Altered and Altared

Altered and Altared

For in him we live and move and have our being… we are God’s offspring…

Acts 17:28

How have we been altered? While most of us Lutherans don’t have a dramatic conversion story to share, it is still clear enough to me to God is always at work in us and through us. The beautiful thing is that we’re not always meant to know what kind of an impact we may make on others.

Likewise, we’ll also never be able to calculate how others have impacted us. Matthew 25:37 says it like this: “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in…?” I know how many of my own views have shifted and deepened since my younger days and much of that perspective came through the painful circumstances of life and grief. And some of our wisdom comes not through grief and pain but through the good and Godly people that God brings into our lives every day.

Thinking on this brings me to a place of gratitude when I think of all the ways that my life has been enriched through the great people that God has placed in my path along the way.

I’m excited about this year’s Lenten theme of “Altered,” because it will take us into the book of Acts which, frankly, we have neglected a bit during the course of all the sermon series that we’ve done over the years. There is something organic about having us live with the book of Acts for a season since our church’s mission statement is to “live out our faith in daily life”! That has the book of Acts written all over it! I believe that God is calling us to add to the book of Acts with our own stories: your faith story, my faith story, our faith story as the congregation of St. Andrew, our story as the greater Church living in the 21st century with all of its complexities and opportunities.

All of this leads me to wonder about how we are all shaped and altered by coming to worship each week. I don’t think it can be underestimated how God works in our hearts when we gather to hear God’s Word, sing God’s praises, receive the forgiveness of sins through confession and through the Lord’s Supper. I have the great privilege in my job of diving deep into the possibilities of worship music with an eye (or ear!) on how a hymn or song or solo will touch hearts, stir souls, deepen faith, proclaim the Grace of God in new and fresh ways that we all need to hear.

At the heart of a beloved hymn is a poet’s expression of his or her own encounters with the Living God and those sacred texts then live on to bring comfort and edification to generations of Christians. I find that awe-inspiring. Our faith traditions are so rich, but we are also called to bring about new faith traditions as we continue to add our own stories as “bonus material” to the book of Acts! My prayer for St. Andrew is that this Lent finds us with our hearts and minds engaged in new and life-giving ways, not only for our own sake but for the sake of the world who needs to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. May our worship not only find us “altered” but also “altared” as God brings us together into the holy spaces of this present place and time. Can I get an “amen”?

See you in church!
Tim Graf
Director of Worship & Music