Sunday, June 12, 2011

I'm a Lutheran snob, and proud of it.

Today we attended the combined Traditional and Liturgical Service (also known as the Tradurgical or Liditional) at the base chapel.  It was only our second time attending as a family.  We are making a more concerted effort to get to worship, especially as Maddox gets older- I want to honor the promise we made at her baptism. You may wonder why we haven't been going to church while we are here in Korea and there are many different answers to that question (the new convenient 10:00am start time had something to do with it)- but I'll share a few of the reasons with you here.

One reason we didn't go to services was that-well.......we are high church Lutheran snobs.  That's right, even as liberal ELCA members, we just don't get as much out of going to contemporary worship as we do from the familiar predictability and comfort that a traditional Protestant service brings.  For me (and I'll speak for myself from here on out and not presume to know all Marshall's reasons), I want my church services to be pretty much the same every week.  I want to start out with a greeting, a few announcements, and then get right down to business with a Brief Order of Confession and Forgiveness.   In fact, if it's the old Green book confession (which I know I'll almost never get to say again) well, that would just rock my socks.  Anyone remember it?  This is from memory, but I'd venture to say I'm pretty close to the LBW version:

"Most merciful God, we confess that we are in bondage to sin, and cannot free ourselves.  We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed.  By what we have done, and by what we have left undone.  We have not loved you with our whole heart.  We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.  For the sake of your son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us.  Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name.  Amen."

Boom.  Call me a wanna-be Catholic, but I want my confession to kinda sound like that.  Anything a little too off from that basic outline, anything along the lines of an altar call- and you've lost me.  If we don't get on our knees, I'm not feeling really very confessiony at all.  After that I'd love a Sharing of the Peace, but please, Lord have mercy, do NOT make your guests raise their hand, introduce themselves, or in any other way point out the unsaved heathens in the crowd!  I mean honestly, that's the fastest way to get people to never come back.  You think I sound like a snob now?  Just wait.

Alright, after all the hand shaking and "Peace of the Lord be with you"- "And also with you" kinda stuff....we need to sing Hymns.  You know- from a hymnal.....those are these books full of printed music that are mysteriously missing from some churches nowadays. And not slow hymns- it's Pentecost for crying out loud!  For future reference, any hymn that has a note to be sung over a C (the one above middle C), well that's just a little too high for most voices to reach comfortably on a Sunday morning.  One last note (lol) about music- if you are going to project the words up on a screen to a song the congregation has never heard before, be prepared for only the choir to sing.  Oh wait- there's no choir??  I'm outta here!!

Moving right along to the Lessons.  Yes, LessonS.  As in, more than one, ending with the Gospel.  I don't care who reads them, but they need to be followed with a "The word of the Lord" or something similar, and we can answer with a "Thanks be to God" just to high five the reader, cause us Lutherans are down with that kind of thing.

There needs to be an Offering thrown in there at some point.  God knows the church needs the money.  Now, if you REALLY want to get the most money the ushers need to pass those plates.  Don't just wave them in the general direction of the pew as you speed down the aisle and see if anyone makes eye contact- get the plates going all the way down every row, in fact if you make people actually turn and hand them to someone else- well that act alone will probably get you five more dollars.  Try it.  I mean it.

Here was the biggest point of contention for me today (and granted, we had a substitute minister from another I forgive him).  The Sermon.  There are time limits to people's attention spans, and any pastor knows this.  You've got to be like Seal team 6, you get in, get the job done, blow something up, and get the heck out of dodge.  Well, without the blowing up part, I am personally NOT a fan of the fire and brimstone method.  Tell some good stories, make sure to tie the ending in with the beginning, use some humor, vary the tempo of your speaking but NOT the volume (seriously, what is that about?  Are you trying to wake up people in the back, or scare the crud out of us?)- and please make sure to stay behind the podium.  I start squirming when the pastor starts walking around like we are having some casual conversation.  Lastly, don't end every paragraph with "Does that make sense?".  Not to mention how condescending it sounds (is what you are saying so above our heads that we wouldn't get it- well that's definitely a problem!) Do you really expect us to answer?  If we say NO we look foolish.  If we say YES we are talking during the sermon, and Mama said to never do that.  Mama trumps pastor.  The answer to every question asked in church is "Jesus".  Write it down.

After the sermon, get to communion and get there quick!  We are really hungry for some body of Christ, but please make it clear what we are supposed to do.  Whether it's rip and dip, tip and sip.....I get really confused sometimes.  The mini shot glasses are fun, but make sure we know what to do with them- we have plenty at home so I really don't need to take it with me.  And if you are going to offer communion to some, in my opinion the Lord's table is open to all- Jesus dined with prostitutes, thieves, and tax collectors, so please don't act like you need to see credentials to share the love of Christ with someone.

Communion is over.  You know people are checking their watches, the last hymn needs to be the fastest tempo of them all!  Get that choir high stepping out the door so we can get to the "Go in Peace and Serve the Lord"- "Thanks be to God" part!  What??  THERE'S NO CHOIR?  I'm outta here!

Now, to be clear, I am not writing any of this to offend or step on anyone's toes, but if anything, I am an equal opportunity offender!  I love all people regardless of their religious beliefs, preferences or lack thereof, what service they attend or don't attend, and I certainly hope to be forgiven for my snobbishyness in this post.  These are my opinions, no one else's.  Maybe I'll see you in church one day- or maybe not!  :)


adrienne_sakura said...

i love it mary! i have very similar views about worship which is why going from Presbyterian to a Lutheran was very easy. the church we have been attending in charleston has almost this exact format. and its a beautiful old church from the 1860s.
omg i just saw they are only do one service today at 10am and its 1020am now. craaaaaaap we missed church again. (last few weeks from being out of town)
fail. got all dressed up for nothing...
but any way. i agreed with you on the worship front. everyone has their own style. i like the traditional too. :D

Emily Cole said...

Yet again... you've said it all - I would have written this same post if I could have. It's awesome, and so funny to hear it out of your mouth because it's all in my head and heart too. Love you, Sis! You rock!

Eclectic Aspirations said...

I think Ill just point people here whenever I findmyself at a loss for describing why I like the services I do.

Anonymous said...

Mary, I loved reading your blog post. Although, I must admit that I am a bit envious that you even have a Traditional & Liturgical service on base. Here at the Army post in Germany where we live, the only options are generic Protestant (non-liturgical) or Catholic, and I feel more comfortable with the Catholics. Even though I can't take Communion, at least I can hear the appropriate lectionary readings and say the Creed! I don't think there is anything wrong with being a Lutheran snob, especially since you readily admit it!

Eleanor said...

Perfectly said, Mary! You haven't changed a bit and I love it!
I laughed aloud, I cried, I said Amen (well, not really) and all because the FLC sermons have degraded this exact thought now for many months. So sad. So frustrating. I hear the other dumbed down stuff all week. When I get to church on Sunday to worship Him in His high holiness, I want it to rock out with traditional Lutheranism! Cranberry, green, red, or even black, but make it come from the HYMNAL. We can read notes, not just words.

Anonymous said...

Mike said he posted a comment, guess he really didn't!

Sarabeth Hudson said...

I passed this on to a fellow Lutheran snob who loved it! She said you wrote everything she was never able to explain before :) I just wonder what they do over there in the Lutheran church to keep you all SO traditional!!! ;)

Kara Elizabeth said...

Emily told me to read this... and I love it. I can recite anything from the Green LBW, just as you did with the confession prayer. This, is why I don't go to church with my friends here at school. Thanks for being a Lutheran snob. Because you're awesome, and I highly enjoy snobbing around when it comes to things like this. After being raised Lutheran, there's no way I'll ever be able to participate in a different church. The ones in California were even too liberal for me. Love you all! :) Hope to see you when you're back in NC!

JennMac said...

I agree and disagree. I love the contemporary music of church but love the familiarity of traditional service. I grew up catholic so I was emersed in tradition. When I was in high school I went to my first real protestant church fell in love with the music but terrified. By the actual searvice. I think to many churches now days try to serve the people and not God.