After finding the readings online for Svea Lutheran Church in Hager City, Wis. and spending a little time going through them, I wondered what Pastor Dean was going to emphasize in his sermon.
There was the shrubbery that threw some shade on Jonah, the scorching heat in the vineyards, and the same phrase verbatim in the Old Testament and the Psalm about a gracious God who is “merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
Of course there were also references to “fruitful labor” and “privilege” and “equality” and the familiar “the last will be first, and the first will be last” phrase, which was in a different context than I remembered, (also appearing earlier in the same gospel it would seem).
There was perhaps a clue in the prayer for the day in the bulletin, also online, about embodying “generosity.” (I still remember a faithful congregant handing me a bulletin from Svea on more than one occasion when I worked at a local church after she’d gone visiting there.)
After supper, I realized the full sermon was online, too. Suspense satisfied.
Pastor talked about bullies and fairness, God repeatedly looking for each of us, not being idle and not being envious of God’s heavenly generosity to others (think short day in the vineyard). The goal is to turn “envy into joy.”
On Sunday, Sept. 20, I decided to drive past Svea at the beginning of church before continuing on to other things. I believe I saw a small gold cross set out on a table by the elevated front doors, which would’ve afforded Pastor Dean with a vast view of the countryside including round hay bails, sumac as red as barns and his flock gathered close.
At 10 o’clock he briefly stepped through the ornate white doors in his long white robe and the bells rang out loud and clear.
When I stopped by again closer to noon, (partly to reassure myself with the evidence of an outline of colorful lights to look forward to seeing illuminated closer to Christmas) I had to go see what was catching my attention on top of their sturdy sign between two little sets of praying hands — a metallic orange butterfly, firmly affixed but definitely catching the breeze.