Sunday, smoky Sunday
St. Luke’s Lutheran Church
St. Luke’s Lutheran Church3835 Lakeside Dr.
Reno, NV 89509
“I feel a little queasy,” said my son, Hunter, on Sunday, an hour before we were to head off to church. Then he ran upstairs and left a deposit of Honey Nut Cheerios, and I was stuck: deadline and no one to watch Hunter. Fortunately, he felt fine, or at least comfortable enough, for me to leave for an hour at the nearby St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, where I sat, about half-distracted, taking notes and waiting for my vibrafied phone to buzz.
It’s the smoke, man. And this little anecdote strikes me as relevant in that it illustrates the way the “real world” intrudes into church land and spirituality. When I entered the foyer, I was greeted with “Good morning, happy smoky Sunday.” The smoke was mentioned again in the sermon and again in the “special prayers.”
The sanctuary and chancel design are fairly standard, as I’ve come to understand the Lutheran point of view. There was a high peaked ceiling, approximately 60 wooden pews in two columns. There’s a balcony to the rear with additional seating. The room is dominated by a large, simple wooden cross and beautifully surrounded by stained glass. It has a representation of Earth to Heaven, with bas-relief wheat and stained-glass wheat at “ground” level, clouds and stars, and a stylized golden city, representing Heaven, at the top. The pulpit was forward and slightly to stage left, with the altar toward the back and covered with a green cloth, directly under that massive cross. From my vantage point, the cross appeared to emanate directly out of the head of whoever was at the altar, metaphorically making the people the cross’ foundation and putting the cross above those personalities.
It being Fourth of July weekend, the service had a patriotic theme. At two minutes before 8:30 a.m., stand-in organist Gail Carlson piped up with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” The music was very traditional, including songs like “Before You, Lord, We Bow” and “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me,” and brought the theme to full circle with “God Bless Our Native Land.”
Vicar John Scheuermann led worship that morning, as Pastor Michael R. Benke was vacationing in the California redwoods. He’s a friendly guy and immediately likable as he came out in front of the chancel for the announcements. I noted him talking to many of the congregants before the service started, getting individual families’ prayers, which would be announced during that portion of the service—the travelers, the sick, the deceased.
The readings were a little confusing for me, although, I guess they were traditional enough. The first was from Zechariah chapter 9, which I believe is a prophesy of the coming of the King or the Messiah. The second was from Romans 7:14-25, which is basically Paul lamenting his human nature: “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”
You gotta feel for the guy.
The last reading was from Matthew chapter 11, the bit where Jesus explains that there are a lot of things that will seem contradictory to people who try to apply human understanding to God.
Vicar Scheuermann spoke about the apparent contradictions inherent in all three of the readings. His bottom line: God defies human understanding. Get used to it.
“The Bible is full of these purposeful contradictions,” he said, mentioning the mystery of the Trinity, the transmutation of bread and wine to Jesus’ body and blood, and the dual nature of Jesus (wholly God/wholly man).
“We take what Scripture has revealed to us, and we allow the contradictions. … He’s consistent; we’re the ones trying to figure it out.”