The sermon at Morning Prayer today was focused on the eternal worship we get a glimpse of in Revelation 7:9-17. We certainly had a foretaste of that feast to come in our worship together this week, and the pastor joked that we might feel like we don't want to leave here today because we just don't want it to end! Of course, we are ready to come off the mountaintop and return to our homes now, but the point is made: in heaven we really will be home, and so then we will never have to "go home" from worship.
Speaking of going home, I've got an 8-hour drive ahead of me and would like to be home before it is tomorrow, so I will have to continue this later. For now, let me highlight a couple of things that made this a heavenly experience, and also give thanks to a new friend I had the pleasure of making this week. First, some highlights - or why you really want to be at the next WELS National Worship Conference:
*Singing Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" with 900 other singers and an orchestra. The ultimate, "sing-it-yourself Messiah" experience!
*Singing Paul Tate's Venite at Morning Prayer this morning. I'll have to introduce this one to Bethany!
*Experiencing the catholicity of the church's song with such a vibrant assembly as we sang chorales, a contemporary song by the Gettys, contemporary psalmody, new hymn tunes for old texts, and new texts for old tunes. Led by a rich variety of organ, piano, brass, winds, strings, and percussion, this conference was indeed a model for what parishes should strive for in involving the whole talent of the congregation and embracing both the depth of our rich heritage and the breadth of our communion.
*Concluding, as all WELS National Conferences do, with "Jerusalem the Golden", sung to THAXTED. (Many in LCMS know this as "And There's Another Country") Led by the orchestra in a subtle, sensitive, and moving arrangement that really let the congregation sing, this cantor was one of many who had to pause for tears as the assembly carried us along with this powerful picture of heaven.
A blessed antepast, indeed. And one person among many who contributed to this wonderful conference was Dr. Kayme Henkel, piano professor at the International School of Bethesda, MD (outside of Washington, DC) and a graduate of University of Wisconsin-Madison. She played piano most excellently for this morning's service and did a fantastic job. I want to extend my thanks publicly to her particularly for her performance of the work the WELS commissioned from me for this conference, my piano solo on "Lamb of God." It is a musically challenging composition, and she played it with convincing sincerity and passion. Thanks, Kayme!