It’s Four O’Clock on a Tuesday – Will There be an Epiphany Feast? By Donna Linnemeyer

It’s Four O’Clock on a Tuesday – Will There be an Epiphany Feast? By Donna Linnemeyer

(Editor’s Note: Donna Linnemeyer is the Program Administrator at Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, Illinois. She will be sharing parish life stories from behind the scenes to give us a break from all the heavy duty theology on this site. Her beat is not generic parish life but life in a confessional congregation and will hopefully inspire pastors and laity to make confessional theology the heartbeat of the parish. In this post she shares the joys and frustrations of adding festivity to the feasts of our Lord’s body and blood. Donna’s posts are cataloged on the Regular Columns page under the title “Confessions of a Confessional Church Administrator.”)

It’s four o’clock on a Tuesday, the Tuesday before Epiphany, and I just checked the sign up sheet for our International Dessert makers.  There is one more name than there was on Sunday morning which is good except that there were no names on Sunday morning.  Yikes, we have one person bringing an international dessert for our first annual “Epiphany International Dessert Reception”.  And that one dessert is listed as fortune cookies.  Well that is “international” but it is not quite the type of satisfying dish that our members look for on a dessert table.

Will this themed social event, scheduled to take place two days from now, after our Epiphany Divine Service, really come off?  Yes, it will probably be a nice little event with about 30 people milling around a couple of tables of sweets and interesting beverages.  Those who turn out will appreciate the refreshments and the chance to linger a bit after a lovely festival service.  It won’t be well-attended and the amount of energy put into it might seem to exceed the response but that is okay.

The main event of the day is the Divine Service that begins at 6:45 p.m. on the same evening.  Here we will come together for a festival service to give praise and glory to our Newborn King, the Light of the World and to thank our Heavenly Father that he sent us His Son to be our Savior and most importantly, to feast on His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.  This stands all by itself.

So why even plan the International Dessert Reception at all during this post-Christmas season?  Here are the great things that will come out of our Epiphany celebration event.

  1. We started advertising this event in mid-December with an article called “Epiphany = Jesus Revealed to the World”.  We continued to include this article in all of our holiday newsletters.  In basic terms, the article compared Epiphany (revelation of the Light of the World) to Advent (preparation for the coming of the King) and to Christmas (birth of our Savior).  This gave us the opportunity to share the meaning of Epiphany with our members for many weeks.
  2. After providing these written explanations of Epiphany, we are bringing home the message by hosting an international dessert event.
  3. Any event with food will bring in more people than an event without food (hey, we’re Lutherans…we like food!).  Worship attendance will likely be just a little better with a reception afterwards.
  4. This year we may not get as many members to attend as we would like but this event will grow each year until members consider Epiphany services as part of their post-Christmas routine.
  5. Each church festival that we promote brings us closer to viewing the church calendar as a more relevant record of historic and celebratory events than the secular “Hallmark” calendar of events.

I am looking forward to this being the start of many successful Epiphany events at Bethany!

To Do list for Wednesday:  Go to local grocery store and locate international food aisle.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


It’s Four O’Clock on a Tuesday – Will There be an Epiphany Feast? By Donna Linnemeyer — 9 Comments

  1. Desserts are wonderful, loved and enjoyed by Lutherans and non-Lutherans alike. It would be great if every congegation could have stuff like this and enjoy hanging out together at such events. And I think it’s great that Bethany has the understanding that these are social events rather than fellowship.

    But I’m confused about a few things here.

    I thought a confessional church administrator was the pastor.

    What makes this event confessional?

    And how does a dessert reception, international or otherwise, make the feast of the body and blood of Christ more festive or inspire pastors and laity to make confessional theology the heartbeat of the parish?

    How is this different from the CG mentality BJS often rightfully rebukes for assuming that Word and Sacrament isn’t appealling enough on its own and the Holy Spirit needs a boost from us to make His means of grace more festive?

    This is kind of language and confusion regarding the means of grace that has been called into question here when done by those deemed to be less than confessional.

  2. Rev. Hering,

    Concerning the title “Program Administrator” – this is a helpful auxilliary office that is focused on organizing and coordinating the “program” of the parish, not the Word and Sacraments. The Program Administrator also organizes and coordinates our nine support staff workers so that their work is all pulling in the same direction. These tasks allow the Ministers of the Stewards of the Mysteries of God to better focus on the primary work of our Lord’s ministry to us in Word and Sacrament.

    Concerning the feast that follows the Feast – read the post carefully. Nowhere does the post claim that a reception following the Divine Service makes the Word and Sacrament more effective. As a matter of fact it clearly says the exact opposite: last line of the third paragraph: “This (referring to the Lord’s Supper) stands all by itself.”

    You are probably also opposed to Easter breakfast, handing out sacks of candy to the children after the Christmas pageant, Lenten soup suppers, and for that matter, apple pie and motherhood. Lighten up dude!


  3. I’ve seen Pastor Hering eat. He’s not against Easter breakfasts, etc. 😉

    But the wording can hit the ears a little strange. “we are bringing home the message by hosting an international dessert event.” No one ever says “we’re making the Word more effective by doing X.” But I do agree with Rev. Hering, this does sound like the word must be helped along a tad.

    There’s nothing wrong with starting a new congregational tradition like this to get the saints together. It sounds fun. I’d come. My wife’s grandfather is Hungarian. She can cook some good (but not good for you) desserts. But that won’t bring the message of epiphany home. Just say its an epiphany celebration for the congregation.

  4. Lighten up guys. “Bring the message of Epiphany home” i.e. “provide a living example that Epiphany is about Christ being revealed to the nations.”

    I guarantee you that more members of our congregation will know and remember that Epiphany is the revelation of Christ to the nations thanks to our post service party. The message is brought home by the get-together around the cookies.


  5. As a layperson when I read this I wondered why this was even posted here.
    My first thought was I go for the Word and the Real Feast. The Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. I don’t need any desserts, international or otherwise, to know and remember that Epiphany is the revelation of Christ to the nations. I certainly would not give any credit to “our post service party”, but rather give all the glory to the Lord for giving us what we truly need.
    Not only that, I ate too many desserts over Christmas. :>) Little humor for you.
    BTW Telling the Pastor above he was a scrooge “in so many words”, was not helpful when he was being faithful, as we all should be, and merely asking legimate questions.

    I am happy to not be in a Church anymore that was all about activities and their influence on bringing people in with something other than Word and Sacrament(s). Rather, a Church where the Word and Sacrament is what brings me there.

    Hopefully you don’t give me my “just desserts” now, too. But, in case you feel you need to, know that I did this in a Spirit of defending the Truth (and supporting the Pastors) and not trying to get anyone’s donuts in a twist.

    Blessed Epiphany (all the way to Lent).

    Layperson, Chief Cook & Bottlewasher, and Friend

  6. Chief Cook and Bottlewasher,

    I must be living in some alternative church universe of our grandfathers where things like church potlucks are a really good thing.

    I don’t like my donuts twisted. Actually, I steer away from donuts. Too many carbs. 🙂

    More seriously, there is some “black and white fallacy” going on here. I know this fallacy well becausse I must confess I fall into its trap frequently. The black and white fallacy is when one assumes something must be either black or white. In this case, the fallacy is that you can either have the Divine Service and it alone if you wish to preserve Divine Monergism or you can have a party after the Divine Service and be compromising the Divine Monergism of the Lord’s Supper by adding something to it.

    In my grandfather’s universe we do both and realize that they are not mutually exclusive of each other and to make it clear that the one Meal is primary we use phrases like “it can stand alone.”

    Also, most people accuse me of being way too tolerant as the editor of this site and encourage me to be quicker to “scrooge” commenters. One of my rules for “scrooging” is a repeated pattern of nit-picking and overly parsed semantic critiques.

    You say you are confused as to why this article is posted. I was really clear in the editor’s introduction that this column is not intended to be theological rocket science but is a behind the scenes look at life in a confessional parish. That is another reason why Rev. Hering’s critique is over the top in this context. By his own admission, this site promotes and defends Divine Monergism. This post is a description of a good thing that has grown up out of the Feast of the Epiphany. The dessert get-together does not compromise the sola gratia nature of the Divine Service anymore than a soup supper compromises the theology of the Lenten midweek service.

    I really do appreciate Rev. Herring’s concern for preserving Divine Monergism (and yours). I just think it was out of place here.

    Speaking of “scrooging” someone, Rev. Hering chose to be highly critical of a human interest piece. In that context, it does not seem like my response is unusually “scrooging.”

    Thanks for your input. I have taken it too heart even though upon reflection, I disagree.


  7. Excellent post, Donna!

    Many congregations of our Church are filled with saints who are “life long Lutherans” (their words) yet cannot define “Epiphany, Advent, etc.” The more opportunities we provide to celebrate and teach, the more we assist our “life long Lutherans” in sharing the Truth, our Lord Jesus Christ! May our Lord continue to bless the ministry He has entrusted to you all at Bethany, Naperville! Blessed Epiphany, all!

  8. Pr. Rossow,

    I think this is a wonderful idea. We have an Epiphany Divine Service this evening, but I never would have thought to have this type of reception after. Could you share more details as I would like to do this next year.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.