The Gospel of John pulled me to the Sea of Galilee at sunrise.
“Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach…” reads the fourth verse in the Gospel’s last chapter.
It’s the story of Jesus showing himself to his disciples after the resurrection, lighting a fire on a rock and grilling a breakfast of fish for his companions.
It’s also the story in which Jesus entreats Peter to “Feed my sheep.”
I photographed the picture posted with this reflection while standing at the place tradition says the Gospel account transpired.
Standing here, at this time of day, makes the Scripture more real for me.
Likewise, memories of my pilgrimages to the Holy Land and some knowledge of the biblical, historical, and theological underpinnings of Christian worship makes the liturgy more real for me. They make the rituals less ungrounded and arbitrary — more real.
It has been my sincere hope throughout this online pilgrimage to help make the liturgy a little more real for you as well.
The last section of the Evangelical Lutheran liturgy, known as the Sending, echoes the account in the Gospel of John 21.
So I'm concluding our online Lenten pilgrimage with this post, and wish you strength as you continue your lifelong journey of faith.
The Sending is the shortest of the four major sections of the service. It consists of four parts: the Sending of Communion; Blessing; Sending Song; and Dismissal.
Despite being the shortest, it’s laden with meaning: “This portion is not called Going, which we would do, but Sending, which God does.”[i]
Sending of Communion to people who could not attend the service reminds the assembly that the church is not restricted by the walls of the church building.[ii] There is an ancient precedent for the practice of sending communion: during the second century Justin Martyr noted that deacons took gifts “over which thanks have been said” to people who were not present.[iii]
In Rome during the eighth century, the Blessing was not conducted over the entire congregation. Rather, following communion the pope would bless various people as he returned to the sacristy after communion.
For the Blessing during Lutheran worship today, the presiding minister announces the blessing of God, possibly making the sign of the cross over the assembly as congregants respond amen. “The assembly assents to the blessing God gives in sending us back into our daily lives.”[iv]
The Sending Song strengthens the assembly before it disperses, and is also designed to give thanks for the meal; express gratitude for the assembly; and/or empower us for mission in the world.[v]
Finally, worship concludes with the Dismissal.
In the pre-Reformation service, the dismissal was perfunctory. The deacon announced Ite missa est, which eventually bestowed the name “mass” on the entire service.[vi]
Today, the presiding minister dismisses the assembly, urging everyone to “Go in peace and: Serve the Lord; Share the good news; Remember the poor; or Christ is with you.”
“With the blessing of God, we go out to live as Christ’s body in the world.”[vii]
[i] Brugh and Lathrop, The Sunday Assembly, 232
[ii] Ibid., 227-228
[iii] Ibid., 39-40
[iv] Ibid., 232
[v] Ibid., 231
[vi] Reed, The Lutheran Liturgy, 378
[vii] Evangelical Lutheran Worship, 115, 93
Sunrise over the Sea of Galilee, photographed from the place where the account in the Gospel of John 21 is believed to have taken place. In the narrative, Jesus appears to seven of his disciples just after daybreak. He lights a fire on a rock, cooks them breakfast, and entreats Peter to "Feed my sheep."