Outdoor Sunday

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Please come with me on a beautiful autumn Sunday to an outdoor chapel service. A rustic outdoor chapel like the ones at summer camp or traditionally associated with a beautiful spot in the mountains. And when I say rustic, I’m not talking about old and decrepit, but simply with nothing but the bare necessities; with benches made of smooth wooden planks reaching across short stumps or posts, lined up facing a simple, yet beautiful wooden altar. And probably behind the altar is a cross. Again, not an ornate cross, but two fairly straight sticks or two simple two-by-fours crossed in appropriate proportion so as to state simply, yet profoundly the meaning which that symbol has had for all Christendom for over two thousand years.

 And all this understated and no-frills beauty is under a tall canopy of dense-leafed trees that gives you, the worshiper, the spiritual experience as if this place were a beautiful and majestic stone-walled stained-glass-windowed Gothic cathedral.

 On an Autumn Sunday morning, with a touch of a cool breeze in the air, it is quite inspiring as you walk down a cleared-out path with timbers lining both sides and flower baskets hanging at eye level and see this chapel appear almost out of nowhere. As other worshipers gather with you, there is a heart-felt fellowship with those who also have made special effort to come to this place at this time to worship God in this special way.

  When the friendly chatter draws to its natural conclusion and all are seated and a reverent silence declares the intent of the day, the pastor, dressed in khaki pants and polo shirt and dock shoes, welcomes all “in the Name of The Prince of Peace” and proclaims, “How good it is to be here!” And, of course, there is the ancient call upon God to be present in His full and Holy and perfect Name, “The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.” And in that instant you experience the reality that He truly is right there.

 The music starts and the outdoor worshipers sing, sometimes camp or contemporary songs, sometimes the great hymns of the Faith. Even with no walls to hold the sound in, the music seems to fill the close-by space and all the surrounding woods, as well.

 As you sit gently down onto the smooth planks or your lawn chair or bag chair you brought, and the sun streams in through the dancing holes in the leaves creating a comforting pattern of shade and light, you see the pastor at the altar with the Bible in his hands, declaring that what is about to be read is not just “some words,” but “The Word,” “The Word of God,” having been passed down through Sacred Scripture for thousands of years. And it’s not just words about back-then-and-there, but words that crash through time to be present and relevant and real to all who hear them today. Encountering God’s Word is always a signal event, but somehow in this chapel, in this setting, with “His World” so evident in sight and sound right around you, you get the feeling that This Word on This Day in This Place is uniquely and profoundly “The Word of The Lord.” Then to the words spoken, “This is the Word of The Lord,” you reply in concert with the birds and the squirrels and the ants and the bees, “Thanks be to God!”

 Even the pastor’s sermon seems a bit more “real” out here. The informality of the setting makes it seem much more like a conversation among the Scripture and the pastor and you. And the intimacy of the worship space affords the words to come across with a truly discernible impact on your life today.

 Some things never change whether in “open” or “closed” air, because the offering plate still comes around just as it does in every other service. But maybe out here it just seems a little more natural to return to God “in proportion” to what He has first given us, starting with His big beautiful world of bountiful earth and far-reaching sky.

  We all know that no ceiling or walls can stop or impede our prayers to God, but, again, “out here” they seem to ascend right to “the throne of God.” “Our Father, who art in heaven…” Powerful!

 Following the Benediction, the ancient cry of delivered people everywhere rings out again, “Amen!” It’s just a perfect hour with The Lord.

Yes, please come with me to this outdoor chapel. In fact, come this Sunday, October 18, to “Outdoor Church” in our beautiful outdoor chapel named “Peace Chapel” back in the woods right on the property of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church on Hwy. 314 in Fayetteville. Join us at either 9:15 or 11:15 a.m. Both outdoors. Dress casually and in layers to accommodate the autumn temperatures. Bring your lawn chair or bag chair or just plan to sit on the camp-style benches. Golf cart rides will be provided for everyone who might need assistance. Please come.

 Find Kollmeyer at www.princeofpeacefayette.org