It was my vicarage year. Pastor Mirly had asked me to visit one of the older members of the church. She was living in a care facility suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
I found my way to her room and wondered, "What do I do now?" I tried to make small talk. Mostly she just sat there, looking me over, probably trying to determine if we'd ever met. I had a feeling this was going to be a short visit.
Then I asked her, "Do you like singing hymns?" She just looked at me. So I quickly found "Beautiful Savior," in my hymnal and started to sing. And so did she.
She didn't remember all the words but she knew the hymn. I took another shot with a "Mighty Fortress is our God." She didn't sing but she smiled.
Next up was my favorite hymn, "My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less." She knew the first verse pretty well and she sang the refrain every time. I was getting excited!
So I turned to the Confession and Absolution and asked her to join me. "I a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto Thee all thy sins and iniquities..." She didn't say all the words but she knew them. I was sure of it.
Then she put a smile on my face as we both confessed the Apostles' Creed. She knew the Creed. Probably learned it from her parents or her pastor. Confessed it every Sunday in church. "I believe in God the Father Almighty...I believe in His only begotten Son...I believe in the Holy Spirit..."
From there was spoke the Lord's Prayer together and as I pronounced the Benediction, she mumbled the words right along with me. As is often the case in visiting the sick and shut-in, I received the greater blessing from a woman who would probably never remember my visit but who knew and remembered the important parts of Lutheran Worship.
I got back to church and spoke to Pastor Mirly about my visit. His simple reply, "That's why the liturgy is so important."
And it is. Modern worship today in many churches either changes or eliminates the Creed, the prayers and the great hymns of the church. Often worshipers are reduced to spectators. If you don't know the tunes to the songs (culled from the playlist of K-LOVE or some such station) you probably won't open your mouth for the entire hour.
How important it is for us all to learn to confess the Christian faith in the Creeds. How essential it is for all of us to be able to talk to God by learning the Lord's Prayer. How blessed we are to have learned some of the great hymns of the church, especially those who teach the Christian faith to us in song.
Let's not lose these important elements of worship. Without them I'd never been able to talk to this older woman with the failing memory. Instead, we had so much in common and so much to talk about.