One of the most memorable and meaningful worship services I ever attended was one in which I understood absolutely nothing of what was said.
I was attending Sunday morning worship at a Lutheran congregation in Bratislava, Slovakia. The service was entirely in Slovak, which I do not speak or understand. I spent the sermon admiring the ancient architecture and the ornately carved wooden pulpit that rose a full story above the pews.
I remember thinking then that the Roman Catholic Church might have had good reason to conduct the mass in Latin. At least everyone was able to understand the liturgy, no matter where they worshiped. Suddenly, about three-quarters of the way through the service, meaning broke through and I was completely engaged again in worship. Why? Because the pastor began the Eucharist and I was enfolded in a ritual so profound that it needed no words. When the community began reciting the Lord’s Prayer in Slovak I recognized it immediately.
I understood nothing of the language, but everything of the meaning. No longer was I a stranger in a strange land. I had been welcomed home through worship.
This message was adapted from the “Meaning-full Worship” by Susan Greeley that appeared in the January/February 2011 issue of Lutheran Woman Today (now Gather) magazine.