The fun of Kathy’s birthday almost caused me to forget about something very nice which happened at church Sunday morning. We are devoting each Sunday of the summer to a different nation and culture, and this past Sunday was Germany. . . not for any reasons associated with the appointed texts for the day or because that Sunday was already designated as one for honoring the Augsburg Confession (which it was.) No, the main reason we made June 28th German Sunday was because that was the day we could get the accordian player! Pastor Jeff’s highest priority for German Sunday was not that there be Bach or Martin Luther or Schutz. . . but that we have some accordian music between services to give it that full- hearted, German earthiness. And since the 28th was the one Sunday that my good friend Frank Germinaro* could come, that’s when we did it.
Yes, his name is Frank Germinaro – and yes, he is Italian. But under duress he is willing to sing and play German songs. 🙂 Frank is actually a wonderful guy with many years of service as a school principal both in Kenosha and Racine. In fact, I was amazed at how many people walked up to Frank to greet him and shoot the breeze with him. The guy could run for mayor and win in a cakewalk without so much as a single yard sign erected for his campaign. That’s how well-known and loved he is in the community.
Anyway, he did some accordian playing between services while we snacked on bratwurst, braunschweiger and German cookies. . . but what I enjoyed every bit as much as all that was the way we opened the worship service. It was Pastor Jeff’s idea that instead of simply reciting the creed as we usually do, it would be neat to recite Martin Luther’s explanation of the creed . . . something which once upon a time most Lutherans had to memorize in order to be confirmed in our faith. I am old enough to remember those days when we each had our copy of Luther’s Small Cathechism, and I can remember walking from my house to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church for confirmation class and reading and memorizing those explanations as I walked. At the time it felt like a gigantic task . . . as though we’d been asked to memorize an entire play by Sophocles in the original Greek . . . but I found a way to get the job done, although it had much more to do with avoiding my parents’ wrath than any genuine interest in those words.
Thinking about that reminds me that my first confirmation teacher was none other than a religion professor from Luther – and now I look back with some wonderment that we were so fortunate. At the time, however, it seemed more like a curse because he was very tough and very serious and did not seem much interested in making any of this fun for seventh graders. There was one Wednesday when I got to church only to find that the rest of the class was not in our classroom but out on the edge of the church’s property, playing in a tree – or were they hiding in a tree? And this was not a case of losing track of time – It was almost like a junior high version of a Sit-Down Strike. I can still vividly remember the unsettling dilemma which confronted me – to join my classmates and risk getting in trouble with Professor Wrightsman and maybe my dad? Or do what I was supposed to do, stay in the classroom, and risk getting in trouble with my classmates? Well it was the era of protests and I actually sided with my classmates – probably the single naughtiest thing I ever did aside from the time when I taped my sister Randi’s eyes shut while we was taking a nap. And yes, we got in trouble. I’m glad I didn’t enjoy the sensation enough to travel further down that dark road of disobedience. My misdeeds from that point on were pretty much limited to misdemeanors after that. My major crime career was over.
Anyway, those words which once had struck such a sense of dread in my junior high mind felt completely different Sunday morning as we recited them together- a few people completely by heart but most of us reading from our bulletins. “I believe that I cannot by my own volition believe in God or even come to Him, but the Holy Spirit. . . “ with each of the three sections of the creed ending with these powerful words: This Is Most Certainly True. Martin Luther penned those words at a time when he was radically altering many people’s notions of what the Christian faith was all about – and I love the gutsy quality of those words. And I’m sure that Professor Wrightsman did his best to impress that upon our junior high brains, but we were a little too busy with more pressing matters to realize what a heroic person Martin Luther was and how amazing his story was. And like a lot of people, I am still playing catch up and probably will be for the rest of my life.
This is most certainly true.
pictured above: Our special guest, Frank Germinaro, takes a momentary break from his accordian playing to say hello to one of our members, Andrew Duncan.