclaim your praise and tell it abroad; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Live as children of light! Pr. Scott.
 
 

September 8th 2020 
Christ Statue 
 
Welcome to the week's edition of "Tuesday's Tour & Prayer." Every Tuesday this email features a scene from Millcreek Lutheran Church (MLC) along with a brief Scripture reading and prayer. Some weeks (like this one) there will also be a little teaching piece. This week we will learn about the statue of Jesus above our altar. The inspiration for including this statue in our building was inspired by the same statue located by the Building Committee at Saint John Evangelical Lutheran Church in New Freedom, Pennsylvania.


Scripture
“Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7, NRSV)

Teaching
The teaching for this week is copied directly from the document “Miracle in Clay” by Frances Yost. A framed version of this document hangs outside the sanctuary at MLC.

Albert Bertel Thorvaldsen, the Danish sculptor, stood back and surveyed the results of weeks of steady work in his Copenhagen studio. He was satisfied at last.

His statue of Christ—modeled in clay—was as impressive as he had dreamed: Christ with strong arms outstretched, raised high in gesturing command. The statue’s fine-shaped head was thrown back in triumph. “This is He,” the artist said, “the powerful majestic Christ.”
 
Then, Thorvaldsen closed the door to his studio for several days so that the clay might set. At length, the artist returned and opened the door. He stared in horror and disbelief.

His work was ruined!

There had been a storm: dampness had invaded the studio and altered the statue. No longer were the arms outstretched, now they fell low. The moisture had caused the once proud head to bend. Gone was the triumph of Thorvaldsen’s Christ. The great physique was drooped: He looked defeated now.

In despair, the artist grabbed a hammer and raised his arm to strike the statue to the floor but he could not. With a pang of remorse, he turned and fled from the room.

Time passed. Thorvaldsen had no heart for work. Finally, though he decided to throw the debris fro the room and try again to recapture the likeness of the strong Man of Galilee. With a friend, he entered the studio.

They stopped and gazed in awe at the statue. Bathed in light, the lowered arms no longer depicted defeat—they saw in them the truth of God’s compassion—sympathetic arms encircling the sorrowing and the needy. The head was now bowed low with contrite countenance as if to say, “I understand your travail.”
 
Some greater power had breathed meaning into the artist’s ruined statue—this was no defeated Christ: this was a compassionate savior.

This is the true story of the statue by Albert Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844) which is named “The Christ.” It stands today behind the altar in the Protestant Cathedral, Copenhagen, Denmark. The wood carving in Millcreek Lutheran Church is a copy of the original.

Prayer
Let us pray. God of compassion and grace, in your steadfast love accompany us in our lives. As you ever work to restore and renew your people, overcome bitterness with your joy, hatred with your love, brokenness with your life; and give us hope through the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Live as children of light! Pr. Scott.  

 
September 1st 2020
 
Welcome to the week's edition of "Tuesday's Tour & Prayer." Every Tuesday this email features a scene from Millcreek Lutheran Church (MLC) along with a brief Scripture reading and prayer. Some weeks (like this one) there will also be a little teaching piece. This week we will learn about the pulpit.



Scripture
“But what does [faith] say? ‘The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 10:8-9, NRSV

Teaching
The pulpit is the place from which the sermon is customarily preached. Pulpits did not come into use until around 1350. Before this, it was customary for preaching to occur from a chair, perhaps on an elevated platform, behind the altar. In the earliest days of the church, only services of Holy Communion (Eucharist) included a sermon. Eventually, preaching became part of other services, such as Morning and Evening Prayer. This is when pulpits as we know them today were installed closer to the nave (the part of the church were the people sit) in order to increase the ability of the worshippers to hear the sermon, which may have been lengthy and focused on teaching.

At first, pulpits were simple in design, but as preaching became more and more important, particularly in Protestant churches, pulpits increased in size, height, and decoration. Unfortunately, in the minds of many, this also increased the gap between the preacher and the congregation. Modern times (particularly after 1965) have seen pulpits become more modest. Part of the reason for this is to emphasize the nearness of God every time the message of the gospel is shared through a sermon.

Prayer
Let us pray. We give you thanks, O God, for through Jesus, your Word made flesh, you speak to us and call us to proclaim forgiveness through the cross, life to those entombed by death, and the way of your self-giving love. Send your Spirit of truth, O God; rekindle your gifts within us: renew our faith, increase our hope, and deepen our love, for the sake of a world in need. Faithful to your word, O God, draw near to all who call on you; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory forever. Amen.

Live as children of light! Pr. Scott.  
 
 

 
 August 25th 2020
 
Welcome to the week's edition of "Tuesday's Tour & Prayer." Every Tuesday this email features a scene from Millcreek Lutheran Church (MLC) along with a brief Scripture reading and prayer. Some weeks (like this one) there will also be a little teaching piece. This week we will learn about the sanctuary lamp.


Scripture
“And the [New Jerusalem] has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there." (Revelation 21:23-25)

Teaching
Some Lutheran church sanctuaries (a word often used for the whole church building, but technically the area around the communion table/altar) feature often-called sanctuary lamps or eternal flames, which are usually suspended from the ceiling by a chain over the altar area. Another variant is to have a lamp attached to the sanctuary wall behind or on either side of the altar. (Millcreek Lutheran Church practices this second option.)

The history surrounding the use of these lamps is difficult to determine. Often the origins are linked to references in the Old Testament. God gave directions for the building of the tabernacle that included a lamp stand (Exodus 25:31-40) and told the Israelites to have oil burning lamps in the meeting tent "from evening to morning" as a perpetual ordinance (Exodus 27:20-21).

Modern sanctuary lamps used in Christian worship spaces are linked more directly to the Roman Catholic practice (beginning in the 12th century) of burning a light in front of the reserved sacrament (consecrated bread and wine left after a communion service), to signify and honor the presence of Christ in the elements of bread and wine. In Roman Catholic usage the light near the reserved sacrament is enclosed in glass and is placed near the tabernacle (a box traditionally recessed into the wall behind or to the side of the altar to house the reserved sacrament). Some Protestant churches imitated the Roman Catholic practice by including lamps in their worship spaces but without maintaining tabernacles or the reserved sacrament (both of which are inconsistent with a Lutheran understanding of the Eucharist). Lights in most Protestant churches are housed in a red glass casing. The reason usually given for their presence in the worship space is to signify the eternal presence of God in the church.

Source: Copyright © 2013 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. www.elca.org/worshipfaq.

Prayer
Let us pray. "Holy Jesus, ev'ry day keep us in the narrow way; and when earthly things are past, bring our ransomed souls at last where they need no star to guide, where no clouds thy glory hide. Amen."

LBW #82, stanza 5

Live as children of light! Pr. Scott.  

 
August 18th 2020 
Welcome to the week's edition of "Tuesday's Tour & Prayer." Every Tuesday this email features a scene from Millcreek Lutheran Church (MLC) along with a brief Scripture reading and prayer. Some weeks (like this one) there will also be a little teaching piece. This week we interpret the symbols on the paschal candle donated earlier this year by the Hoffmann family. Last week’s “Tuesday Tour & Prayer” discussed the paschal candle itself. Below, you can find last week's you missed it or need memory refresher.
 

Scripture
“Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, ‘To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’” (Revelation 5:13 NRSV)

Teaching
There are a number of symbols on the paschal candle.

The first are the Greek letters alpha (Α) and omega (Ω). These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. These are mentioned several times in the book of Revelation (1:8, 21:6, 22:13) The church has long used the letters in religious art as a type of “shorthand” saying that God—who is first and last in the cosmos—holds all that we need. Similar phrases we use are “from A to Z” or “from soup to nuts.” When viewed in the context of being on a paschal candle, with its emphasis on life in the place of death, the letters remind us that God gives us all we need at all times through life eternal.

At the center of the candle’s images is a version of the Chi-Rho. A previous “Tuesday Tour & Prayer” explained this as an abbreviation for Christ. Please  look below at July 14th, if you missed it or need a memory refresher. This particular artist has decided to render the Greek letter chi (X) as a cross.

There are five “spikes” driven into the candle. These symbolize the five wounds of Christ (i.e., two nail-pierced hands, two nail-pierced feet, and a sword-pierced side).

Amid all those symbols are what appear to be palms. These refer to an image from the book of Revelation (7:9) in which in which the nations worship Christ crucified and risen with palms in their hands. (I also think that it is possible to interpret the palm-looking items to be quill pens, perhaps representing the writers of the four gospels.)

The year of the inauguration of the candle is also included (in this case 2020). This helps us remember that, while we encounter the life and death of Christ in a specific time and place (such as at our baptism), what God does expands to all time—both before and after where we find ourselves.

Prayer
Let us pray. Christ, our Lord, you are yesterday and today, the beginning and the end. All things and all ages belong to you. May your glory and power sustain us, so that we may celebrate the resurrection today and through all the ages of eternity;through the same Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,one God, now and forever. Amen.

Live as children of light! Pr. Scott.
 

Tuesday August 11th 2020 
 
Welcome to the week's edition of "Tuesday's Tour & Prayer." Every Tuesday this email features a scene from Millcreek Lutheran Church (MLC) along with a brief Scripture reading and prayer. Some weeks (like this one) there will also be a little teaching piece. This week we celebrate the paschal candle donated earlier this year by the Hoffman family.



Scripture

“[Christ Jesus] is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything." (Colossians 1:18, NRSV)

Teaching
Fire has long been a sign of God’s presence. The Old Testament is full of examples: the burning bush on Mount Sinai, the pillar of fire in the desert, the tabernacle lamps, and the sacrificial fires on the altar of the temple in Jerusalem. Early Christians rather naturally viewed the kindling of new fire as a symbol of the presence of their resurrected Lord, the new pillar of fire.

In Jerusalem, the earliest Christians blessed and lighted candles every Saturday night. By at least the fifth or sixth century, the custom had become associated with celebrations of the Resurrection, and paschal candles had found their way into the liturgy of the Western church.(Our word "paschal" comes from the Greek word pasch, which is used to translate the Hebrew word pesach. They both mean "passover." Where Jews celebrate the Angel of Death passing over their firstborn, Christians celebrate Christ as the firstborn of the dead.")

Throughout the fifty days of Easter (i.e., one day more than a "week of weeks"), the paschal candle traditionally stands near the altar as a symbol of the resurrection. It is lighted for each liturgy during the great fifty days of Easter. (Easter is not over until Pentecost, the fiftieth day!)

After the Day of Pentecost, the paschal candle is placed on its stand near the baptismal font as a visual reminder that in our baptism, we are crucified and resurrected with Christ. The candle is lighted at each celebration of Baptism, at which time small baptismal candles are lighted from it for presentation to the baptized or sponsor. This act is a visual reminder of the integral connection between Baptism and Easter. For funerals, the paschal candle is lighted and placed in its stand at the head of the casket during the funeral rite. In a visual way, the paschal candle visually proclaims the message of Romans 6:3-5 (used at the beginning of the burial liturgy): "In our Baptism we have already died and been raised with Christ." The paschal candle is also lighted for celebrations related to baptism, such as "Confirmation" (more properly called "Affirmation of Baptism.")


Next week's "Tuesday Teaching & Prayer" will interpret the symbols on our paschal candle. The source of this week's information is the ELCA Office on Worship.

Copyright © 2013 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Prayer

Let us pray. We pray to you, O God, that this candle, burning to the honor of your name, will continue to vanquish the darkness of night and be mingled with the lights of heaven. May Christ the Morning Star find it burning,that Morning Star who never sets, that Morning Star who, rising from the grave,faithfully sheds light on the whole human race;through the same Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,one God, now and forever. Amen.

Live as children of light! Pr. Scott.

August 4th 2020 
 
Welcome to the week's edition of "Tuesday's Tour & Prayer." Every Tuesday this email features a scene from Millcreek Lutheran Church (MLC) along with a brief Scripture reading and prayer. Some weeks (like this one) there will also be a little teaching piece. This week we celebrate the decoration on our green paraments.



Scripture

“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?”

(1 Corinthians 10:16, NRSV)

Teaching
Paraments are the hangings on the altar and pulpit, and on the lectern if there is one. This green parament (technically a “frontal”) hanging from our altar features images of a cross, wheat, grapes, a cup (chalice), and a communion host. The placement of these images at our altar is an important reminder of what God does for us there. God transforms normal things of the earth into visible signs of God’s promise in Jesus Christ. In other words, God makes a “Sacrament” happen.

The wheat goes on to become bread that becomes for us the body of Christ. For the first several centuries of Christianity, yeast-based-whole-loaf bread was used for Holy Communion. During the early Middle Ages, unleavened bread became the only acceptable bread for Holy Communion. (This is still true in the Roman Catholic Church.) The reason for this was to illustrate the difference in “holy things” from “profane things.” God was remote and humans unworthy. Current Lutheran practice encourages the use of a yeast-based-whole-loaf bread as was used in the early church.

The grapes go on to become wine that becomes for us the blood of Christ. The ritual use of wine played in important part in Jewish ritual meals, particularly the weekly Sabbath meal and the annual feast of Passover. Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper during a Jewish ritual meal at which bread and wine were served. During the meal, Jesus identified the bred with his body and the wine with his blood. Faithful to his command, the church continues to use wine, with its many associations, in the celebration of Holy Communion.

For many people, the most interesting thing to learn about Lutheran practice of the Sacraments is that Lutherans do not require the use of special bread or special wine in the celebration of Holy Communion. (Likewise, water used in Holy Baptism is “normal” water identical to what we use at home everyday, instead of a specially confected “holy water.”) By doing this, Lutherans are making an important theological point. That is: God uses ordinary things—and ordinary people—to do extra-ordinary things such as bring us forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation in Holy Communion. (Again, this is a point at which Lutherans differ from our Roman Catholic friends. Roman Catholic theology requires specialized bread [i.e., coin-sized wafers or hosts], specialized sacramental wine [with a prescribed alcohol content], and holy water for baptisms.)

Prayer
Let us pray. Lord God, in a wonderful Sacrament you have left us a memorial of your suffering and death. May this Sacrament of your body and blood so work in us that the way we live will proclaim the redemption you have brought; for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Live as children of light! Pr. Scott.
 

 
July 28th 2020 
Welcome to the week's edition of "Tuesday's Tour & Prayer." Every Tuesday this email features a scene from Millcreek Lutheran Church (MLC) along with a brief Scripture reading and prayer. Some weeks (like this one) there will also be a little teaching piece. This week we celebrate the decoration on our green paraments.



Scripture
“Immediately [Jesus] spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded.” (Mark 6:50-51, NRSV)

Teaching
Paraments are the hangings on the altar and pulpit, and on the lectern if there is one. This green parament (technically an “antependium”) hanging from our pulpit features an image of a boat. The boat has been a symbol of the church since at least the fourth century.

The imagery goes back to the pages of what Christians call the Old Testament. There God used a boat to save Noah and his family from the waters of the flood that destroyed the earth. This made the boat a symbol of safety within chaos and of life in the very midst of death. In fact, ancient Christians read the story of Noah’s Ark at Easter to remind them of how God rescues the faithful from death.

Four of the twelve disciples Jesus called (Peter, Andrew, James, and John) were fishermen. Additional members of Jesus’ first disciples may also have been fishermen. (Apart from Matthew/Levi, who was a tax collector, the New Testament doesn’t give us much more background information on the other seven disciples.) John Burger points out that, in the New Testament, many episodes in Christ’s life are linked with boats. Jesus promised Peter he would no longer catch fish but people. A storm raged on the Sea of Galilee, but the boat was not imperiled because Jesus was in it. Jesus would sometimes preach from the boat of Peter.

This imagery lent itself to ideas about the building of churches. The part of a church building where the congregation sits of a church is called the “nave,” because the word comes from the Latin navis, which means “ship.” The vaulted ceilings of many churches (including our own MLC) are shaped as a ship’s keel so that, during worship, the worshipers are seated in an upside down boat.

Prayer
Let us pray. O God, strength of the powerless and light in all darkness: Look in mercy upon your church, a wonderful and sacred mystery, that it may be an ark of peace in the midst of chaos. Let the whole world come to see that what was fallen is being raised up, that what was old is being made new, and that all things are being restored to wholeness through the one from whom they first took being, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Live as children of light! Pr. Scott.
 

 
July 21st 2020 
 Welcome to the week's edition of "Tuesday's Tour & Prayer." Every Tuesday this email features a scene from Millcreek Lutheran Church (MLC) along with a brief Scripture reading and prayer. Some weeks (like this one) there will also be a little teaching piece. This week we celebrate our green paraments.



Scripture
“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD….” (Psalm 96:11-13a, NRSV)

Teaching
Paraments are the hangings on the altar and pulpit, and on the lectern if there is one. The practice of such hangings stretches all the way back to the tabernacle used by the Israelites to facilitate worship on their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. For example, at Exodus 26:31, the LORD instructs Moses, “You shall make a curtain of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and of fine twisted linen; it shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it.”

Paraments "clothe" the central furnishings in the chancel (i.e., the section of the worship space in which are located the altar and pulpit). Lutheran practice considers the “central furnishings” to be the altar, the baptismal font, and the pulpit. They remind us of the two sacraments observed by Lutherans (i.e., Holy Baptism and Holy Communion) as well as the centrality of preaching the gospel in a biblical way. Lutherans usually use the phrase “the Means of Grace” as a shorthand way to refer Baptism, Communion, and preaching.

Paraments are in the color of the day, which is a practice that seems to go as far back as the fifth century, but was standardized in the Middle Ages. Because we are in the Sundays after Pentecost (also called “Ordinary Time”), MLC’s chancel is dressed in green. Green is used to indicate our growth as we follow the teachings and ministry of Christ, which is the content of the gospel readings during the Sundays after Pentecost. Green, when used liturgically, is a “neutral color” used when a more festive or more somber color is not appointed. For example, during the time after Epiphany when the festivity of Christmas is past, but we have not yet entered the solemnity traditionally associated with Lent, the color green is also appointed.

To learn about the colors used throughout the year in Lutheran congregations, please click here to read a document provided by the ELCA’s worship office, which was also the source for some of the explanations given above.

Of the three religions descended from Abraham’s monotheism (i.e., belief in one God), Christianity is the only one in which a person can tell where we are on the religious calendar by the adornment of the worship space. Neither Judaism or Islam (the other two religions descended from Abraham’s monotheism) have a practice similar to the use of paraments.

This article focuses on the color of our paraments. Next week and the week after, we will learn about the symbols on our paraments (at least the green ones!)

Prayer
We give you thanks, O God, creator of the universe, for you have enriched our lives with every good and perfect gift; you have commanded us to show your splendor to our children; and you have invited us to praise you with lives of love, justice, and joy. We give you thanks for things of beauty that adorn your house, show us the beauty of holiness, and so proclaim the glory of your majesty. To you, O God, be all glory and honor through your Son, Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Live as children of light! Pr. Scott.
 

July 14th 2020
 
 Welcome to this week's edition of "Tuesday's Tour & Prayer." Every Tuesday this email features a scene from Millcreek Lutheran Church (MLC) along with a brief Scripture reading and prayer. Some weeks (like this one) there will also be a little teaching piece. This week we celebrate our processional cross.



Scripture
[Jesus said,] just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (John 3:14-15, NRSV)

Teaching
We are so accustomed to the cross as the primary symbol of the Christian faith that we forget that it was not until the time of the Emperor Constantine, who outlawed crucifixions in the fourth century, that Christians used it to signify the faith. Before that, crucifixion was a shameful way to die, and Christians used other shapes (such as the fish) to symbolize their faith.

The cross featured here from Millcreek Lutheran Church is in the form known as a "processional cross" because it is affixed to a staff by which it can be carried. Because the Emperor Constantine incorporated the cross into his shields in the fourth century, processional crosses also came into use. Such crosses were used during liturgical processions and were placed near the altar for each celebration of the liturgy. By the sixteenth century it was customary for altars to be adorned with a cross. Recent efforts to restore the use of free-standing altars (such as we have at MLC) assume the placement of a processional cross at or near the altar, omitting the use of a cross on the altar itself.

Many people often ask about the symbol that appears on our cross and others like it. The short answer is that it is a symbol called a "Chi Rho" and is an abbreviation of the word "Christ." The longer answer invites us to look at the field of orthography. Orthography refers to the conventions used in writing a language and includes such things as the shape of the letters, where hyphens go, etc. Orthography also includes conventions regarding abbreviations. For example, in English, we (mostly) form an abbreviation by writing the first letter and last letter of a word and putting a period at the end. (Thurs, Dr. is an abbreviation for "doctor" and St. is an abbreviation for "saint," etc.)

One way ancient people made abbreviations was by taking the first two letters of a word and superimposing them on one another. In Greek (the language of the New Testament) the word "Christ" looks like this: Χριστός. The X (chi) and the P (rho) being the first two letters were superimposed on one another to form this common abbreviation for the word "Christ."

Prayer
Let us pray. Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross so that he might draw the whole world to himself. To those who look upon the cross, grant your wisdom, healing, and eternal life, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Live as children of light! Pr. Scott.
 

 July 7th 2020
 Welcome to the first edition of "Tuesday's Tour & Prayer." Every Tuesday this email will feature a scene from Millcreek Lutheran Church (MLC) along with a brief Scripture reading and prayer. Some weeks (like this one) there will also be a little teaching piece. This week we celebrate our baptismal font.



Scripture
"Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:3-4, NRSV)

Teaching
During the first two centuries of Christianity, Baptism was celebrated in natural bodies of water such as rivers and lakes. After the persecutions of the church were ended in A.D. 313, special places for Baptism (known as baptistries) were constructed around the pools. Originally, these pools were below ground, with the candidates for Baptism descending several steps into the waters of death with Christ. The pools were usually large (up to about twenty-eight feet in diameter), though usually shallow. The earliest font that has been discovered was in a third-century house church in Dura Eurpoas (in what is now Syria); it was rectangular, the shape of a sarcophagus. [...] In these pools, Baptism was usually by immersion: the candidate stood or knelt in the water while water was poured over his/her head. A few early fonts in North Africa were deep enough for submersion of the whole body, though it is not known whether submersion was actually used.

As the number of adult Baptisms decreased in the sixth to eighth centuries, and as infant Baptism become the norm, the requisite quantity of water became less and the size of fonts became smaller. Above-ground pools replaced those below ground, and eventually the fonts lost all appearances of a pool. By the thirteenth century fonts were required to be covered and locked because superstitious people stole the consecrated water to use for witchcraft. In the later Middle Ages the font covers became highly decorative and more important visually than the fonts or the water they held.

In the late twentieth century, as the theology and practice of Baptism have been renewed, and as requests for adult baptisms increase, fonts are again becoming larger and more significant in appearance and location.

Source: Van Loon, Ralph R. Worship Wordbook: A Practical Guide for Parish Worship. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1995. Pp. 84-5.)

Prayer
Let us pray. We give you thanks, O God, for in the beginning your Spirit moved over the waters and by your Word you created the world, calling forth life in which you took delight. Through the waters of the flood you delivered Noah and his family. Through the sea you led your people Israel from slavery into freedom. At the river your Son was baptized by John and anointed with the Holy Spirit. By water and your Word you claim us as daughters and sons, making us heirs of your promise and servants of all. We praise you for the gift of water that sustains life, and above all we praise you for the gift of new life in Jesus Christ. Pour out your Holy Spirit, on all the baptized. To you be given honor and praise through Jesus Christ our Lord in the unity of the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Live as children of light! Pr. Scott.
Credit for this idea goes to Pastor Rob Hartwell of Village Lutheran Church in Bronxville, New York.