This past Saturday I attended an ultreya. If you’re not familiar with this term, you can go to my previous post Persevere Upward. At an ultreya there is fellowship among those who have attended a Lutheran Via de Cristo retreat weekend, and normally LOTS of singing. One of the songs we sang on Saturday has been in my head ever since — Lord I Lift Your Name on High.
This song is the best known work of composer Rick Founds, and from 1997-2003, the most used song in American churches. Founds reports that on a particular day, during his devotional time, God impressed upon his heart the cyclic nature of Christ’s redemptive work. He came from heaven to earth to show us the way to his Father. He journeyed from the cross to the grave, paying our debt to God in full. Then he rose from the dead and went back to heaven, completing the cycle of salvation. Rick picked up his guitar and the song came very quickly.
“Let them praise the name of the Lord:
for His name alone is excellent;
His glory is above the earth and heaven.”
You’ve probably heard it before (it’s been orbiting the world for a while now), but like me, you’ll enjoy it again. It’s certainly appropriate for the Thanksgiving season!
The Via de Cristo community has monthly gatherings which are called ultreyas. Ultreya is an archaic Spanish word once used by pilgrims in Spain as they ascended the steep steps up to the Shrine of St. James. It means to “persevere upward” and was called out to encourage others to keep going. At an ultreya there is singing, food (we are Lutherans, after all) and time to share our experiences in walking with the Lord.
In a sense, we’re all pilgrims in this Christian journey. The way can get difficult. There are plenty of distractions, disappointments, detours and even spots that seem like dead ends. It’s good to know we’re not alone. It’s good to have someone lend a helping hand, listen, or just call out “you can make it.” It’s good to have someone who will carry your burdens for a while, someone who will pause to give you directions, someone who will pray with you and for you.
That’s why Christ gave us the church. Most of us couldn’t persevere alone. Companions on the journey lift our spirits; they keep us on the right path; they help us accomplish our goals. Don’t be a lone ranger Christian — find a community and persevere upward.
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up!” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10