Audio is not available this week due to outdoor worship on Sunday.
I had a friend in seminary who attended the Episcopal Church. And part of being in the Episcopal Church involves using the Book of Common Prayer, which is this compendium of prayers and services that serve as the basis of every prayer in the Episcopal Church. He joked about how in their church, no one had to check the page number for a prayer, because they just had to let the book fall open and the well-worn spine would open it right to the page it needed to be.
We might not have a Book of Common Prayer in the Lutheran church, but we do have a set of prayers we use regularly. In fact, we’ve got a lot of prayers that we use outside of church that I’m sure we could all say from memory—whether the bedtime prayer of “now I lay me down to sleep,” or the mealtime “come, Lord Jesus, be our guest,” or maybe we even know Luther’s table blessing “bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts.” Memorized prayers are a big part of our collective prayer life as Christians.
Down at the softball field, we have this really incredible scoreboard. It’s a great way to keep track of the game for the people who are watching, and even for the teams on the field. Since we got the scoreboard, I’ve normally been the one who scores the games when Our Savior’s plays. Well, last Sunday, while I was at the scoring machine, a little boy—maybe five or six years old—took a break from playing with his friends to check out what I was doing.
He asked me what the buttons were for. He asked me what an “out” was and what button to push when the team got a run. He asked about how it connected to the scoreboard. And before long, he started wanting to push the buttons himself, making sure I was there to help guide him along. What started as a little bit of curiosity turned into a brand-new skill he learned over the course of the evening.
Curiosity isn’t something that just little kids have, either. My dad’s mom, my Maw Maw Bertha, was a lifelong learner—always curious. She started learning French in her 80s, about the same time I started learning it in high school. And I really believe she got better at it than I ever did. But one of the important things about her curiosity was her willingness to ask questions. And sometimes we might be a little hesitant to ask questions out of fear of what ignorance that might show about us.
The way each culture handles greetings is interesting. In Chinese, the way you say “hello” actually means “are you well?” In German the greeting basically means “I wish you a good day!” But in lots of languages, the word used to greet others is “peace.” It’s true in Hawaiian—“aloha”—it’s true in Hindi—“Namaste”—and it’s true in Hebrew—“shalom.” Isn’t it interesting how, across the globe, there’s this common theme that we greet one another with peace?
I think at least part of that is because we really do hope that our words of peace become peace when we say it. We want there to be peace between nations, since war is such a terrible thing. And we wish for peace in our communities, so that everyone can live in safety. And we wish for peace in our families, where we can still come together and love one another.
But we also should talk about what we mean when we say “peace.” When I say “peace,” what do you think of?
While we were out running errands at Target, Annie and I got a good laugh at one of those aisle endcap advertisements. It was a bunch of American-flag décor items from plates to sunglasses, and above it was a sign. In big, bold, red-white-and-blue letters it had “July 4th” and below that, in the little part giving you an idea of what this stuff can be used for, it said “For your parties on Thursday, July 4th.”
When else did they think we were planning on celebrating it? I mean, come on, they could’ve at least had the big sign say “Independence Day.”
This week is a big celebration around the country; one that emphasizes all the best things about our country: the freedoms we share, our can-do attitude, our collective love of blowing things up—as long as it’s colorful. But the prime object of our celebrations this Thursday will be for our freedom.