Over at RevGalBlogPals, I found this writing prompt: "So, this week, please share five memories of such sacred moments with God and her holy people from your life and the lives of those you love."
At first, I was sure my answer would involve nature: hiking the Appalachian Trail or watching the sunrise over the ocean. In some ways, I haven't felt the presence of God so much then, as evidence of God, a "God's been here before me" kind of feeling.
Much to my surprise, I've felt the presence of God most often during worship service. It surprises me because I spent so many years of my life chafing over the fact that I had to go to church. I was a member of the kind of family who went to church every Sunday. The first thing we did on vacation was to locate the Lutheran church and figure out the Sunday service schedule. As a kid, I HATED it. I loved going camping, because my sister and I were allowed to create the Sunday service for our small family congregation. I still love worship planning.
Now, I must confess, I don't feel the presence of God each and every Sunday. It's usually part of a special service, like our monthly service of healing, especially when I've been one of the healing ministers and felt God's power run through me, as if I'm a conduit.
I often feel God's presence at Lutheridge, a Lutheran camp near Asheville, NC. I've been going to the Create in Me retreat each spring for almost a decade now, and I never fail to sense the presence of God during most of the retreat, but particularly during worship. At one of our special services, we commune by bringing everyone around the altar. People come forward to commune, and those of us not communing put our hands on their shoulders. It's a powerful experience, both for the communer and the ones behind the communers who hold them.
I felt God's presence at the Florida-Bahamas Synod Assembly worship, which surprised me, because they were so large and somewhat impersonal. But the healing service was much more focused, and I was able to say exactly what had laid me low all Spring: "My job leaves me both stressed and bored." The pastor prayed with me and anointed me with oil. Since then, while I have felt both stressed and bored at work, it hasn't left me feeling as torn apart.
And I've felt the presence of God at Mepkin Abbey, near Charleston, SC. I should point out that the services there that were so special to me are just every day services for the monks who live there. The first time I was there I knew that if I was a man, I would feel called to commit. However, as a Lutheran, married woman, I have felt that I could only visit, that I would always be welcome to visit, but not to stay.
I have also felt the presence of God in the loving relationships that I have, both inside and outside of the church. I especially sense God when my husband forgives me, or when we've been fighting and we figure out a way to move beyond our irritation and anger. I've always felt that Martin Luther got rid of too many sacraments; I'd add marriage back as a sacrament, if I was dictator of the Lutheran world.
What an interesting thing to ponder and to discover. As an adult, I'm only just uncovering the value of an ongoing habit of worship. My parents, and generations of church members before them, knew it all along: we are more likely to discover the presence of God when in communion with each other than when left to our own devices.
feeling the feelings…
6 months ago