Three Days Retreat: Coming together in the midst of liturgy
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?” – John 13:12
For a number of years, on and off, liturgy students of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) — along with other curious students from the student body — have traveled to historic Augustus Lutheran Church in Trappe, Pennsylvania, for one day, to celebrate and experience the Triduum, known as the Three Days Retreat. Taking place after Easter Sunday, this day beckons us back to Holy Week to once again remember the death and resurrection of Christ and the promise of God in our lives; promise for resurrection. The day is a day for teaching and learning as students come together, leading various parts of the journey through the Triduum. Between each of the “days”, we stop and break along the way to prepare for the next leg of the journey. We train leaders, prepare worship spaces, and share meals. But this year brought a different aspect — new travelers on the journey of the Three Days Retreat as we were joined by students from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (LTSG). From the communion table to the dinner table, the point at which liturgy ended became indiscernible. The work of the people and the work of the Holy Spirit became the building of community.
On the day, from one table to another, we were aware of the communion of saints. We gathered acutely aware of all who had worshipped in the space before us. Built in 1743, founded by Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, the first church building for Augustus Lutheran Church has been a space where generations of people have heard the gospel proclaimed and received God’s grace through sacraments. It has been holy ground where people continue to build community. Some had heard Muhlenberg preach from the pulpit. I wondered which families had shared the box pews we now occupied. Who had etched dates and initials in the balcony railing? (Was it some bored youth leaving their mark way back in 1847?) As we prayed, sang, heard the gospel preached, received bread and wine, and washed each other’s feet, students from two schools became part of a long line of worshippers to receive God’s promise on that holy ground.
From one table to another, we shared in encountering God’s love together. In sharing this encounter, we formed community and ties. Throughout the day, we worked on parts of the liturgy together that would later be carried out in the service. We knelt and washed each other’s feet. We broke bread and shared wine. We sang and prayed and once again heard of Christ’s passion and death. We shared the stories of all the surprising ways God brings life to our lives.
From one table to another, we experienced how we become part of the narrative of Christ’s death and resurrection. Often, circumstances can bring a certain degree of fear and trepidation. Whether that’s wonder about where we go after graduation, or thinking about where God may be calling us to serve, we wonder where new life will show up. For those of us gathered from LTSP and LTSG, we had an awareness of the changes that had been leading up to the new United Lutheran Seminary over the past few months. We had been dwelling in the changes that brought a sense of loss. But walking through the Triduum brought us together to experience and remember once again that God’s gift of life keeps showing up in surprising ways. “Do you know what I have done to you?” This is what Jesus asks his disciples after he washes their feet. This is the question we focused in on as we began the Three Days Retreat with Maundy Thursday. Though this was a retreat at which we came together, we cannot always imagine what God will do to us in the midst of liturgy. From the first followers of Christ all the way to a seminary class gathered for worship, God has been showing up to bring new life.
Rebecca Wicker, MDiv, a member of the class of 2017, served as sacristan while a student at LTSP and crucifer at the 153rd Commencement. Photos by Rebecca Wicker.