by Rev. Dr. Greg Wismar
Many events in the worship life of every congregation happen on a regular basis. Each year, it can be expected that Christmas, Easter, Pentecost and the other major festivals will be celebrated as they occur on the annual Church Year calendar. The weeks from the First Sunday in Advent to the Last Sunday of the Church Year progress in an orderly fashion, each Sunday, feast and festival with its own specific lessons, collect and Psalm reading.
But not every life event happens on a regular basis. Some occur only occasionally. To assist congregations and individuals in finding resources for these special occasions, the hymnal provides a list titled “Occasions” and suggests readings appropriate to the themes of those occasional days.
The first occasion listed there is the Anniversary of a Congre-gation. It is important for a congregation’s life together that it remembers and celebrates the goodness of God and His grace in Jesus Christ that come to His gathered flock year by year. The second reading appointed for an Anniversary of a Congregation is Rev. 21:15, which gives a picture of the grand assembly of heaven, the ultimate congregation!
The second listing is a Mission Observance. In the history of our Synod, mission festivals have a special and honored place. Keeping that tradition alive by underscoring the ongoing importance of global as well as local missions can both enrich and energize a congregation.
Next is Christian Education, which is frequently observed at the start of the school year in August or September but is just as valid at any other time. The appointed Old Testament lesson for this observance is Deut. 6:411, which presents the statutes of the Lord with the injunction: “You shall teach them diligently to your children” (Deut. 6:7).
The occasion listed as Harvest Observance generally is observed in the autumn months. In the appointed Epistle reading for that day, we are reminded by St. Paul that “whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Cor. 9:6). Although the Harvest Observance might be season-specific, the Day of Thanksgiving, the next listed occasion, is one that is appropriate in every season of the year. The Gospel reading is the account in St. Luke’s Gospel of how Jesus cleanses 10 lepers but only one of them returns to Him in worship with words of great gratitude.
Closing out the list is the Day of Supplication and Prayer, which, as with all of these listings, can be used individually as well as corporately by a congregation. In the Old Testament selection chosen for this occasion, words from the prophet Joel encourage us to “return to the Lord, Your God, for He is gracious and merciful” (Joel 2:13). This passage, also used in some liturgy settings, serves as an invitation to ongoing supplication and prayer.
The final occasion on the list of seven is the Day of National or Local Tragedy. Although hopefully not used with great frequency, the readings there offer God’s people both comfort and support. Two sets of lessonsa total of six Scripture readingsare listed in Lutheran Service Book as Bible resources for congregations and individuals in challenging times.
This month, make it an occasion in your life of Christian devotion to discover the list of the occasions of the Church!
> The list of occasions is found in Lutheran Service Book (p. xxiii).
About the author: The Rev. Dr. Greg Wismar is pastor emeritus of Christ the King Lutheran Church, Newtown, Conn.