From John Spangler, co-opted LWF staff, social media manager for english
The Eleventh Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation opened with a stunningly visual liturgy this afternoon in the Stuttgart Stiftskirche, packed with several hundred worshippers and 8 (count em) television cameras from SWR, broadcasting all over Germany and selected other countries.
The service opened up the theme “Give Us Today Our Daily Bread” with the reading from the first two chapters of Ruth in which Naomi tells her daughters in law to return to their own kin and country. This was paired with the Luke chapter 9 gospel story in which Jesus tells the disciples to feed the great crowd gathered to hear him teach and heal at Bethsaida. The disciples wanted Jesus to send the crowd homeward and away to be fed. This set up Bishop Hanson’s opening to his sermon, asking if the message is “Go back” or whether it is a far more powerful message more like Jesus’ call not to retreat, but to “make them sit down” and feed this crowd with bread, both physical and spiritual. “You give them something to eat” said Jesus, and what was collected, bless and shared fulfilled this promise.
The theme and sermon was augmented by a choreographed feature, part liturgical dance and part chancel drama, in which a dozen people, some clothed in the travel clothes of immigrants and pilgrims, act out and then cry “your people are my people, your God is my God” woven through the entire section of the worship devoted to the Word. The same group brought back a gleaning gesture at communion distribution as worshippers came forward. Each bent low to pick up a stalk of wheat and placed it in a basket that represented an offering of “necessity laid upon you” for this meeting, for your work back home. Say what commitment you are taking to respond to the one who says ‘you will be my people and I will be your God.’”