In our current Bible Study at Reconciler, we've been working our way through sections of Egeria's Travels. Egeria was a fourth-century pilgrim, from the western part of the Roman Empire -- likely Spain or Gaul -- who took a three-year tour of sacred sites in the Holy Land, based in Jerusalem. Her travelogue is colorful and gives us valuable information about how Christians worshipped at that time.
As we look together at Egeria's travels, interesting things come up. We marvel at the lengthy and numerous services that took place during Holy Week in Jerusalem, complete with long processions and all-night vigils. People worshipped for days on end. What dedication. How exhausting. What did they do with the old people and the little kids?
One of us wonders if Christianity is too easy today, compared with the liturgies that Egeria describes. Shouldn't people be able to look at Christians and say: "Wow, they really do that? They make that level of sacrifice?"
Others of us reflect on our travels in the Holy Land, and express mixed emotions about sacred sites with "scary holy people" abounding, and relics that may or may not have been authentic. Holy places can have their corrupt and strange elements, as well as being places of beauty and inspiration. St. Gregory of Nyssa -- a contemporary of Egeria's -- wrote that he saw no advantage in going to Jerusalem, corrupt as it was. And yet, such naysaying has never stopped the flow of pilgrims to the Holy Land.
The seasons of the Church year, along with our rotating lectionary of Scripture readings, are also a kind of pilgrimage. Instead of a making a physical trip, we symbolically venture into the desert with Christ in Lent, and journey with Jesus to Jerusalem in Holy Week. Our liturgical year is a pilgrimage through time rather than space. One need not go to the holy sites; they are brought to us.
Some things that Egeria describes are still present in our Holy Week celebrations today, like venerating the cross on Good Friday. And we do some things Egeria doesn't mention, like footwashing on Maundy Thursday. Liturgy, which means "work of the people," is not a static thing, but evolves with the Christian community. We seek to balance threads of ancient tradition with contemporary expressions of our own time and place.
In a sermon last week, I talked about how Jesus the Good Shepherd speaks to his sheep, his followers, who know his voice. As servant leaders we're called to listen both to Jesus's voice and to our own internal voices, since Jesus is a part of us. In a changing Church, in a changing world, what parts of our tradition and liturgy do we need to hold on to? What can we shape, alter, or let go of? How do we be faithful to the voice of Jesus, yet still be true to our own authentic experience?
We'll continue the conversation about Egeria's travels this Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. in the Chapel, looking at her descriptions of the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday in Jerusalem. On May 23rd, we'll gather at Kaffein at 7:30 p.m. for an open meeting of the Worship Committee, to talk about worship at Reconciler. Why do we do what we do? What do we need to hold on to? What might we shape, alter, or discard? We hope you will be there! We want to hear your voice.
The Rev. Laura Gottardi-Littell
for The Pastoral Team,
The Church of Jesus Christ, Reconciler
Social Action committee meets this Tuesday Evening, May 8th, at 7:30 at the 'Nidge (Parsonage).
Bible Study continues this Wed. May 9th at 7:30 p.m. in the side chapel of Immanuel Lutheran Church. (Prayers at 7:00 in the Sanctuary at Immanuel.) We are studying the pilgrimage itinerary of Egeria, a 4th century nun who visited the Holy Land and recorded the various worship practices and holy sites she found on her way. The study will focus on how the worship she describes became the source for the development of lectionaries, the church year and the celebrations of Holy Week and Easter. There will be four sessions. Our first session focused on the interaction of place, prayer, scripture text for marking foundational events and people for the Faith. The second and third sessions will focus on the Holy Week and Easter liturgies in Jerusalem, which eventually spread throughout the Church. The fourth session will focus on worship at Reconciler as it relates to the forms of prayer and liturgy Egeria witnesses to in her itinerary. This final session will lead into the worship committee's open forum on May 23rd (see below).
Worship Committee would like to invite all interested Reconcilers to come to a worship committee meeting 7:30 PM Wednesday May 23 at Kaffein in Evanston -- to discuss such hot-button liturgical items as: Which version of the Lord's prayer we want to use? What kind of processional cross do we want to purchase? And....what about inclusive language? Let us know if you have other questions or ideas re: worship at Reconciler.
Next Council Meeting is Thursday May 17th at 7:30 at the Nidge.
Pentecost (also known as Whitsunday) is coming up on May 27th. On that day, we celebrate the birthday of the church, when the Holy Spirit descended on Christ's disciples. Look for a special liturgy that Sunday evening at Reconciler and a possible surprise or two.
Jubilee USA's Annual 2007 Grassroots Conference... Come to Jubilee USA's annual 2007 grassroots conference June 15-17 to find out more about about Sabbath Economics, the international debt crisis, economic justice, and globalization. $35 early bird registration includes Saturday and Sunday lunch and breakfast. See Jeremy for more details.
Summer Community Outreach. We are planning to have a booth and be a presence at The Glenwood Arts Festival and the Edgewater neighborhood street festival this summer. Both Festivals are in August. Please consider helping out with the booths as part of your summer plans. More information to come.