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SERVICE OF HOLY COMMUNION | 2023 South Carolina Synod Assembly

By The Rev. Shannon Mullen

Evening worship at beautiful historic Ebenezer Lutheran Church came at the end of an inspiring first day of Synod Assembly. This service is always an occasion for worshippers to see Jesus and to reconnect with friends in Christ, which is always a great joy.

The sanctuary was filled with beautiful music from the magnificent pipe organ, the Assembly’s mass choir, and the handbell choir. And the presence of God could be felt in the lifting of hundreds of Lutheran voices in unity as we sang familiar and beloved hymns together.

Bishop Virginia Aebischer shared a moving sermon on the theme of seeing Jesus. She told a humorous story of when she led her youth group astray on a retreat weekend and ended up lost on the border of South Carolina and Georgia. When the local residents where she ended up lost could not agree on the best way for her group to get to their destination, Camp Kinard, one of the strangers volunteered to lead her caravan of church members in his own car and drove many miles out of his way to do so. This reminded worshippers that Jesus so often can be seen in kindness of those who join us on the journey, sometimes in unexpected ways.

Bishop Ginny reflected on the story of Jesus meeting disciples on the road to Emmaus. Still not yet comprehending the Good News of the resurrection, these disciples were caught in despair and hopelessness and did not see that it was Jesus who was walking with them. Their assumptions in the wake of the crucifixion, their expectations which arose from that traumatic experience, and their focus on their own pain blinded them to the reality that God was with them. But in the presence of Jesus, in his retelling the story of God’s love from scripture, and in the breaking of the bread at their table, their hearts were filled as the Holy Spirit opened their eyes to see it was Jesus who was on the journey with them, filling them with hope and joy.

Worshippers saw Jesus as hundreds of disciples from across the Synod lined up to receive gifts of grace in the elements of Holy Communions, and in the faces of those who placed these gifts into their hands, saying, “The body of Christ, given for you. The blood of Christ, shed for you.”

Worship closed with a final raising of joyful voices, singing together “A Mighty Fortress,” a favorite Lutheran hymn written by Martin Luther himself. Using an alternate translation of the original German hymn text brought fresh insight into the powerful words. When worship leaders offered the sending commission, “Go in peace. Serve the Lord,” the congregation responded to this charge with a triumphant shout: “Thanks be to God!”

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