28 January 2013
Marching for Life with the Common Service
I attended the 2013 March for Life and was glad to walk with fellow Missourians and thousands of others on the National Mall, up Constitution Avenue, past the Capitol to finish at the Supreme Court Building. Between the Capitol and the Supreme Court the LCMS folks gathered prayed the Our Father and for the end to the legalized murder of unborn children in this land. The LCMS Life Conference, held in conjunction with the March, was worth the price of admission. I hope it is held again and that thousands more LCMS people attend. One presenter exhorted us to encourage all District Presidents to be present next year and to lead a delegation from their district. Huzzah to that!
Of particular note was the Divine Service prior to the March for Life. Presided by Father Christopher Esget of Immanuel Church, Alexandria, Virginia with sermon preached by our Synodical President, the Mass was joyous and yet somber. We Missourians present were not there on a junket funded by the Synod’s bank, (Full Disclosure: I recently became a “Partner in Ministry” with LCEF, which I guess is what one becomes when they sell their home, move into a parsonage and have to park their money somewhere) but rather to speak, confess, march and pray for those who cannot speak for themselves and to mourn the 55 million children legally killed in the womb since Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton in 1973. I must confess I had a sense of mourning and grief as I arrived in the Federal City. I would think any pastor having done a decent amount of time in the Holy Office can rejoice in those lives saved through his ministrations, but also mourn over those lives taken despite his every effort. All pastors need to repent of when we kept our mouths shut, when we did not open our mouths for the dumb and for those appointed to die or when our words were so convoluted that we hurt more than helped.
So the Common Service (Divine Service III LSB) was a welcome gift. Even though it was conducted in the ballroom of a hotel, one could close their eyes and consider that they were home. Such is the strength of the Common Service. Father Esget was Eucharistically vested, President Harrison was in cope, the Day of Saint Paul’s Conversion was observed, the Gospel Preached, the prayers were prayed and the Sacred Body and Precious Blood of Jesus were given for us poor sinners. I was graciously asked by Father McClean, also of Immanuel Church, to assist in consuming the Holy Body and Blood and was given food and drink of life even more. It was needed. How thankful I am for Fathers Esget, McClean and Harrison and for their ministrations to those gathered, it steeled me for the March for Life, knowing that I, a poor sinner was cleansed of my wickedness and can speak with a forgiven voice for Life – Christ.
How thankful I am for the Common Service. Arriving a day before the March, I went to the National Mall to see my Uncle’s name on the Vietnam Memorial. PFC Dennis L. Harmon, USMC, was killed in action 21 July, 1966 at Quang Tri Province, Vietnam. I have his copy of The Lutheran Hymnal in my study, given to him on the day of his confirmation just a few years before his death. He knew and prayed the Common Service, as do the children and grandchildren of his sister – Missourians, just like him. So praying the Common Service, no real frills or extras added, Lutheran hymnody, Christ preached, Christ delivered, calmed me as my mind was filled with thoughts of the unborn killed, an uncle killed so long ago and my own gross sins. The Common Service unites me to my uncle as it unites my mother, siblings, children, nieces and nephew to me in a way that is beyond our shared bloodline, but rather in a way that is of Christ, His Church and His Father. It settles my soul. If I am willing to listen, its familiar harmony brings me to the rest that has been enjoyed by so many for Sunday after Sunday and will in the future. The retention (and re-introduction where necessary) of the Common Service in 21st century Lutheranism following its near destruction in Lutheran Book of Worship/Lutheran Worship era will be a laudable and needed help toward true unity in practice within Missouri, if we all are willing to listen.