Thursday, September 10, 2009

On Being Lutheran

While I was cleaning up my work space this afternoon, I ran across the Summer 2009 edition of Thrivent magazine, which was given to me some time ago by one of our members.  It was opened up to page 10, where an article titled "On Being Lutheran" appears.  Included in the article are responses from readers to questions asked in the previous edition:  "If you grew up Lutheran, are you still attending a Lutheran church?  Why or why not?  And if you didn't grow up Lutheran, why are you now attending a Lutheran church?"  The responses are more than a little interesting:
Response #1:  I have been Lutheran all my life, praise the Lord!  I would not trade the truth of the Gospel - salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, based on Scripture alone - with anything another religion has to offer.  None can come close to this comforting truth!
This is a good response from someone who actually knows what Lutheranism is and why he is a Lutheran.  The only error in the response is that the phrase "in Christ alone" should have been inserted between "through faith alone" and "based on Scripture alone."  But, I think we all meant what this gentleman knew. :)
Response #2:  I grew up as a Lutheran but am no longer attending a Lutheran church.  My wife and I left our longtime church home following a change in pastors.  While we looked briefly at other Lutheran congregations, we ended up attending both Presbyterian and Methodist churches.  While there are differences in church teachings and governance, I found these issues to be relatively minor.
Obviously this person (couple) was not properly catechized, or didn't properly pay attention to the catechesis he(they) received, since the differences between Lutherans and Presbyterians and Methodists are huge.  One wonders what it was about the new pastor that drove this couple away.  Whatever it was, it surely wasn't worth giving up the very Body and Blood of our Lord in the Supper (or the correct doctrine of justification, etc.).
Response #3:  I was raised Lutheran, attending a church school through grade eight.  Having a firm foundation to build your life upon is a major blessing.  After attending a Lutheran church in Rochester, Minnesota, for 20 years, we switched to a large independent church.  Faith in Jesus as God's son, forgiveness of sins through His resurrection, and the Holy Spirit guiding our lives are nondenominational. 
The foundation this lady received was obviously not as firm as she thought.  "Forgiveness of sins through [Jesus'] resurrection"?  I thought He won forgiveness for us on the cross.  Hmmm . . . sounds like she joined one of them thar "evangelical" congregations that is full of "Easter Christians" and not "Good Friday Christians."  You know, the whole, "we gotta stop focusing on a dead Jesus and celebrate the alive Jesus" thing at work.
Response #4:  I grew up Lutheran and will always consider myself a Lutheran, but there is only one God and we don't have the sole rights to Him.  I am very thankful for everything that God and the Lutheran church have done for me, but I really don't think that God is going to check on which church we belong to on Judgment Day.  He will be interested only in our belief in Jesus as our Savior.
This lady expresses a very popular belief out there today, namely that it matters not where we go to church, so long as we believe in Jesus.  Many people extend this even further, declaring that we don't even need to belong to a church.  "I don't need no stinkin' church!  I believe in Jesus and that's all I need!"  Well, not really.  I mean, if you really believed in Jesus, why in the world would you deliberately stay away from His Church?  Doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of what true faith is, for it is not merely the possession of intellectual knowledge of Jesus and His salvific work (even the devils believe, and shudder for it!), but rather full trust in Jesus, which shows itself forth in the continual reception of His gifts via Word and Sacrament.  Besides this, the lady here shows forth another common misconception among many Christians, namely that there are many churches.  Um, no.  There is only one church.  On Judgment Day, you either belong to that one church or not.  What I think she means to say is that Lutherans are not the only Christians who go to heaven.  That's true.  There are Christians who belong to other denominations who will make it to heaven.  Only God knows who truly belongs to His Church.
Response #5:  I was raised a Presbyterian but have been a Lutheran since 1952.  My son was an avid watcher of The Howdy Doody Show on TV.  Every Friday, the host, Buffalo Bob Smith, said, "Now remember, boys and girls, go to the church or the synagogue of your choice this weekend."  My 5-year-old son kept repeating those words.  We sent him to the Lutheran church, and the pastor invited the whole family to attend.  We did and found the services very satisfying.  Thus we became Lutheran.   
Buffalo Bob Smith obviously had some serious theological issues, but I am glad that his influence played a role in bringing this family into the Lutheran church.  Not sure what this person means by "the services were very satisfying," but I hope what is meant is that they were fed on Word and Sacrament.  I'm gonna go ahead and make a ruling here that that's what this reader meant. :)
Response #6:  I was baptized Lutheran when I was 3 months old, and I still attend church.  I like the rich tradition of our liturgy, as it holds great meaning for me.  And I like the fact that most congregations now celebrate the Eucharist weekly.  
This is a man after my own heart.  Great response!  I'm not sure he's correct that "most" congregations now celebrate the Eucharist weekly, but he is right in noting that there has been a resurgence toward weekly Eucharist lately, which is a very blessed thing, indeed, since, well, we Lutherans confess that we celebrate the Mass (Divine Service with Holy Communion) EVERY Lord's Day (Sunday) and on feast days (cf. AC XXIV and AP XXIV).
Response #7:  My wife and I were raised Lutheran and were members of Lutheran churches for more than 50 years.  When we moved to our current community, in 1999, there was no Lutheran church in the area, and the closest one was a 25-minute drive away.  We became members of the nondenominational First Christian Church.  We found that while the style was very different from most Lutheran churches, the substance of truth remained the same.  
Ah, the ole' "style does not affect substance" argument!  Um, no, you cannot separate style from substance.  It doesn't work.  If you worship like methobapticostals and non-denoms, you is gonna eventually believe like them.  Been there, done that, got the t-shirt (literally).  If this couple really understood the difference between the actual substance of confessional Lutheranism and this nondenom congregation, they would be more than willing to make the 25-mile drive.

3 comments:

Iggy said...

I would like to link this article to my comment over at Necessary Roughness.

I spoke of subtle attacks on the church. This article points out some of them with regards to the amalgamation of religious teaching.

I touched on the absorption of Eastern philosophy, and would add the acceptance of false teaching between denominations.

It seems that etiquette dictates getting permission first.

Rev. Thomas C. Messer said...

Iggy,

Feel free to link away - anytime. :)

Iggy said...

Thanks for your permission.

Have a blessed weekend!

IggyAntiochus