Let Us Worship Together!
Our Saviour is incredibly pleased to have you join us for live in-person worship inside the Nave and Sanctuary on Saturday, July 2 at 5:30 pm (casual with Voices of Praise), and Sunday, July 3 at 8:00 am (simple service) and 10:30 am (traditional with choir and/or organ music). The Saturday evening and Sunday 10:30 am services will will also be online via Facebook Livestream!
Join your prayers with the community! During the live stream of the service, you are invited to type into the Facebook chat any prayer requests for those you want included in the prayers of intercession. (As always, you may also send your prayer requests by Wednesday the week ahead to firstname.lastname@example.org.) Please do this at the beginning of the service so that we can write them up and hand them to the pastors before the prayers start.
Although Virginia’s mitigation measures ended (read more here), Our Saviour will keep a “safer zone” in the back section of the nave that will remain marked for masks.
(Fast forward to 5:40 in the recording for the beginning of service)
Sunday 8:00 am — First Light Service
Sunday 8:45 am — Fellowship
Sunday 9:00 am — Sunday School for Adults
(Fast forward to 7:27 in the recording for the beginning of service)
Altar Flowers for this weekend’s services were donated by Don and Genny Simmons in celebration of their 59th wedding anniversary. Congratulations to the loving couple!
If you would like to donate flowers in memory, honor or celebration of a loved one or special date, please sign up on the chart in the church office hallway or call the church office at (540) 347-3224 with your information.
Readings and Psalms:
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
4th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C
Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Warrenton, VA
The Reverend Michael G. Church
J. Purdy Brown’s Big Tent
The Big Tent made its first appearance one-hundred-ninety-six years ago this summer, right here in Virginia. In those days, circuses did not travel much; they were mostly indoor affairs, held in theatres or rickety fire-prone wooden stadiums. It was hard to move them, so they stayed in one place for weeks or months.
But an impresario named J. Purdy Brown wanted his circus to be something new – a mobile affair, that could pull into a small town, perform a few times, and move along. That way, more people could enjoy the show. It was democratic! It was exciting! It was going to make a lot of money!
So, in 1826, J. Purdy Brown’s circus, touring this very Commonwealth, became the first to perform under a great custom-stitched canvas tent. One big tent, in which all the different acts performed, all the different people gathered. One big tent, in which acrobats flew and clowns frolicked; where lions roared and dogs barked and the Wild West trick shots thrilled the crowd. One big tent that seemed to contain the whole world.
These days, we use that expression – “a big tent” – to describe some organization, some community, which includes lots of different ideas, viewpoints and convictions. A political party or a church.
A big tent is diverse, flexible, and can embrace many competing viewpoints, priorities, even goals. In contrast, a small tent is exclusive, rigid, tightly focused on one set of beliefs, one way of doing things. A big tent can be inefficient, while a small tent gets things done. But a big tent has room for everyone, while a small tent can be easy to be kicked out of.
At the beginning of our nation, the Founders were united in one big tent. As time went on, they divided into factions, arguing bitterly. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, both signers of the Declaration, stopped speaking to each other. Each man retreated to his own small tent and sulked. What a shameful witness to our newborn republic!
I have spent the week thinking about big tents and small tents, diversity and exclusiveness. As Independence Day approached, I wondered which one makes for a better government; and as Sunday drew near, I began to wonder which one makes for a more faithful church.
Like many Americans, I was caught off guard by a series of Supreme Court decisions, all handed down during my vacation. I won’t go into this, since emotions are running high and I am a pastor, not a political scientist. If you want to talk later, in terms of what we Lutherans believe, I’m open to that. But I will say that the current Court is a classic small tent: Rigid, disciplined, and highly effective at pursuing its goals.
Many people want that in a government, which is their own affair. What interests me is how many people also want that in a community of faith – in a church. It makes sense, I guess. There is a kind of comfort from knowing that everyone you worship with agrees with you about, well, everything. Or at least the essentials: Who God is, what God offers us, how to live a Godly life.
Understandable enough. That’s what creeds are for.
But some of us carry that desire for agreement to an extreme. There are churches that say you aren’t Christian if you don’t handle poisonous snakes or speak in tongues; that you aren’t Christian if you weren’t baptized as an adult, or if you don’t carry the Eucharist around in a parade. At the furthest end, there are churches that will tell you how to vote and send a bishop to your bank to make sure you tithe.
This exclusiveness appeals to some people, I guess, but not to me. It certainly did not appeal to Saint Paul, the greatest missionary of the church’s first age. To many early Christians, it seemed that since Jesus was a Jew, then logically his followers need to follow Jewish customs: to eat kosher foods, obey the Torah, and (if they were men) be circumcised. But years of Paul’s life were devoted to saying No; Jesus is the savior of the whole world, he brings an end to those phony categories of Jew versus Non-Jew, of free people versus slaves, even of men versus women. That’s what is going on in our second lesson today – Paul is arguing that God means his church to be a very very big tent.
Jesus shows us this. Hey, good question: How many apostles did Jesus have? The usual answer is twelve, which is the number of the tribes of Israel. But in our story today, Jesus sends out his apostles “to all the places he wanted to go.” And he does not send out twelve, he sends out seventy. Why? Because it is not just about his own nation and its ancestral tribes. He is raising up a much, much bigger tent. A tent big enough to contain anybody who wants to come in, a tent as big as the whole world.
Small tents can grow bigger. While J. Purdy Brown was pioneering his big-tent circus in 1826, something else was happening. That summer, two of America’s last Founders lay on their deathbeds. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, remember, had turned into bitter enemies. But then, in their last years, the two old men began to write back and forth, to remember the old times, to renew a friendship. Slowly, cautiously, they enlarged the tent, until there was once again room for both of them. When they died on the same day – July 4, 1826 – they died as friends.
This story, this kind of reconciliation, is what I would like to see in the world at large. Among citizens, of course. And more deeply still, among Christians, who so often separate ourselves from one another for reasons that may seem important in the moment, but which beneath the eye of God are laughable trivialities.
We Lutherans are not enemies of other Christians, nor are we Christians enemies of other religious communities. Far from it; we are all united by our common quest, to know God and to make God known. And even if unbelievers find us mysterious or weird, we know that God’s love does not exclude them, either.
And the point here is God, whom we know through Jesus Christ. Even if the fellowship of the church is limited by human rules, by old theological disputes, – even if we are limited, the love of Christ is not limited. The love of Christ is the biggest of all tents, with room enough saints and sinners, for collaborators and competitors, for them and for us, for me and for you.
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