April 19 , 2009
Religion is about ritual, faith is about relationships. Gandhi
Each year my pity meter runs high for maligned Thomas, the highlighted disciple on the second Sunday of Easter. John’s gospel notes that Thomas wasn’t around when Jesus appeared before the disciples that first Easter. While time away is often good for the soul, let me also note that for faith to grow, it needs a fellowship of believers.
When there is to be a service of death and resurrection in the Ashland sanctuary, I encourage families to sing a congregational hymn.
While the grieving family may not feel like singing, they can still take comfort from the congregational singing behind them, and that support means so much.
Shortly after graduation from The Lutheran Seminary in Columbia, I remember president George Anderson leaving to become president of Luther College, Iowa. His beloved wife lost her battle with cancer shortly thereafter. On top of that, Anderson’s adopted parents had died a few months earlier and he was now assuming the role as a single parent to two teenagers.
Dr. Anderson said, ”I went through a period of depression. I questioned my faith; I was mad at God. But I didn’t stop going to church. I went to worship, but I couldn’t sing the hymns, especially the joyful, happy ones. I couldn’t even pray the prayers, but the congregation at Decorah Lutheran Church, and at the college chapel sustained me. I felt as if they were singing and praying for me, even though I could not. “
Time passed and Dr. Anderson’s wounds healed, but he will never forget the power of being surrounded by the faith and voices of the congregation.
For a person to be brought to Christ, to be nurtured and to grow in faith, it takes personal relationships.
Martin Luther said we are the priesthood of all believers. That means faith is strengthened by our relationships and in our support of each other. We are all instruments of the Holy Spirit as we make faith happen.
I look forward to seeing you during these 50 days of Easter as we celebrate the risen Christ amongst us