Two shiny large handbells rang out three lingering chimes at the beginning of the midweek Lenten service video at Spring Garden Lutheran Church near Cannon Falls for Wednesday, March 17, 2021. I heard them reverberate while I was sitting in my car with the door open, feeling a pre-spring breeze.

The same graceful hands were at the piano keyboard as the week before. The gentleman singing looked a little familiar, not just from last week — like I may’ve seen him at another church once before, maybe Vasa. He professionally rolled his R's slightly on “Nazareth” and “rejoice.”

Having listened to their service on the 10th, I mentally raised my hand in response to Pastor Cindy’s question of “Who’s missing?” in the story of the return of the son who’d gone off to live recklessly and lavishly, but has now returned much the poorer. “The mother.”

Pastor Nick talked the week before about the waiting father. He referred to a painting by Rembrandt. I couldn’t see it too clearly on my little screen so I looked it up online and read part of the description. Yes, I could see how one of the father’s hands looked smaller and more feminine. And, OK, so that’s a hand gesture a displeased older brother might make. Subtle.

Pastor Cindy talked about how things might’ve been different if the mother hadn’t (for whatever reason) been absent from the story. She might’ve put her foot down to prevent him from leaving in the first place. She might’ve gone to fetch him if she’d heard what he was doing.

We were asked to consider that God is perhaps “bigger and more surprising” than we’ve been anticipating — not bound by traditional rules and roles. God embodies both male and female traits.

The main thing is that God gives us what we need to be welcomed back into a sense of belonging.

I listened to the program while walking a slightly muddy path, feeling the phone vibrating in my pocket and heard the notes of the flute along with the wind. When I paused for a moment, a previously unseen rabbit sprung out of its hiding place and headed in a different direction — perhaps towards home.

Kate Josephson grew up in rural southwestern Minnesota — going to a small town church every Sunday — worked as a church secretary in Red Wing for seven years. She continues to seek out religious experiences wherever she goes.

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