A friend wrote me a sad note a bit ago about not enjoying identifying himself as a Lutheran anymore. I have to confess that it is something that I do not quite understand. Yes, I know being a Lutheran is mega-uncool. All the self-professed "thinkers" have left or are leaving. My friend mentioned being fed up with the whole Lake Woebegone schtick, disgusted over reading the latest Reporter and stuff about the upcoming Synodical Convention. I have sympathy with his revulsion to the way many contemporary Lutherans are headed, of course. But the name Lutheran? It's still one that brings good associations.
What does it mean to me? This is just personal reflection, understand. But when I hear Lutheran...
It calls to mind my first encounter with the Eucharist as the true body and blood of Christ. I can still see the young people at St. Andrew kneeling to receive and then walking back and spending time in prayer afterwards. Their heads bowed, their faces, well, grateful.
It calls to mind my brother Maupin ribbing my side as the water was poured into the font and him saying: "That's for you!"
It calls to mind Palm Sunday services with palms! Maundy Thursday solemn celebrations of the Supper. Good Friday with seven sermons on the seven last words. And Easter with overflowing joy. It calls to mind Advent and Lenten Vespers in the middle of the week, and learning Psalm 130 by heart from the back of TLH, with pastor singing the bass-line.
It calls to mind spending six weeks each year with the Passion of Jesus in sermon, hymn, anthem, and prayer.
It calls to mind joining the choir and processing in to the music of "Built on the Rock" as we celebrated a jubilant Reformation Day; and this was when I still had not the foggiest notion how to sing in parts. But the others did - and what a rich sound.
It calls to mind Bible studies that wrestled with the sacred text and invited us not to be afraid to hear what was being said and honestly to react to it.
It calls to mind the beautiful Christmas trees and the real branches around the Advent wreath. The acolytes standing on tiptoe to reach the tall candles on the gradine.
It calls to mind the ringing of bells, the chanting of psalms, the huge "for you ness" of it all.
It calls to mind evangelism visits and visiting the booth at the county fair, replete with tracts from LLL.
It calls to mind listening to sermons that did not fail week after week to deliver the goods: real law that exposed and stripped me of all excuses and real Gospel that refreshed me and sent me on my way with joy.
It calls to mind hymns and chants that sounded different from anything I'd ever heard before. I still remember the first time Herzliebster Jesu made itself known to me.
It calls to mind memorizing the catechism and reciting it for Mrs. Bleckley and receiving her kind chastisement for not having it down exactly correct.
It calls to mind the heady years at Bronxville where the music of the Lutheran Church opened before me like a vast ocean waiting to be explored, and into which I got to plunge in chapel choir, tour choir, and chorus.
Lutheran to me calls to mind the people, the vast numbers of people, to whom p. 15; Trinity Sunday and the Athanasian Creed; and "this is most certainly true" brings the smile of shared experience to the face.
To me the word "Lutheran" conjures up all that to me and so much more. A negative? No way. A joy. The joy of a forgiven sinner, welcomed home to the Father's house and learning to rejoice in grace from so many who have gone before. Indeed, "this is most certainly true."