COS Lenten Devotions
April 4, 2022
Please enjoy this Lenten devotional on the topic of Gathering by Brenda Adams.
Matthew 18:20 "For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them". NSRV

Heavenly Father, May we all feel your outpouring of love for us and let there be peace in our hearts, our homes, and our world. Amen.

When asked by Barbara Anderson to contribute a Lenten devotional, my first thought was that my reputation had NOT preceded me. She does not know that when asked what time it is, I will tell you how to build a clock! Gathering my wits, that are more scattered than yard eggs, my mind races, then a gentle tear rolls down my cheek like I had just see a Publix commercial at Thanksgiving.

I am transported back in time to Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Westend (Atlanta). Front row, left hand side in that small center aisle church. It was not only my parents and siblings, but rather a gathering of the clan. My grandparents, great-grandparents, two great aunts, and uncle and multiple cousins. We wouldn't all fit on the front row, left hand side, but scattered about so that when looking over a shoulder in any direction, they were there. Never a harsh glare from a one of them when I was fidgeting during the sermon.

The organ abutted that front left pew. The organist was my future aunt by marriage. I was Baptized and Confirmed in that small congregation. My uncle was married and ordained there. The women and even young girls were adorned in hats, some glorious and stylish, but many were covered by a simple dark straw hat, like my MaMa Wiley wore. Even the choir had heads covered in the 50's.

My dad would gather me by the hand after church and we would sneak out the back door avoiding the long line of the congregation waiting their turn to shake Pastor Stender's hand and tell him how they loved his sermon. I felt very special being guided out the back door and we would circle around the church to the front where daddy gathered with Mr. Eubanks and Mr. Rasmussen. They were all salesmen and shared jokes from the previous week. I was too young to understand the jokes, and I am confident that many were off color cause that was my dad. Pastor Stender would join in with the joke telling after all of the hands had been shaken and I can remember how comfortable these men were, gathered in fellowship on the lawn of the church. This was early learning that I did not have to fit into social norms.

Years passed and the congregation outgrew the small church and relocated to its current location in southwest Atlanta. We started out in Dr. Adam's old house, worshiping in a converted living room, and, after service I would accompany my dad to an upstairs room to assist with opening envelopes and counting money for the Building Fund. I was entrusted with tearing the perforated envelopes in half and emptying the change, and sometimes even folding money. I felt very special helping my dad and the other men gathered there. I had no idea at the time how this was introducing service work and stewardship to me.

My first child was baptized in the new church building at Emmanuel in 1968. Many years had passed and soon most of the congregation had moved further out of Atlanta, into the suburbs and rural areas surrounding Atlanta. Family was scattered about, and very few were present when gathering for worship these days. Soon my family had moved out to the country, also known as Fayette County, Georgia.

Imagine the excitement when reading in the local paper that a young Mission Developer named John Weber was gathering Lutherans in the Southern Crescent. This is 1975.....elation! And as we gathered at Glenloch Recreation Center with altar positioned in front of the Glenloch monster, there gathered around me were my husband, children, parents, grandmother, siblings, sister-in-law and nephews, a cousin as well.

So, there we were, front row, left hand side, a small gathering that grew to be known as Christ Our Shepherd. Another building program where I served on the Building Committee. A circle of life.

As life's journey has brought me back to Peachtree City and a return to COS, able once again to gather in my faith community where I am surrounded by the memory of sitting front row, left hand side with my mother, children, brothers, nephews and my dad, B.A. Bartlett, at the back of the church as he served for many years as head usher. Still teaching about service.

I attend the Contemporary Service, but when you see me in the Sanctuary I'll be front row, left hand side, surrounded by those you may not see, but who, most assuredly, are gathering with us.  So-o-o-o.....back to the gentle tears of that Publix commercial.

Heavenly Father, may we always have grateful hearts for Gathering. Amen