Bible trivia was up on the screen. Familiar hymns and friendly murmuring could be heard in the background. The worship service was about to begin at Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church in River Falls on Nov. 8, 2020.

The video online showed the Croixaliers from St. Croix Lutheran Academy proceeding up the center aisle to the front of the church. Four young men in black suits and six young women in long black dresses fanned out among the red altar cloths. The brownish face masks blended well with pretty hair as they sang several selections. Campus Pastor and instructor John Enter led worship that day.

Looking back at the previous week, Pastor David Spaude said his red stole and the paraments were for Reformation Sunday and the start of a four-part series on the end times season of the church calendar, with its mixture of judgment and joyfulness — encouraging watchfulness and mindfulness. Pastor Enter talked about “selective memory,” with Moses’ people grumbling about the lack of food as they adjusted to their freedom from slavery.

Then he shared a couple of ‘aha moments‘ from studying scripture’s description of the feeding of the 5,000. Drawing a map in the air with the River Jordan going up from Jerusalem to the Sea of Galilee and Capernum on its north shore, he explained that’s where Jesus was when he found out his cousin John the Baptist had been beheaded for defying Herod. Christ went off in a boat by himself to do some major grieving, including over the realization that his own impending death “just got real.”

As for counting only the men in the tally to be fed, which Pastor said used to “weird him out“ because he knows God cares about women and children, too, he realized that was the number of soldiers in a Roman legion. The other times God counted only the men were in reference to soldiers. So, what the Bible means when they said they considered making Jesus king by force was overtaking the Romans — not forcing Jesus, because that wouldn’t work. Although, at such a suggestion it might happen that “Jesus smiles that Jesus smile.”

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The two pastors exchanged “unintentional, but very sanitary” elbow bumps in the aisle as it was announced that the congregation would be dismissed pew by pew from the back, and moving forward.