Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Lutheran "End Times"

We awoke to rain this morning, as had been forecast. I snuggled deeper under the comforter, relieved by the fact that all our lawn is newly-mowed. Prompted by the wet weather forecast, I had spent all of yesterday's chilly afternoon bundled up in winter coat and scarf and bouncing on the lawn tractor. My stiffness this morning is a testament to that.

Our church has a adult Bible class before Sunday services. I heard they are studying the "end times", something Lutherans rarely discuss, so I decided to go this morning. Yes, the name of the study is indeed "End Times", part of the "Lutheran Difference Series", by Mark Brighton. I have no idea who he is.....probably a LCMS pastor or professor. This week's chapter was entitled "The Mysterious Veil"----that veil being death. The first paragraph said, "Lutherans begin their study of the end times with a topic that many people hate to discuss: death. The Bible describes death as a veil or a burial shroud (Isaiah 25:7). Sooner or later all people face this mysterious veil. Until Christ reappears, death remains the entry point for the end times."

Great, here I thought this would be a study of prophecy or something. Actually, when I was growing up, my parents put too much emphasis on end times speculations. It wasn't so much a part of the Baptist church teachings, as just something my parents were interested in, I guess. We attended a Bible study with some people from another church who were really into Revelation prophecy at that time. It brought alot of fear into my life when I was a teenager, because I believed the world was going to end soon. I would often look to the eastern sky to see if there was any sign of Christ coming in the clouds. For some reason, I feared that my family would be "raptured" without me, and I would be left behind to experience the "tribulation". Needless to say, I have never had any desire to read the "Left Behind" book series! When I became a parent, I vowed to never instill that kind of fear in my children, hence our household has been free of end times discussions, which also fits with the Lutheran way of doing things.

So, this morning's Bible class was not quite what I expected, but it was enjoyable. If nothing else, just to interact with fellow church members. As I stood chatting afterwards with a friend, another lady came over and gave me her bag of Sunday School materials, as I will be the substitute teacher for her class next week. I put the bag on the shelf above my coat there in the church basement.

I should have taken my coat with me up into the sanctuary, though, for it was freezing! The pastor announced, "Oh, by the way, the deacons couldn't get the furnace to start this morning". Wonderful.....we shivered all through the service. Our pastor, who is not really our pastor since he's filling in as a vacancy pastor, preached his usual heavily confessional Lutheran sermon, basically a sales pitch for the Sacraments. My attitude about his sermons is probably a sin, but his preaching really grates against my old Baptist sensibilities. About halfway through his sermons I feel like beating myself over the head with my hymnal.

Today's Old Testament reading was Ruth 1:1-19, which tells the story of Ruth and Naomi. Pastor said, "This reading is not really about Ruth and is all about Jesus". But, he never did point out how so. Ditto the Epistle reading, 2 Timothy 2:1-13.....although it made slightly more sense to say this reading was "all about Jesus". His preaching got very intense as he explained how God formerly had resided on earth in the Holy of Holies of the Jewish temple, but then when Jesus came to earth, God resided in His earthly body. Now God resides in His Word, preached by pastors in sermons and handed out by pastors in the Sacraments. All of his sermons end up on that same basic note.

After yakking a bit with church people after the service, I went to the basement and grabbed my coat and headed for home, five miles away. Halfway there, I suddenly realized I had forgotten the bag of Sunday School materials, so I turned the pickup around and went back to the church. By then, everyone was gone. Down in the church basement, though, all the lights were still on! Turning them off gave my forgetfulness a least that's how I'll view it. Wink!

No comments: