Last week, Lori and I flew to Copenhagen, Denmark to spend a few days with our youngest son, Sam, who has been studying there this semester. It was fun for us because A) we got to spend some time with Sam, and B) he had been living there for 12 weeks, so we had our own personal tour guide to show us the city.
We saw museums, parks, castles, palaces and ruins. It was all very fun (especially for a history nerd like myself.) We also spent a day traveling to Lund and Malmo, Sweden. But more on that in a different post.
We also spent significant amounts of time in churches. We sat in ancient sanctuaries, where worship had been happening for over 900 years. We climbed to the top of the steeple at Our Savior’s (on the outside!) We listened to an organist rehearse in a giant, gothic church and we attended Sunday worship service (all in Danish) at Fredriks Kirke (or, Fredricks Church) in Copenhagen. The Lutheran worship service was entirely in Danish.
Did I mention that neither Lori or I speak any Danish?
It didn’t matter. Because the rhythms of the service, the pace of the words and in some cases, the tune of the music, was familiar to us. We were able to follow along.
For many years, we have heard about the decline of the church in Europe. It has been said that not many worship there, and that those that do are an aging population. That was our experience at Fredriks Krike. The community of people worshipping there was small, and those that were were generally older than we were.
In the midst of the worship service, however, I noticed something. In this giant, amazing, beautiful sanctuary, that had been hosting worship for centuries, the pastor stood and preached, and hymns were sung, and prayers were lifted up.
therefore thus says the Lord God,Isaiah 28:16
“See, I am laying in Zion a foundation stone,
a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation:
‘One who trusts will not panic.’
And there was a sense, that no matter what events take place around us, or how the culture shifts, in another 500 years…worship would still be happening at Fredriks Krike. There was a sense of permanence there. That church had survived the ups and downs, and the cultural shifts of centuries. And the ministry taking place there would continue.
For over two millennia, Christians have gathered to worship. For over two millennia, faith in Jesus Christ has been proclaimed.
While we get nervous about the future of the church, I think God smiles. Because God knows that there is a permanence to our faith that is not reliant on our buildings, or our programs, or the ministries in which we share. They may come and go. But they are not dependent on the world, as we define it.
I was reminded on our trip to Denmark, that in another two millennia, there will still be God’s love proclaimed, and people will still sing to God, and we will still gather to pray. The same is true in Owatonna.
Faith is permanent…ongoing…never-ending.
And thanks be to God for that.