Worship at the Jesus Congregation in Riga
When you see the skyline of Riga, Latvia, two of the tallest steeples belong to Lutheran Churches. The Dom Church (the cathedral for the archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia, Janis Vanags) and of St. Peter’s are both impressive in Old Riga. But the church we attended Sunday for our trip was the Jesus Lutheran Church, a congregation in Riga dating to the 18th century. It was my privilege to bring greetings on behalf of President Harrison and the LCMS to the 300+ gathered worshipers (The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia and The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod are in pulpit and altar fellowship), a great honor to be sure. We share the same confession, the same Gospel, the same sacraments, the same Christ.
However, the most amazing moment for us came in the liturgy at the beginning of the Agnus Dei. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a surge of people coming down the center aisle. In that congregation, the custom is that all those desiring the Lord’s Supper come forward and stand in the space between the kneelers before the altar and the front pew, each one waiting for his/her turn at the altar. But the surge down the aisle was from all the grey haired men and women who were eager to receive the Lord’s Body and Blood. There were many young people there, but the elderly went first. So they came, some with walkers or crutches, some in wheel chairs, some stooped over with canes, but they all came forward eagerly.
I thought of what they had seen during the difficult days of the Soviet Union when Latvia was (unwillingly) made a part of the Soviet empire. Our translator, Sandra Gintere, told of her father-in-law, a Lutheran pastor arrested literally as he came down from the pulpit and sent to Siberia because he had been evangelizing and teaching young people the catechism. The price they had paid to follow Christ was enormous. So there they were, surging down the aisle, eager to receive the One who had purchased them with His precious blood, eager to be refreshed and strengthened at the Lord’s Table with the medicine of immortality, Christ’s Body and Blood. They knew the “one thing needful” (Luke 10:42) and did not want anyone to take it away. Thank God for our brothers and sisters in Christ in Latvia, for our common faith and our life together in Jesus.
In His Service
+ Herb Mueller