Today was an early day of training for the Community Life team in New Orleans, we had to be at the convention center at 7am to start our day. After a couple hours of safety lessons, questions, laughs, yawns, and coffee we got a chance to meet up with all the other volunteers to worship together and participate in a commissioning.
I'm always amazed when you get a bunch of Lutherans in a room together, how alive music and worship can be, from singing harmonies (even when there are just words on a screen) to gathering together around one table to be fed and nourished with the Body and Blood of Christ. And I got that opportunity to swallow grace another time today, a couple hours ago, in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with about 100 volunteers. We sang Holden Evening Prayer, read scripture, passed the peace, and once again shared in the Body of Christ which we were reminded is given for everyone. Not just those people who are super energetic, or who are participants, or who are administrators, but everyone is invited to share that meal together, and everyone is invited to live in the constantly flowing and ever abundant grace of God.
It is that grace, which is given freely from the table, which flows forth from fonts, which brings us to New Orleans this year, and encompasses the theme of the week: Citizens With The Saints. In a world where walls divide us from each other, both physically and psychologically, the word "Citizen" conjures up very specific images to all of us. And that is what is so great about the theme, and the scripture that encompasses the entire Gathering:
Jesus is our peace. In his life and death on the cross, Jesus broke down the dividing walls so that we are no longer strangers and outsiders, but we are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God. The foundation of God's house was built of apostles and prophets, and Jesus, the cornerstone, holds it all together.These words are just as radical now as they were in the first century because division, and the "us vs. them" mindset is not new. Thinking in terms of "we" has never been comfortable, or easy, for any of us. And that is where Christ comes into our lives, in the midst of chaos and strife and walls, Christ IS our peace. Christ is our peace and comes to us in such unlikely ways, in food and drink, and in a bath. It is those times, when Christ is present in our midst through Word and Sacrament, that "us" and "them" simply do not exist. It is only "we". It is only citizenship with all the Saints.Ephesians 2:14-20, Gathering Paraphrase
It's good to live in the "we" this week with 36,000 other people!