By the numbers, it was the biggest single service in our sanctuary since I’ve been here. It had the most visitors, including significant contingents from Mount Olive and Advent in Arlington. It had the most kids I’ve ever seen on a Sunday or holy day. It also had the most bishops (two).
But as gratifying as it is to have a packed house, more important is what happened in that packed house. It wasn’t just that we heard the Word and celebrated the Sacrament, which is always more than enough and the most important thing in the world. But we affirmatively reached out to our preschool families and wider community to share a word of prayer and blessing for children, teachers and administrators, and students of all ages and stages, named and identified and lifted up together to God. And we had the chance to include both our own bishop, representing in his office all the churches of our Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod, and a bishop from the church in Sierra Leone, with whom we are connected by our particular partnership and through the global Lutheran World Federation. It was a moment that connected us more deeply to our own community and to our wider fellowship with the faithful in Texas and across the ocean. I have been part of many powerful days at church, in almost every possible role, but this was one I will never forget.
I remember a mentor in ministry telling me, back when I was just at the beginning of my ordination process, that the high holy days and big events are a sort of gift. And whether she added it in so many words or I just made the connection myself, this insight came with a warning: things are not always going to feel like that. Life, even the life of faith, is lived in the hours and days and months between any dazzling moments we receive as a gift. I sincerely believe that we are built up in our faith much more by showing up every week regardless of our mood and making the best offering of ourselves that we can, even if the music isn’t to our liking or the crowd we’d hoped for isn’t there, than we ever are by those dazzling moments. But those moments—that Sunday, August 21 among them—really do matter. They show us something about a God who is bigger than us and bigger than our own expectations. And they show us something about ourselves, that we are able to stretch ourselves, to reach out, and to be something different than we have always been (even if it’s just for one Sunday). If you were there, I hope you will hold on to that feeling, not to try to chase it over and over but to remember what can really happen here. The combination of events that made that day possible won’t repeat themselves. But that doesn’t mean God will stop giving us opportunities to do a new thing, hear a new voice, and speak to new people.
Speaking of which, I hope you will all join me for the ordination to the Holy Ministry of Word and Sacrament of Veronika Czutor on Saturday, September 10 at 4 p.m. at Central Lutheran Church (1000 Easton Road in Dallas). Veronika ended her internship here in July and has stayed on as an interim youth and family ministry director. Her impact here, in many roles, needs no rehearsal in this newsletter (and would take too long anyway). But it was a big step for us to re-engage with the internship program after three years away from it, and it is a very special opportunity to be able to attend a former intern’s ordination so easily. Veronika has done me the great honor of asking me to preach, and while I’ve done just about all the kinds of preaching one can do in this job, I’ve never preached an ordination before. I’ll admit to being a little nervous. A whole lot of faces new to me will be there, at a very special moment for one of our own, for the church she will serve, and for our whole synod.
But that’s where God does some of those special things, those moments that inspire us to do and be better, to reach farther, and to become what we never knew we could be. Please join me in praying for Veronika each day as she prepares to take on this charge, and pray that your church would be built up in this spirit of continual surprise and unexpected joy.
See you in church!