Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Prayer lights. . .
When our Lord said that His Father's House was a house of prayer, we all clapped and cheered. Down with the business of the temple, the buying and the selling -- distractions from the prayers of the faithful that go on there. The sad truth is that there is not much praying going on in Lutheran church buildings. Most of them are locked and even when open there are not many folks who venture in to pray. Our eternal lights shine to empty rooms of a presence that is hardly even acknowledged outside of Sunday morning.
When you enter a Roman Catholic church you cannot escape the flickers of candles and the movement of people coming and going. To be sure, not as busy as it was but still there. Even when the building is nearly empty, the votive lights remind us of those who have been there, who have knelt in prayer, and raised up their petitions and supplications to the One who has promised to hear and answer. This is a good thing.
Yes, we would quibble about the prayers to the saints but that is not inherently the idea of the votive stands. They are reminders of the God who is present, who listens and hears, who answers and acts. I think that it is a good thing when the house of God has people entering to pray and leaving to serve -- not just on Sunday morning.
I have not had the nerve to introduce this. It is, perhaps, just too "catholic" for Lutherans. But that does not mean it is a bad thing. Yes, we can pray anywhere. Yes, the church facility needs to be secured. But behind all of this is still the reality that the nave is hardly used except for the Divine Service in most Lutheran congregations. We should open the doors and allow the faithful to come and pray. The house of the Lord is like a refuge and sanctuary -- it is the place where we associate God's nearer presence and rightfully so. If I get up enough nerve, I may just bring it up before I retire and fade away... If I do, you may just hear about it... one more Pastor ridden out of town on the rail for being too Catholic! Funny thing though, there is nothing particularly Roman about this. The Orthodox also light candles and pray before the icons. And I bet Lutherans once did a lot of praying in the same way... before we became so darn self-conscious about the catholic identity of our Lutheran Confession and practice...