A Song of Ascents. Of David. Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore (Psalm 133 ESV).
–By Deaconess Elizabeth Ahlman
Last week, workers from all over the Eurasia region gathered together in Prague, Czech Republic for some much needed time to reconnect with one another, share about our work with one another and most importantly, worship together.
Each day of the retreat, we gathered together in the beautiful church of St. Michael’s, where The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) sponsors an English-language congregation for expatriates. We sang Matins and Vespers Together, confessed our sins in the service of Corporate Confession and Absolution and ended the week by partaking of the Lord’s Supper together in the Divine Service.
We are flung far and wide across this region and our work, though having some commonalities, is also as varied as the places where we live. We speak different languages in our host countries. We live in a myriad of different arrangements from tiny apartments to larger ones, shopping in grocery stores or at markets, with reliable electricity and with frequent blackouts. However, despite all of these differences, we are brothers and sisters in Christ who dwell together in unity.
We find that unity not in living arrangements, learned languages or types of work, but in altar and pulpit and font. That is why it was so important and so refreshing to gather together each day, most days twice a day, around the preached word and the service of God to us. As we followed the daily lectionary for readings and preaching texts, we walked through portions of 1 and 2 Samuel, as well as portions of 1 Corinthians. They were not easy texts, but the pastors in our midst who preached to us found Christ in all of them. Through their words and their reflections they once again reminded us of that which constitutes our unity: Christ our Lord and His death and resurrection for us and His gifts to us in Word and Sacrament. Because of His service TO us, He also works IN us and THROUGH us to serve the people in our midst all over this vast and varied region.
Most importantly, on that last day together before being flung once again to our varied places, we gathered together around the altar and received Christ’s body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins. That very body and blood knit us together as one, and by partaking of it, we declared upon pain of death that our confession was the same confession, the confession of the LCMS. And in this way, we are also knit together and bound up with all of our brothers and sisters in the LCMS and in our sister church bodies. We have unity with you, and we give thanks to God that you, too, receive the gifts of Word and Sacrament in your varied places. This is true unity, and it refreshes us for service once again, knowing that our fellow workers and our brothers and sisters in Christ by His grace stand with us across the miles in confessing the true faith and proclaiming it to others. It is good, indeed, when brothers dwell in unity!
Let us Pray: Lord God Heavenly Father, You bring unity to us through the death and resurrection of your beloved Son Jesus Christ and His gifts of Word and Sacrament to us; grant that we may be refreshed in this unity through Your Divine Service and frequent opportunities to partake of the Lord’s Supper so that we may serve You in our vocations and be strengthened by one another; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.