Shall we gather at the river? As Christians our faith songs are full of rivers: Shall We Gather at The River, There’s River of Life, As I Went Down to the River to Pray, the list continues. As is often the case, scripture is our inspiration. The Bible is rich in rivers: the four rivers which flow from the Garden of Eden, the River Jordan, source of liberation, healing, and the site of Jesus’ baptism, the river of life which flows through the City of God, and many, many more.
Of course, as Lutherans, when it comes to rivers we like to keep our rivers in scripture, literature, and firmly in the past. Shall we gather at the river? Maybe not. We’re sprinklers not dunkers when it comes to baptism. We prefer out water to be neatly contained and easily accessible in a nice, solid baptismal font.
But, gather at the river we pilgrims did on Sunday morning. We traveled to a small but swift moving river near Philippi at the possible site of Lydia’s baptism by Paul.
Perhaps that is the point, though. Christian community is not about our individual experiences of the divine, but the way we haltingly meet and bear Christ together. Jesus lives in the community into which we have been baptized. A community where we lean on one another for support and grace.
Such was the community that Lydia and her fellow believers entered that Sabbath Day at the river. Lydia did not go down to the river alone. She was part of a larger community that carried each other and leaned on one another. That is our community too. Lydia is one of us and we are one of hers. Staggering, picking our way carefully down steep steps, offering steadying hands and supportive shoulders, we all go down to the River of Life together.
The Liturgisaur knows a lot about bones. Dinosaurs tend to be experts on the subject. When it comes to dinosaurs, bones are what people know for sure and everything else is well researched guesswork: skin, behavior, dietary habits, etc. There’s a lot of scientific wonderment that goes into paleontology.
But bones do have an air of mystery about them. There’s a certain reverence to standing in a museum hall packed with femurs, skulls, teeth, and questions. We are invited to reflect on the life of something bigger than us. Something imaginable, but not altogether knowable.
And we pilgrims encountered something similar when we arrived at the Church of Saint Demetrios in Thessaloniki. The church itself contains layers of mystery: in the seventh century the church burnt down and had to be rebuilt. While the destruction was extensive, efforts were made to preserve what artwork remained. As a result the building is filled with partial mosaics: an angel face and wing covering the corner of a blank wall, Saint Demetrios standing with hands extended in blessing, beautiful even in their incompleteness. Something imaginable, but not altogether knowable.
God is a walking God, a God who puts feet on the ground and goes from point A to point B, usually with the rest of the alphabet in between.
About the Blog
Journey through the season of Advent with daily updates on the adventures of St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Belliacre, MI as they attempt to cobble together a Christmas Pageant with an unlikely cast of characters.
Stephanie is an art educator and a landscape/portrait artist. Her inspirations come from the amazing people she meets and the gorgeous state of Michigan as well as her home state of Florida. She and he husband love nature. They are out in the water during the summer months and on the snow in the winter enjoying the simple pleasures of life.
A church of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
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Christ the King Lutheran Church
600 S. M 18
Gladwin, Mi. 48624
Pastor Emily Olsen