Thursday, October 13, 2011

Christian by Grace. Lutheran by choice.

Two epiphanies in my life:

I was raised in a conservative, by-the-book United Methodist Church. When I left home I was surprised to discover that not all UMC's are the same and my home church was one of a dying breed. I starting attending a very big UMC that was nothing like the church at home. It had a praise band, three pastors, drama troop, gazillions of clubs & activities. Worship was nothing like my boring old home church. Professional musicians were regular guests and there was always something new and exciting.

I was very happy one weekend when my mom came for a visit and I could take her to my new church and show it off a bit. It was a great service featuring an oboist from the Chicago Symphony. After the service, mom looked at me and asked, "When does church start?" (Awkward pause) I answered, "That was church." And she said, "No, that was people putting on a show."

Epiphany #1: Mom was right. And I realized that what I liked about that UMC was that it was cool and I felt that by going there it made me cool too. And I also realized, that even though they were singing about Jesus, and preaching about Jesus, it wasn't about Jesus. Scripture was not the centerpiece - the performance was. We were not gathering to hear God's Word, we were gathering to be entertained by skits and musical numbers - and (worse) to see & be seen.

The second epiphany I'm thinking of happened before the first one. While in college my friend Ellen invited me to Sunday worship at her Wisconsin Synod Lutheran Church. It was the campus WELS church and the congregation was mainly college-age people like myself. The liturgy totally lost me. I felt like I was juggling the hymn book and the bulletin and had no clue what I was suppose to be doing. Even though I was a life-long church-goer it felt totally foreign. I looked around and was amazed to see there were some people who didn't use the hymnal - they knew the service by heart. One young guy even had his eyes shut.

Epiphany #2: This was true worship. There was something mystical and transcendent and authentic in that liturgical worship. A raw spiritual energy. I couldn't put a name on it, but I felt it and part of me yearned for more. However, it was several years before I returned. That's how the 2 epiphanies tie together -- after my mom made me realize how shallow my Methodist Church was, I sought out a Lutheran Church to see if liturgy was the answer. It was.

That is why my short answer to why I converted to Lutheranism is, "I came for the liturgy and stayed for the doctrine."

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