This past couple Sundays away on the road have given me lots of encouragement and a renewed confidence that our Lutheran churches are extremely capable of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ in effective ways to a new generation of Americans.
Last Sunday my family attended Redeemer Lutheran Church in Valparasio, IN. We were staying at my brother’s house in Valpo but we needed to get on the road and Redeemer had an 8 am worship! I know I grew up as a kid on an 8 am service so it was a blast for me, but I have NEVER seen an 8 am service advertised in PA except for Catholic daily masses. I have thought about having a small 8 am service for those who would appreciate the early hour, but no one has ever said that would be a good idea, and I always got the feeling that it would simply be asking way too much to expect anyone other than the few elderly folks who usually get up at 4:30 am to attend…
Well, we came into this rather large sanctuary just at 8 am and I was totally surprised that it was almost FULL! And there were FAMILIES with little kids and teenagers and everything in between! I have no idea if it is just tradition, the culture, the ?, that makes an 8 am service possible, but whatever it was – it was great! The service was filled with beautiful music with a grand sounding organ and soloists. It was liturgically effective and “down to earth” at the same time. The pastor preached quite effectively and I left completely refreshed and renewed in my faith. It was great to be sitting with my family as well!
This last Sunday we attended another LCMS church, Beautiful Savior, in the western suburbs of the Minneapolis. This is a larger church and we were attending the baptism of my newborn nephew Carlos. The baptism was to be held during the “contemporary” worship at 11 am. It was very differProxy-Connection: keep-alive
t from the Valparasio worship, but it was probably the best “contemporary” worship service I have been to, having all the proscribed elements of a regular liturgical service, but having an ensemble “band” that led the more contemporary songs and hymns. The ensemble was not in any way loud or obnoxious or distracting. They had a violinist that lent a tangible sense of class to the ensemble. Again, although there were some in my family who thought a bit differently, I thought the sermon was really fine and the baptismal service was really well done. I felt, again, very hopefull that our LCMS is actually quite capable of being “church” in our new century.
The only thing that I guess I was somewhat disappointed about was that at Beautiful Savior there was a distinct lack of evidence that it was an LCMS church. For instance I think the only publication or bulletin board item that was published by the LCMS was a single Portals of Prayer devotional that was there for the taking. All of the Bible Studies, mission opportunities, VBS and Sunday School programs were all from outside the pale of Lutheranism. In the end I think this will definitely backfire on a church and I am not sure of the reasons for this. There are PLENTY of ways our Lutheran church body supports the needs of a congregation and helps it retain its Lutheran mind and heart.
All in all, I am very happy to be a Lutheran and part of our LCMS. There are LOTS of great things going on in our church we need to celebrate!