Thursday, April 27, 2006

I was asked why I am a Lutheran

I am currently "unchurched" in that I call no one congregation "home". I suspect that will change. But I still would define myself as Lutheran-- granted, a Lutheran who has been deeply influenced by both Judaism and Buddhism, but absolutely a Lutheran.

I address this because Lutheran Zephyr asked on his blog why any of us are Lutheran.

It was 1968 on the 4th of April. I was 18 and Roman Catholic. I was in my dormitory when I heard the news that Martin Luther King had been assassinated. I didn't know what to do and just started walking around the campus, really in a daze. I remember hearing singing -- hymn singing -- coming from the campus Lutheran church, and I walked in and sat down. A church felt like the place to be, and this would be as good as any, I thought - a safe harbor in which to pray.

The campus pastor had marched with Martin in Selma. He spoke of the tragedy and broke down in the pulpit. I had never seen such a thing -- such directness, such true emotion in a clergyperson. And the clergyman had been involved politically? The congregation sang, and they sang their hearts out. I had never heard such a thing -- people really singing in church because they meant it. As I left the church, people greeted me, asked me who I was, wanted me to come back. I had never experienced such a thing. I did go back again and again.

Fast forward a bit to my marriage in 1969. My (now ex) husband and I wanted a church in common. I was RCC; he was Congregationalist. I suggested the local Lutheran congregation in our home town. We walked in and the pastor's sermon was breathtaking -- clear and heartfelt -- educational and moving. On the bulletin board in the entryway was a small black and white poster of two small children. The boy was wearing toy holsters at his hip, but they were full of flowers. The caption said "No War Toys". I could not believe my eyes. Again we were welcomed and greeted in this church, 1,000 miles from my campus church. We were invited to take Communion. I had never experienced Eucharist with both elements. It fed my soul.

Then we took instruction and every session was more amazing than the last -- and the most amazing thing was the Lutheran theology of Grace. God loves and has redeemed me without me having to turn into a religious circus dog, or without me having to do things to "earn it"? Grace is given freely, without my ability to merit it?

This Theology of Grace, more than any other single thing (but in concert with many others) has anchored me to the Lutheran Church, come what may. I cannot imagine my life without viewing Grace in this way. It is like spiritual oxygen.


Blogger a journey said...

I forget how I found your website, but I have been enjoying it lately. I am not Lutheran, but I have a friend that is and she sent me this recently.

by Garrison Keillor

I have made fun of Lutherans for years--who wouldn't if you lived in
Minnesota? But I have also sung with Lutherans and that is one of the
main joys of life, along with hot baths and fresh sweet corn. We make
fun of Lutherans for their blandness, their excessive calm, their fear
of giving offense, their constant guilt that burns like a pilot light,
their lack of speed and also for their secret fondness for macaroni and
cheese. But nobody sings like them.

If you ask an audience in New York City, a relatively "Lutheranless"
place, to sing along on the chorus of "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" they
will look daggers at you as if you had asked them to strip to their
underwear. But if you do this among Lutherans they'll smile and row
that boat ashore and up on the beach! And down the road! Lutherans are
bred from childhood to sing in four-part harmony. It's a talent that
comes from sitting on the lap of someone singing alto or tenor or bass
and hearing the harmonic intervals by putting your little head against
that person's rib cage. It's natural for Lutherans to sing in harmony.
We're too modest to be soloists, too worldly to sing in unison. When
you're singing in the key of C and you slide into the A7th and D7th
chords, all two hundred of you, it's an emotionally fulfilling moment.
I once sang the bass line of "Children of the Heavenly Father" in a room
with about three thousand Lutherans in it; and when we finished we all
had tears in our eyes, partly from the promise that God will not forsake
us, partly from the proximity of all those lovely voices. By our joining
in harmony, we somehow promise that we will not forsake each other. I
do believe this: people, these Lutherans, who love to sing in four-part
harmony, are the sort of people you could call up when you're in deep
distress. If you're dying, they'll comfort you. If you're lonely,
they'll talk to you. And if you're hungry, they'll give you tuna salad!
If you laughed while reading this you must be a Lutheran

The following list was compiled by a 20th century Lutheran who,
observing other Lutherans, wrote down exactly what he saw or heard:
1) Lutherans believe in prayer but would practically die if asked to
pray out loud.

2) Lutherans like to sing except when confronted with a new hymn or a
hymn with more than four stanzas.

3) Lutherans believe their pastors will visit them in the hospital even
if they don't notify them that they are there.

4) Lutherans usually follow the official liturgy and will feel it is
their way of suffering for their sins.

5) Lutherans believe in miracles and even expect miracles, especially
during their stewardship visitation programs or when passing the plate.

6) Lutherans feel that applauding for their children's choirs would make
them too proud and conceited.

7) Lutherans think that the Bible forbids them from crossing the aisle
\while "passing the peace."

8) Lutherans drink coffee as if it were the Third Sacrament.

9) Some Lutherans still believe that an ELCA bride and an LCMS groom
make for a mixed marriage (or an ELCA groom and WELS bride?)

10) Lutherans feel guilty for not staying to clean up after their own
wedding reception in the Fellowship Hall.

11) Lutherans are willing to pay up to a dollar for a meal at church.

12) Lutherans think that Garrison Keeler stories are totally factual.

13) Lutherans still serve Jell-O in the proper liturgical color for the
season and think that peas in a tuna noodle casserole add too much

14) Lutherans believe that it is OK to poke fun at themselves and never
take themselves too seriously.

And finally, you know you're a Lutheran when: You hear something really
funny during the sermon and smile as loudly as you can!

It's 100 degrees, with 90% humidity, and you still have coffee after the
service. (I'm pretty sure we had it at our wedding!) Doughnuts are a
line item in the church budget, just like coffee.
The communion cabinet is open to all, but the coffee cabinet is locked
up tight.
All your relatives graduated from a school named Concordia (or Luther).
When you watch a "Star Wars" movie and they say, "May the Force be with
you," you respond, "and also with you."
You actually understand those folks from Lake Wobegon, MN. And lastly,
it takes ten minutes to say "good-bye. "God Bless!

11:06 PM  
Blogger Mata H said...

I confess I laughed out loud when I read this. AND when I first saw Starwars and they said "Mat the Force Be With You" I honestly DID expect the reply to be "and also with you"!!! LOLOL

9:03 AM  
Blogger Maggie Rose said...

what a delightful post comment to read a journey! LOL! I'm not Lutheran but saw some of myself in it anyway so perhaps I'm a Lutherna wanadbe. Kind regards, Maggie

5:08 AM  
Blogger Carol Conway-Fleisher said...

I am a Lutheran also (LMS though) and I have enjoyed reading your post.

8:46 PM  

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