03/31/2021: On Proclamation & the Arts

Dear LAC,
During Advent, we talked a little bit about the arts in worship as a type of proclamation as we prepared for this year’s Dancing Magnificat, and as we look forward to another arts-based service for Good Friday, it seems like a good time for a recap:
In our Reformed tradition, proclamation (κήρυγμα / kerygma) is the heart of our worship. We believe that there is something transformative that happens when we gather as a community and read scripture together. The Holy Spirit is at work within us and within the Word of God to lead us to understanding, wisdom, and insight. This act of communal engagement, transformation, and illumination of God’s Word is called proclamation. We are familiar with proclamation happening during the sermon; however, we also experience these moments of transcendence during other parts of worship–from choral anthems that help us to hear God’s Word in a new way to stories of how our mission partners are living out the gospel during the moment for mission.
This Good Friday, we will hear the story of Jesus’s arrest, trial, crucifixion, and death as told in John 18-19. We’ll pause along the way to meditate and reflect with art and music. Our proclamation comes in that space of reflection, where sacred storytelling, art, and the haunting refrain from “O Sacred Head Now Wounded,” are woven together by the Spirit and transformed into something greater than the sum of its components.
Jesus is nailed to the cross / And on the strangest sea
A wife weeps while hugging her husband in his final moments in a COVID-19 unit at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, California.
Our art comes from Mary Button’s (the vicar of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Kingston, NY) exhibit Stations of the Cross: Pandemic Hope. Vicar Button juxtaposes traditional stations of the cross with hand-drawn illustrations of hope, resiliency, and relationship as witnessed in news stories covering the COVID-19 pandemic. Each scene is paired with a stanza of Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is the thing with feathers.” Through these multi-media collages, the cosmic story of death and resurrection, of suffering and compassion, is reflected through our shared experience of the past year. In a virtual service, Vicar Button shared:
“My interest in the stations of the cross began when I was in graduate school, exploring the connections between art and the devotional lives of Christians everywhere. I created my first series in 2010, and have created eight more in the ensuing years, each engaging with contemporary social justice issues and bringing those stories into the story of the passion.
What our holy scripture teaches us is that God is with us in our suffering, and the goal of these projects is for us to see Jesus’s suffering in the suffering of those around us. When we can see God in one another and be present in each other’s pain, we can change the world.”
To learn more, or purchase a digital download of the art and accompanying prayer prompts (a portion of all proceeds will go to RIP Medical Debt–$40,000 of medical debt has been forgiven from Pandemic Hope downloads thus far!) please visit Vicar Button’s website, https://www.marybutton.com.
Beloved, it was an honor and a privilege to work on this service. I must confess to feeling somewhat numb and weary as we have passed the one-year mark of online worship, but something broke open in my heart while editing, and I felt a deep sense of both grief and hope. I hope this Good Friday worship experience will be meaningful for you, and will leave you feeling ready to change the world. You may download a bulletin here [LINK] and join us for the livestream at noon on Friday via Facebook and via our website.
With Grace and Peace,
Marranda Major
Church Secretary, Communication Coordinator, and Video Editrix

01/06/2021: Happy Epiphany!

Dear LAC,
Last Sunday, we celebrated Epiphany in worship; but if you have been counting down, you know that yesterday was the twelfth day of Christmas, and today, January 6th, is traditionally when we celebrate the Magi’s Journey and the incredible revelation of God’s self in Christ. If you missed it, you can catch up on Rev. Jed Koball’s sermon, “We Journey Together,” here [LINK] and join in God’s call to be in solidarity with our neighbors, both far and near.


In recent years, we have celebrated Epiphany in worship by receiving Epiphany Stars-small cut-outs, lovingly hand-lettered by Rev. Smith-Bartlett with a “Star Word” to be a guide for reflection in the new year. Artist Morgan Harper Nichols has created a digital adaptation [LINK] for folks missing this tradition. As star words fly by in this Instagram Reel, simply close your eyes, and take a screenshot (or tap your device to pause) when you feel ready to receive your word for 2021. (You can find the full list of star words here [LINK].) Or, if carnival attractions and gameshow antics bring you delight, you can try clicking to “Spin the Wheel” here [LINK] to see how the Spirit may be speaking to you through the wonder of random number generation!


Whether your star word resonates deeply with you, or if you forget it within a matter of minutes, I pray that this new year will be a time of God’s light breaking in through the darkness, and that when you reflect on what it means to have survived this past year, that you will remember moments when God’s love surrounded you.


Star Giving by Ann Weems

What I’d really like to give you for Christmas is a star…

Brilliance in a package,
something you could keep in the pocket of your jeans
or in the pocket of your being.
Something to take out in times of darkness,
something that would never snuff out or tarnish,
something you could hold in your hand,
something for wonderment,
something for pondering,
something that would remind you of
what Christmas has always meant:
God’s Advent Light into the darkness of this world.
But stars are only God’s for giving,
and I must be content to give you words and wishes
and packages without stars.
But I can wish you life
as radiant as the Star
that announces the Christ Child’s coming,
and as filled with awe as the shepherds who stood beneath its light.

And I can pass on to you the love
that has been given to me,
ignited countless times by others
who have knelt in Bethlehem’s light.
Perhaps, if you ask, God will give you a star.
From Kneeling in Bethlehem, The Westminster Press, 1980.

Help Us Imagine and Create!

Did you find these online Epiphany stars delightful? If you are intrigued by thinking about ways to adapt worship traditions to work in an online context, please join the Worship Committee as we continue imagining how to make our online worship services more meaningful! We need folks to volunteer as Liturgy Editors to select readings and write prayers for upcoming services. (We’ll set you up with resources, and can even connect you with a worship mentor to talk you through the process!) We need folks to record video and audio clips as virtual liturgists! We need artists-of all ages and experiences and media-to create images and videos as we work together to create LAC’s very own visual culture. Send a note to the office to be paired with a worship mentor, or sign up here to get involved with an up-coming service: [LINK]