The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Wrapped in prayer: We're stitched and sewn together

"I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible ...."

It's Lent, and our congregation is collectively reciting the Nicene Creed. Without warning, four pews forward, he collapsed. From standing tall with voice strong, he buckled. His wife caught his fall, guiding him to a supine position on the pew. I, and others, rushed forward to aid.

"Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary ...."

"Call 911!" She looked up at us, and past us, and through time — and held her beloved husband tightly close. "Call 911," she pleaded.

Intense love facing unexpected dread. Her husband and soulmate of decades lay motionless, ashen. This had happened too fast, without warning. Just two or three seconds — and everything had changed.

"He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead ...."

Precious seconds ticked by. Then, as quickly as he fell, he startled and sat up. More embarrassed than concerned, he waved us he was OK, no problem. Always strong in faith and deed, he stoically rejoined the reading.

He was all right, he protested to his wife. But she wasn't taking chances; neither was a concerned congregation. We assisted him to the lobby for care. Moments later I looked back and was amazed to see fire department medics already administering aid. How could they have arrived so quickly? Just short minutes from first need, he was already surrounded by emergency professionals.

This man is our congregation's pillar. He has given huge portions of his life in service here and in distant locales. He counsels inmates in county jails. He builds hospitals in Tanzania. He is dedicated to the betterment of others, especially those most in need. Yet instantly, roles were and reversed and he became the one in need. A humble man, he knew when to accept help. At the conclusion of our service I noticed the emergency medics running heart monitors and IVs. Amazingly efficient care response.

Thankfully, our pillar is now fully recovered. We're relieved, yet reminded how immediately precious our lives and loved ones are. We're reschooled how closely we're sewn together in our journey of life. From congregation drawing close, to fire department rushing lifesaving aid, we're quilted together and born to serve one another.

The event reminds how quickly roles and fortune reverse. One moment we're drivers singing with the radio, and the next we're crash victims. We're dedicated employees one day and pink slip recipients the next. Our retirement savings provide us comfort, but then they vanish. Babies are born, and loved ones suddenly pass. Fast and slow, change always happens. Expected and unexpected, roles reverse, fortunes shift — leaving us reaching out to others when we've so long before been self-sufficient.

A good measure of a church is how it's "there" for congregants and community. The measure of a community is how it, too, is there for its citizens. I was humbled Sunday to witness our common commitment on both counts. God bless people who love. God bless our local fire department and 911 responders.

A few days prior to this event I received an unexpected letter from our Pastor Dan. Being self-reliant, I first blew it off as superfluous, unnecessary.

"Dear Gary, Carrie, Jonathan, Christopher and Katie: It is my joy to be your pastor. I consider it one of my most sacred responsibilities to pray personally for those people the Lord has entrusted to the care of this congregation. Each week, I pray for various individuals and families within our congregation. This week, I will be praying specifically for you. I would invite you to call me ... with any specific needs that I can be lifting to God on your behalf."

"Not needed," was my immediate impulse. That Sunday, bumping into the pastor after the emergency, I quipped, "We have a home and we're healthy. Perhaps your kind prayers would be better spent on those with obviously more urgent problems ...."

This morning I've changed my mind. My church pillar and mentor instantly went from standing strong to collapsed unconscious in his wife's arms. Lesson learned. We are not independent. We are not strong, alone by ourselves. I am not an island and I deceive myself if I think I am. And neither are you.

Pastor Dan, I've changed my mind. I accept your kind invitation.

Pray for son Christopher who's getting married in New York. Pray for Katie who's seeking work in Seattle. Pray for Jon, who teaches workplace safety. Pray for Carrie and me so our company can continue employing staff during very challenging times.

Pray thanks for our community that we care for each other. Pray thanks for our schools and teachers and park staff, and our doctors, nurses, police, and homeless shelter workers — that we, together, can be attuned and responsive to those needing us most.

Pray for us to comprehend that while we so often feel strong, life's roles quickly change. The strong do become weak, and the weak, strong. We're sewn together more closely than we acknowledge.

Especially, pray thanks that our stalwart and mentor is recovered.

Check out this week's articles:

cover3'Be the prayer': (right) Prayer doesn't have to be so difficult.

Goodbye, guilt. Hello, better prayer life: Perhaps it's time to examine our attitudes toward prayer.

Children & prayer: Children are open to a robust prayer life.

Ancient prayer practices can help: We don't have to reinvent the wheel.

Also: Small group prayer.

Also: Learning to pray never stops.

Also: Film, TV exec. dies.

Read these articles at our front page ...

This week on our blog:

andreaAndrea Pohlmann (right) blogs about talent.

Julie Sevig writes about spring cleaning.

Barbara Fletcher blogs about nature's gifts.

Sonia Solomonson writes about readers' prayer experiences.

Tell us! Pastor goofs

For some of you it was just last Sunday, for others it was years ago. Pastors, please share with us your funniest — yes, likely embarrassing — ministry stories.

Send your 100-word stories to Julie Sevig at julie.sevig@thelutheran.org or respond online.

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February issue


Embracing diversity