Icons and Talismans

Email Devotion, Pentecost 5

It has been my companion in ministry for more than thirty years.  I bought it early in 1983 as a senior seminarian in preparation for my first call.  It is my Occasional Service Book (OSB).  It has seen better days, like me … it’s a little creaky … a bit shopworn … a little outdated.

Like me, it cut its teeth in the era of our green hymnal, Lutheran Book of Worship, to which it is a companion manual.  I do have the new OSB, that is a product of our newer red hymnal, the ELW … but I almost never use it.  It is not as well organized, and it offers far too many options for these short special services.  In my opinion, it thinks a little too highly of itself.  So I use my old Neanderthal OSB, and plan to do so until it is buried with me.

I regularly spend time with my old friend … three times this last week.  Last Tuesday as I started to look at prayer petitions for my Sunday prayers, I wandered around the Prayers and Psalms section seeing if any turns of phrase grabbed my spirit.  On Saturday I had a burial in our Memorial Garden and used my OSB for the graveside service.  This morning, our Farewell and Godspeed service came from it.  My ministry would be different without it.  It is often one of the first resources I think about, both in familiar settings, and unfamiliar ones.

I wonder what are the OSB’s in your life?  Those things that have a greater impact on your life than seems logical … those items that you simply cannot let go of, even though there are better or newer options available … those possessions that border on possessing you?  Maybe it is a favorite book that you have read and underlined to the point that more texts are marked than not.  Maybe it is an article of clothing that has more holes than places of coverage, but which also has such sentimental meaning, that you cannot throw it out.  Maybe it is a cross that your grandmother gave you on the day of your confirmation.  Some of these talismans, may offer you a deeper and richer connection to the transcendent in your life.  They may connect you to God in ways that other things may not … a favorite devotional book … a candle you always burn as a prayer focus … a prayer stone that you always have with you for difficult moments.

In a world that is obsessed with all things newer and bigger and better, sometimes it is those tried and true icons of your life journey, that are in fact irreplaceable parts of your piety and faith experience.  Give yourself permission to engage these “old friends” and long-time companions.  Learn from them … pray with them … allow them to lead you into deeper reflection.  And may they be vessels for the presence of God in your life.

It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, 4while God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will.

–Hebrews 2:3b-4, NRSV

 God of all, you are the creator of earth and sky, the lord of the sacred and the ordinary.  Give me the gift of sight and perception, to recognize in the ordinary moments of life and the ordinary icons of life, a deeper connection to the heart of your love for me.  Give me regular reminders in life that point to your guiding and redeeming presence in my life.  And as I cherish these items, may I honor you in all things.  I ask this in Jesus name, the icon of all icons.  Amen.

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Rev. Craig Ross

Senior Pastor

The vibrancy of life here at St. Peter’s makes my service on our staff a joy and privilege. Visitation, teaching and preaching are the ministries that feed my pastoral identity, as together our staff and lay members share in our missional calling … Building a community of faith by God’s grace.

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