Sunday, September 20, 2009
I'll be going on vacation this week, meeting my wife and children in the town where I grew up. There is a concentration of Lutheran congregations in the greater North Tonawanda area, and we've been thinking for months now about where we'd be receiving the gifts of God in the divine service. The easy decision would be to worship at the church I grew up attending. The problem is, the congregation has changed so much just in the nine years since I moved away that I won't feel as though I belong there. (Yes, I know it's not about how I feel, but we'll deal with that another day.) I'd prefer not to worship where the traditional service is in the minority of divine services offered.
That leaves a bunch of other congregations in the area. I've spent a lot of time on the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod website searching the area churches for Communion services. One of the blessings of worshiping with the congregations of the greater New Orleans area is that almost all of the churches have the Eucharist every Sunday. In Western New York, this is not the case. For the most part, even the most "confessional" congregations don't offer the Eucharist every Sunday.
I've had a devil of a time finding that out, though. Most of the congregations have a website, but those websites don't say when the congregation celebrates the Lord's Supper. Are you looking for a blended or a contemporary or a "celebration" service? Check the website. Do you want to know when the congregation's softball team plays next? Check the website. Do you want to know when Gambler's Anonymous meets at the church? Check the website. Do you want to know everything about the grade school or preschool or daycare? By all means, check the website! But if you want to know when the Sacrament of the Altar will be offered . . . well, it may be in the fine print, but more often than not, it's not there at all.
What a congregation puts on its website obviously says a lot about the priorities of a congregation. The youth group is usually prominently placed, usually with a group picture in matching shirts. The ladies group also has a place of honor on the website. Don't get me wrong: these things are important in the life of the congregation. Never let yourself forget that these things are not nearly as important in the life of the Church as receiving the body and blood of Christ in the Lord's Supper, kneeling before Jesus to receive the gifts He has for you. While Martha worried about the fellowship hall, Mary was seated at the feet of her Lord where she belonged, receiving the one thing needful.
What is the priority of your congregation? How is that portrayed in promotional materials and especially on the website? Is the "one thing needful" your highest priority? If so, don't be afraid to say so--and not just to make it easier for me to find a church for vacation. Boldly confess your Lord and the gifts He freely and graciously gives you, and tell everyone else when they will be offered at your church. You don't have to hide your youth group or ladies group away. Just let them be where they belong: under the shadow of their Lord.