From the Pastor
The Nickel Tour
One of the unique opportunities that I have to engage in the ministry of evangelism, the sharing of the Good News of the Gospel with others, occurs most frequently during the course of the week when I have the privilege to give the “nickel tour” of our property. The tour begins in the sanctuary, where I invite our guests in to see the inside of the “upside down boat” that they have been passing for years and which has become a well-known local landmark. A member of the congregation was with me one morning in July as I gave the “nickel tour” to some guests and a few days later challenged me to share with the congregation the reading of the sanctuary that is the beginning of the tour.
This reading of God’s story in the architecture of a church is not something new, but rather has been a common practice in Christianity since at least the cathedrals of the Middle Ages. Along with art and music, the building of the church carried with it the on-going story of God’s redeeming grace actively present in the world. So, welcome aboard as we shove off on our faith journey into the “upside down boat”.
Our church building is oft-times referred to as an upside down boat and that popular understanding is actually correct. The church building of St. Paul is an upside down boat, specifically an Ark. Designed as an Ark, big and wide to welcome all who hear God’s invitation to new life, our church should remind us of the first covenant God made with humanity when following the Great Flood. God said to “Noah and to his sons with him, ‘As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you… that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth’” (Genesis 9:8-11)
Moving into the church itself, we look up and see the the ceiling is truly that of a boat with the keel beam running down the center and at regular intervals off of the keel are the ribs of the boat. In a boat the keel and the ribs sit closest to the water and serve to provide a boat with it’s strength and stability on the sea. Looking up at our keel, surrounded by the colors of our stained glass windows, should point us to remembering that as we journey though life in the midst of the waters of creation, both calm and turbulent, our strength and stability comes from the heavens by way of the gift of God’s grace.
We now turn our gaze down to the bow of the boat, the area of ay boat which leads the way and charts the course. We are led to discover our way by the Word of God and the ministry of the people of St. Paul. Looking aft we see that the stern of our “vessel” is formed by the pipes of our organ and to hear the song of our prayer powering us forward in response to God’s call of love. Now, every boat needs an anchor (modern engineering aside) to hold itself in place in all types of seas, and it is not different for us as we look upon the anchor cross remembering that we are held through both calm and storm tossed seas of daily living by the Cross of Christ.
Finally, we turn to look at how we physically gather as the Body of Christ – seated not in row after row where we look upon the back of our neighbor’s head with the work and Word of God taking place in the distance in front of us. Rather, we gather around the font, the alter, and the Word, gazing across the table toward each other as sisters and brothers in Christ.
Gathering as we do, we are reminded each Sunday that “Jesus Christ is the living and abiding Word of God. By the power of the Spirit, this very Word of God, which is Jesus Christ, is read in the Scriptures, proclaimed in the preaching, announced in the forgiveness of sins, eaten and drunk in the Holy Communion and encountered in the bodily presence of the Christian community. By the power of the Spirit active in Holy Baptism, this Word washes a people to be Christ’s own Body in the world. We have called this gift of Word and Sacrament by the name “the means of grace“. The living heart of all these means is the presence of Jesus Christ through the power of the Spirit as a gift of the Father. (The Use of the Means of Grace; a statement on the practice of Word and Sacrament, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 1997). This is news too good not to share.