Sunday, January 13, 2008

Soul Maintenance

Today being Sunday, I attended the local soul maintenance other words, "church". Back in my misguided Baptist days, worship was what church was all about. For Lutherans, however, church is not something you do, like is what God does. Through the pastor, that is.

So this morning, I dutifully sang and spoke the proper words at the proper times, and listened to the sermon. The pastor's first words were, "In all my years of being a pastor, I've not noticed people being very concerned about the righteousness of God." Huh? He lost me right there. Then he went on to point out that faith is not about "Jesus in your heart". That only opens the door to heaven, he said. Evidently, it doesn't get you through that door. Like anyone has ever reported back on that subject.......besides Jesus Himself.

This afternoon was our church's Annual Meeting, which Husband attended. When he got home, he said, "Our church is falling apart. Nobody cares." (And he was not talking about the church building.) I told him that I've come to the conclusion that our church is not an isolated case. I think we're seeing the spiritual evolution of people raised with television. We are now into the second generation of people raised with TV......and you can also include many other electronic gadgets......which are magnets for people's attention and focus.

Our youth group, which was very active AND led by the pastor, back when I first joined this Lutheran church 30 years ago, is basicly defunct. Everyone is so busy with sports and other fluff, and the last pastor that was here showed little interest in doing youth activities. Not that I blame him, with kids so focused on everything else except church, and parents going right along with it. Husband said the guys at the meeting today were all itching to get home to watch the NFL play-off game.

Times have changed, and there's nothing that can be done about that. Back when Father-in-law was a teenager, the church youth group, called the Walther League, was the main social outlet for young people. They could hardly wait to join following Confirmation at age 14. Their group met with other church youth groups in the area for rollerskating, softball, etc. Many a young Lutheran met their future spouse during Walther League activities, and, indeed, that is how Husband's parents met.

Husband also expressed concern that our church is spending thousands of dollars to refurbish the old organ. With so few people coming to church anymore......he wonders what the point is. I said, "Well, maybe this can be our church's main goal and reason for keep the antique organ in operation." It is quite special, really, as far as organs go. Maybe our church building can become a museum someday. It's over 130 years old, and beautiful in a creaky, cavernous sort of way. But mostly it is full of memories of those who have passed through on their life's way. After 30 years of being there, I've become immersed in the group, like it or not, and often on Sunday I sit there and think about the ones who have died. I remember where they used to sit, and the timbre of their voices when they sang hymns and spoke the Lord's Prayer. I miss so many of those voices, but it seems we're supposed to just forget about them because they're in the heavenly congregation now.

I've read that Orthodox Church tradition includes staying close in spirit to departed loved ones.......the communion of saints, cloud of witnesses.......I truly wouldn't have a problem with that at all. If only there was a church like that handy.


nannykim said...

Well, well, well, Not sure how to respond to that post! ;-) .(Oh and I noticed on your book list you have some of my favorites!). I guess I would say the opposite--but not really! Confusing, eh! I have discovered that church is a place to worship--not to necessarily be fed. ...and that worhship is meeting with God. In worshipping my soul is touched in an awesome way. I do love what you said about the communion of saints and I so feel this in our liturgy and every time we celebrate the euchorist (Lord's Supper)---when we do this each Sunday--I feel the great communion of all we are there physically , but of all of those who have gone before---a wonderful unity in worship. It is funny because my son experienced this this week. He lives in WA state and has started going to an Anglican church there---at their wed service --candlelite--he felt as if he were before the throne room of God in the worship and he felt that immense and awesoome unity between us and all that are worshipping God. Guess that is why I love sections of Revelation so much---it shows that wonderful worship of all of God's creation and the awesomeness of it all...the beauty. We also have a huge pipe organ, and thankfully we have a lady that is very gifted that plays it--she teaches at a local college. But when the organ is booming its beautiful music my soul is so touched---however, I have also been in the early morning service where there is no music and the liturgy is so beautiful that the oneness of the congregation and the seeking of God is trully beautiful to. I have to run to tons of errands--but be warned I am coming back--huh huh!!!! I need to think more about what you said and comment more---blah blah!! THanks for expressing yourself so well---need more time to think---and have so much stuff to do!! Blessings on your day!ps forgive typos

Jeannelle said...


Thank you for your thought-full comments!

My grumpy post reflects rebellion towards my Lutheran church. I've seen a wave of change move in since I joined 30 years ago. The pastors now seem obsessed with form in the church service.....wearing the proper robe, making the correct motions, saying the words just so.....and always reminding us that Lutherans don't "feel" anything spiritually. Its all about head-knowledge and rituals. But, living out here in a rural area, I'm stuck with this church, and am quite attached to the people.

Am trying to remember how I happened to stumble upon your blog the other day.....possibly somehow through InternetMonk.....or maybe not. I just can't recall. Anyway, I like to take photos of tree branches, so your lovely tree photos really caught my eye.


nannykim said...

Oh yes, InterneMonk--I visit there occasionally--he makes me think. Love the tree and snow photo you posted today. Wow--it is tough that the church is all about the head-knowledge and ritals. I read a book a while back about a pastor that came to a dead church. Now I do not agree with everything in the book, but it really got me into praying more diligently....because through prayer things really changed. The book was called Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala God really used that book to encourage me to pray even more....I am always amazed at the answers I have seen--sometimes they take a long while, but the answers have often been so amazing. He quoted another paster in his book and I thought this statement had some truth in it : " You can tell how popular a church is by who comes on Sunday morning. "You can tell how popular the pastor or evangelist is by who comes on Sunday night. "But you can tell how popular Jesus is by who comes to the prayer meeting." He also quoted a great Scottish writer named Andrew Bonar: "God likes to see His people shut up to this, that there is no hope but in prayer. Herein lies the Church's power against the world." The amazing thing however, about this guy and the book and the church was they really got down to praying and wow what things happened. Wish you could read it. However we stayed in a church for 18 years and we finally changed churches a few years back and it was the best thing we have done. That church was getting more and more legalistic and the leadership was having such a negitive effect. We did not believe in church hopping, thus we stayed for so long. But God kept saying "no" to our prayers. The church has lost about 1/2 of the original congregation---actually more. It is so sad, but I believe we did the right thing. We talked to the pastor and told him why we were leaving...we remain friends...he has retired, but the new guy is even more legalistic. I hate divisions and we didn't want to cause any so we felt leaving would be the better thing to do. They just don't see the beauty of the gospel in quite the right way. Well got to go to bed!! I was supposed to be there 30 minutes ago!!

Jeannelle said...


Thank you for the wise words! Especially that thought.....shut up and pray. Those words I should put on posters all over my house for ME to read daily!

Do you know much about confessional Lutheranism? They don't emphasize or encourage puts too much focus on what "I can do" or something like that. Awhile back, in one of his first sermons here, a young pastor said "Our prayers are as filth." I might agree with that for those who are outside of Christ, but to say that to your congregation who is supposedly "in Christ". Didn't make much sense to me.

Yes, indeed, "internetmonk" is thought-provoking and promotes a needed dialogue between Christian factions. Through his site, I also found Scot McKnight's site.....I have his book "The Jesus Creed."

Blessings on your day! Thanks again for your comments!