Derek Johnson Muses

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August Daze and Winds of Change

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Seward Square…

The turning of the calendar to August marked the three month anniversary of my move into my new home. Three months is a season, so a new chapter has been written and something has changed in my head. I can’t wait to find out what that is.

Walking around my new neighborhood is different because of the heat and the trails don’t feel as wide open. Instead, I walk down to the square and sit read or just watch for people. I’m surprised more people aren’t around the square in the evening, but I suppose if there were more people there, I wouldn’t feel like sitting there and reading.

I always enjoy seeing children and young people hanging out and playing around the square, or on the street outside my house. I wonder if the teenagers are dying to get out of this cracker-jack town like I was when I was their age. (Hope their plans for that go better than mine did.) Sitting out there watching the kids from a bench I wonder to myself if I would have been better off leaving this place.

I had grand plans for leaving this place in high school. I didn’t talk about them with most people but simply went on thinking that I would find a new place to call home, because I knew in my heart this wasn’t my home. I still don’t feel like Seward is my home, even if all visual evidence speaks to the contrary.

Even recently, I still feel inside that God is calling me to leave Seward. I’ve seen evidence to that in the last year, but no path has come together, and given my history, I feel I shouldn’t leave this town without certain things in place. But God is still telling me that He has plans for me elsewhere in this world. Maybe I’m just coming up with this stuff as a way to blame my problems on circumstances. Even if I leave this town, I’m still the same person with the same problems, and I can’t expect everything to magically change. But maybe if I don’t expect everything to change, I will make the most of a move…, oh forget it, I’m reasoning this all out.

Road Downtown...

Road Downtown…

Writing has not come as easily this summer. Maybe I have not been putting as many good things into my head, maybe I need more meaningful interactions and clear some things off my schedule. I do spend more time into editing, to see that the hours invested writing projects don’t go to waste. but I can see things in my past that I left unresolved. At the time, it was the easiest thing in the world not to do anything about certain things, but they have caught up to me now. It’s time to take action.

Considerations while Receiving Communion

Remember This at All?

Remember This at All?

“But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:13-14)

“Dear Savior, we come to your table at your gracious invitation to eat and drink your holy body and blood. Let us find favor in your eyes to receive this holy sacrament in faith for the salvation of our souls and to the glory of your holy name.” (Lutheran Worship, Prayer before Reception of Holy Communion.)

I think about this scripture and pray this prayer when I go take communion often. I’m not sure why (a version of the prayer is in the front of LSB), except that I might have something to with the fact that I’m always rushed because I have to go back up to the choir loft and tape another hymn, or I’m the last usher in line and have to tell pastor who to go give to communion in the pew to. Point is, I go to communion with a busy mind and a guilty heart sometimes. I still get Christ’s body and blood, which is fear-inducing.

It’s probably a good thing that communion is for sinners.

Prayer Books Just Sitting There…

My Treasury of Daily Prayers stares at me from its post on the kitchen table. I try to read it over breakfast most days, and I hope I succeed more than I fail. I rotate other devotional books through-a daily Luther book, a daily Walther, both of whom are worth reading. The daily Luther blog was great too, when it was being update. (Whoever did that, please come back and continue it.) A word of advice to Christian youth: you never think that you’ll get caught up and need devotional time until you really do.

Devotions always feel sluggish to me, but that’s just how they are supposed to feel. That’s probably the devil too, telling me I already know what’s in the scriptures. It’s the same thing I hear in my ear when I go to listen to Issues, Etc., podcasts and choose the quick, 10 minute social issues-cast over the in-depth Bible study. Yes, it’s easier to get into that controversial, call-to-arms, but I still need to carve out time to listen to God’s word. I keep having to remind myself how low the standards of our culture are.

I keep theology books in my bag. I don’t read them that often; they serve more as a talisman than anything else. Sometimes, I peruse them at stops when my brain isn’t going too fast, or when I’m out in Lincoln and don’t want to go home yet. I remember hearing an antidote once that, just like you can’t remember every meal you’ve ever eaten, so you can’t remember every sermon you’ve ever heard, or every devotion you’ve ever read for that matter. I hope that is true, but what concerns me more is when I forget sermons hours after they’re preached or spend my free hours thinking about drivel rather than what Pastor Todd says on the radio.

This is what the hypocrite does: he carries around something just for others to see, or more importantly, for himself to believe that he is a good person. But I do have them with me. Perhaps I need to remember that my vocation isn’t to just read theology books or listen to podcasts; it’s too be a good worker, and a good writer. I listen to sacred music and read God’s word because Jesus died for me on the cross, and I need to be reminded of that over and over.

Right here for you...

Right here for you…

Why go to Easter Vigil and Long Communion Lines

If you are good Lutheran, you will have been to church three times in four days by the time Easter is up, so why would it hurt if you went four times in four days? I get it: you’re physically spent, and you literally can’t go to church again. But if you live in Seward, here’s the benefit of coming to Easter Vigil at St. John: you will get to watch yours truly play with fire!

Okay, that’s a really lousy reason compared to hearing about God’s grace and reason. But it is ironic that the two major festivals in the church, Christmas (celebration of the Incarnate Word) and Easter (Celebration of Christ’s victory), are both marked by service the night before that involve candles. One is the height of all celebration, the other is an afterthought.

Pastor Will Weedon does a lot better job of explaining Easter Vigil in this podcast, but let me state this from my experience: the service is a lot of readings (not unlike Christmas day), and focuses on how the story of the Bible has culminated in the event we celebrate on Easter, Christ’s resurrection, the promised and testified to hope. If you’re home, going to bed early for 6:30 sunrise service, I understand. But you are missing out.

It’ll look just like this.

Lutherans seem talk about communion a lot, but in one of two ways: one, there are those who talk about what a joy it is to receive Christ’s body and blood, and two, how long it takes. I haven’t met a lot of Lutherans who will talk about both.

Let me just say this, since Easter is tomorrow and you’re probably going to find yourself in a long line: give thanks that it takes so long to go up for communion. You get to sing more hymns, and more time to ponder the mystery of the sacrament. And if you’re church has a lot of old people who sit in front like mine does, it’s going to take them a long time to get up there. I’m on the ushering committee at St. John, I know how long it takes.

I’m guessing there are certain congregations in the LCMS that discontinued weekly communion because it just took so long and so many volunteer hours, which I get. But while it’s up to an individual congregation to decide how often they communion, just remember: you are receiving a gift from God, with your brothers and sisters, for your eternal salvation. Do you really want to complain about how long it takes to set the table and do the dishes?

Let me share from my own personal experience. Since I usher at St. John’s, there are Sundays I don’t get to read the prayer in the front of the hymnal before I go up to take communion. Sometimes, I do feel rushed, since I communion at the end and have to tell Pastor who needs to receive communion in the pew (which is a significant responsibility). I don’t always take communion with the best mindset, but I’m there, and my receiving depends on what God does for me, not what I’m thinking at the time.

So this Sunday, when you’re in a long line headed to an assist who is standing outside the altar, just remember: you’re able to have slice of heaven this because Jesus gave up his God-head and rose from the dead. Even if you’re groggy, you’re getting Christ’s body and blood.

Where Family Experience Left Me

I grew up in a small family. My parents married shortly after college, but waited until they were in their thirties until they had my older sister and myself. It always bugged me that they didn’t have more kids. My sister and I would go out and socialize with other, larger homeschool families, many of whom had six or seven kids, from unions that began in their early twenties. My mother raised my sister and I in a large farmhouse, and because we never left for school in the morning, I learned to burrow in and find adventures in my own mind.

As I’ve grown into the world, I have lived a life mostly by myself, but recently, I have come to appreciate more how important large families can be. It started when I was watching Arrested Development on Netfix. I observed, whenever someone in the family had a problem, they went and talked about it with someone else in the family. The family, while not perfect, had a lot of different people to turn to when something bad happened, and a lot of bad stuff happened to this family. It got me to thinking: in our society, did we replace our brothers and sisters with therapists and life coaches? Was sexual promiscuity a way to replace our cousin Becky who told us about how sensitive some girls were, or uncle Bill who taught us how to change a tire? Was a family just God’s way of providing for many of our physical needs.

While our family isn’t exactly the closest, meddle-in-each-others business that some families are, it has been a great boon for me. I don’t have college debt because of my parents, and when I struggled to find a job after college, I was able to begin working for my dad’s company, a position that has afforded me a lot of flexibility.

In the years after I left college, I saw a number of people who were not as fortunate as I was. Having been homeschooled and gone to liberal arts, private college, I was stunned to met co-workers who literally had no curiosity about life, people, and relationships. Some had been burned by their parents’ divorce or their own, some had children out of wedlock they were trying to support. They simply went to their jobs and went home at night, never asking the question of what would make their lives better, or how they could serve their neighbor.

Over the past few months, I began reading a lot online about the marriage debate and about how birth control, and eventually abortion have changed our society, causing us to put our focus on what doesn’t matter. There were a number of influences: Jennifer Roeback Morse on Issues, Etc. and her own blog, dealing marriage and the sexually promiscuous culture; the book The Flip Side of Feminism by Suzanne Venker, calling out our modern generation of twenty-somethings for their entitlement and indulgence; and, most recently, Mark Preus’ paper on his natural family and fatherhood, and how it connects to the Biblical family.

This whole process of realizing the truth about family and life style choices has been very humbling, because of the years I’ve run of and hid in my own depression. But I have come to realize that I have to start making incremental changes in my attitude, the music I listen to, and even the stuff I read online. There are certain things I can’t change about myself right now. I don’t have the means to start a family (kind of need a woman for that), but I know I will come into it with a different attitude. I don’t know if I’ll even want to have kids of my own, but I’ve warmed to the possibility.

Judges 21: Stealing Wives & Israel’s Leadership Void

At St. John in Seward, the Heritage Room Study recently completed a series on the book of Judges. Yes, that’s right, we dug into the Old Testament. (Jerry Pfabe said he’d kept the notes around for thirty plus years.) Last Sunday, we had an interesting discussion on the end of the book

When I was a kid, I always thought the ending of Judges was odd. The Benjamites couldn’t marry their fellow Israelites because of their injustices, so they went off and stole wives from a foreign country. The main thing I remember was the last verse. ” In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25 ESV) The Benjamites kidnapping the daughters of Shiloh didn’t really sound  that bad, but of course, a lot of things don’t sound as bad after you read about Israel annihilating the Benjamite women, children, and livestock. So when Dr. Pfabe compared what the Israelites did to human trafficking, I reconsidered the story in those different terms.

“Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Kind of sounds like the modern slogan of whatever is true for you is true. But one thing that comes through in the whole story is no one is leading Israel in the campaign against Benjamin. You can’t always fault people for not having great leadership in front of them, although it doesn’t absolve the from personal responsibility either. Israel may have had the Moses and the books of the law, but they didn’t listen to them.

That’s probably why I don’t fault the Benjamites that much for stealing daughters away from Shiloh, and taking them away from their families. May be if Israel had good king or judge, that leader would have gone around Israel and taken up a national offering to pay the dowries for the Benjamites to marry wives from another neighbor. But instead, they took the more expedient route.

Still, their world was much different than ours is today. Remember, Lot’s daughters slept with their father to continue their line (and so created two of Israel’s worst enemies, Genesis 19). Letting the Benjaminites die off and loosing a tribe of Israel was so heartbreaking to the rest of the nation, they compromised their own plan. Keeping the family together is important, even at the expanse of breaking up someone else’s family.

But at least the men who wrote the Old Testament were honest enough to include Israel’s flaws. Prof. Moulds noted this at one of St. John’s studies on Leviticus, that while Israel’s neighbors were writing long books with nothing but praise for their kings, Israel’s priests and prophets constantly condemned their own people, which undoubtedly (aside from divine inspiration) helped the Scriptures endure down to our day.

We don’t know hat happened to those girls. Personally, I hope that many of them went on to lead, long happy lives, and become good wives and mothers. Of course, I’m being really optimistic, but that’s just my hope, that even though these guys treated them poorly at first, they repented, and treated them better.

Land Without Football: Think on the Good

So football ended a couple of weeks ago, and I hear a lot of people saying how much they miss it. I do miss football too, but not that much. Don’t get me wrong, Husker football is still great rush, but part of what makes football great for me is that it runs its course from late August through January, and when it’s over, I love spending my Sunday afternoons with books or catching up with shows on Netflix. And this year, I’m bringing a new focus to my football-less season.

Football is just a game. It’s a way to get your juices going, and bond with your friends. In the fiction I’m now writing, whenever I can’t figure out what to write, I just have the characters start talking about their favorite team. But even when it’s on and I miss a game that I wanted to see, I have ways of keeping up with it. In 2011, I missed the dramatic Wisconsin-Michigan State game as we were driving back from the Nebraska-Minnesota game. I kicked myself, but I caught the replay in a bar three months later. Just the other day, I found a fifteen minute video highlight package of this past year’s Clemson at Florida State duel, just as dramatic and capturing the whole spirit of the game. This summer, I’ll probably catch this past year’s Penn State-Wisconsin game or Ohio State-Indiana shotout while I’m out on the couch at a Super 8 in small Wisconsin town X. So here’s my new focus.

When Ron Brown said it would be an honor to be fired because of his faith, I was reminded of how difficult it is to maintain a Christian worldview these days. It’s challenging for me to write about my faith, because I want to be liked so much, and sharing your Christian convictions in this culture can lead people to dislike you, even if you speak the truth in love. But I’ve been reading books and listening to programs on the natural family, and I want to write about it.

So I have made a renewed commitment to cut back on the ESPN radio and spend more time listening to Issues, Etc. I’ve rediscovered Focus on the Family, a program I used to listen to much more in my youth. As someone who enjoys writing about relationships, I don’t know why I haven’t turned back to Focus sooner. I read GetReligion.org and SteadfastLutherans.org, to stay politically and socially informed. Don’t worry, dear readers, you’ll still get sports insight, but they’ll just be some other stuff coming too.

My goal in all this to write good pieces, some about politics, some about religion in public life, some just about culture. These may appear controversial, but through watching way too much television, I believe there is great truth to be communicate, and I don’t think anyone in society benefits when beliefs get put on the shelves and resentment builds up. Our society has lost the ability to have civil debate, and I want to be a part of bringing some of that back.

So like me or hate me, I just ask that you read me. Besides, it’s still six months until football returns, so what else will you do?

Issues Etc. Vidcasts: Liturgy and American Revivalism

Driving across Wisconsin and Iowa, while exhausting and tiring, was a great time to get caught up on some Issues, Etc. podcasts that had been piling up. Issues, Etc. works great on the road espescially when you have series, which thanks to Pastor Will Weedon, I did.

I’d referenced this before, but I wanted to mention again how great Dr. Larry Rast’s podcast on American Revivalism is. It goes a long way to showing how dangerous emotion-driven Christianity and the idea of “new measures” are. Dr. Rast, I hope you write a book on this.

Acts 2 has to be the most-abused chapter in all of Scripture. The feminists use it to justify woman pastors, the non-dems use it to justify throwing out the liturgy, and the real extremists use it to justify universal redemption.

Concordia: The Open Road Back

After I finished my tour of our Wisconsin Test Plots, I took a swing by my alma mater, Concordia University Wisconsin. I attended there from 2003 to 2005 and never quite felt that I grafted in. Since my graduation, I had returned the campus twice before, both times in the spring; once in 2007, while I was on a pleasure trip with my friend Tom, and again in 2008, when I was on a business trip, I walked campus one night among the students. I don’t really get sentimental about my school or consider it my personal height, but college is a time that enters my dreams frequently, and I relish the chance to kindle old memories

They now make you get a permit at a guard booth at the turnoff into campus, if you just want to go down and look at the bluff. The campus itself requires an access card to get inside, but after my walk on the lakeshore and around campus, I found a propped door and walked the hallways I once did as a student. In contrast to the new buildings, the halls are still lined with grossly obvious mosaic tile. The whole building is really just a contrast between shiny new buildings and un-updated doors, floors, and what have you. When I unwittingly ascended the fire-well of my old dorm, I saw the doors of the Augusburgh rooms remained the same pale shells with privacy glass they’d always been.

The dorm I lived four semesters in.

After I’d strolled my old stomping grounds, I took a seat by the bluff and wrote the following:

I’m sitting here overlooking the bluff at CUW. Beautiful summer day. This is like San Francisco in that there’s a huge structure next to a body of water.
Nine years ago in the fall, I came here to study to be a pastor. I’m not that guy any more, but a part of me never left here. The boy that was here was praying by a thread that he’d make it through seminary, that he could hold his mind together that long. (In retrospect, that boy never died). In the spring of 2005, I declared the enterprise a failure. Everyone around me had friends, and I would leave here with no social life to speak of. The embarrassment was unbearable; in the years that followed, I realized a lot of that was because I didn’t have the support structure a lot of people here had in terms of family. (Upon further reflection, there are two ways I didn’t have support. One, from my family, and two, I acted like a snob when I got on campus, not recognizing how getting to know people was important to personal development.)
I wish I would have taken more time here to get to know people and impact their lives. I do hope over the years I can reconnect with some of the people from that time, just to see how things have changed with them, and may be remember a good part of myself I lost.
It’s odd how much has changed here at CUW. When I went to school here, there were two buildings that looked semi-modern, Regents Hall and the athletic center. Now there’s the pharmacy school and the Center for Environmental Stewardship that has replaced the Peace Center dorm, the last rustic CUW building. New Coburg dominate the skyline. (The new buildings make the campus feel likes it’s a campus for a digital world, leaping off a crystal clear screen.)  I was shocked by the money they put into the baseball stadium, plus the soccer field (although I really shouldn’t be). But the only thing I wish I could have enjoyed in my day is the restored bluff leading down to Lake Michigan. Things are moving fast here, as well they should.
But the one place where the majority of my memories reside are in the Rogate Chapel. Today, I went in there and prayed for strength of faith until death. If that the only thing I learned here, it was worth it.

Rogate

The hard part for me now, as I alluded to above, was the fact that I was studying to be a pastor and decided February of my senior year, that it wasn’t worth it. The decision not to go to seminary was a hard one: I was a very successful student in Greek and Hebrew, and everyone expected that I would go on to a doctoral program. But a lack of social support combined with a personal breakdown lead me off the course I was on.

It was over five years until I really felt like I had accomplished something outside of CUW. When my Dad gave me a lot of responsibility with testing seeds and I pulled through on it, I knew I really could do something right. That was a point in my life I found a self outside of my college self and began to realize that my life now was about what I had become.

Going back to my alma mater is hard, but making something out of that history into what I am is daunting. Because that place is part of what I am.

Lent Wraps Up. Now…

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, and I am now thinking back to the post that I wrote back on Ash Wednesday about repentance, and my experience going into Lent. Now that Lent is over, I find myself wondering if I should ask me myself if I learned anything.

I suppose there is some legitimacy to my musings; if I were a student, I suppose I would have to write notes on the subject of what repentance means. But isn’t more than that? Don’t I have to record some moment of personal growth? Not necessarily, but here’s what I heard at church and what I took from it.

Our sermon series at church was messages preached from the perspective of many of those involved directly in Holy Week: Judas, Pontius Pilate, Peter, Barrabbas. Hearing from each of these people lead me to think through the cycle of sin and repentance. There are many days when that gets tiring, especially when I struggle with the same sins day after day. Once again, temptation lies open in front of me; you’ve heard this message, and it’s boring you now, it’s not new. Why do you need it? Being the type who loves to write, the temptation is especially powerful as I’m always seeking out new perspective (and being at the end of a creative “season” if you will, I feel that temptation strongly now).

And then there’s the opposite temptation: stay in church but stymie your ears. Hey, you’ve heard it, and you know it. You don’t need constant fellowship. There are so many sermons on the internet, you can just go to church at home, with a virtual presence. And after all you’ve been through and how people in the church hurt you…

I’m sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s a story I’m not quite ready to tell, only to see there were people who gave me (albeit indirectly) every reason to walk away from this church. But I have chosen otherwise.

So what exactly did I learn this Lent? That I’m not perfect. More precisely, though, I think I’d better get used to the fact that certain cycles never end. Praise the Lord that forgiveness is one of them.

A note on these videos from Pastor Harrison: we are indeed blessed to have such a powerful spokesperson for our church body, and one thing we should take from these videos is that it does a lot of good when we pray and write notes of support to our pastors and those above us (including Facebook comments). For those of my fellow young adults out there, consider his comments in the video above about young people loosing interest in religion, and know that you have the responsibility to encourage your leaders and share the message with those in your circle of influence. Let us continue to do so joyfully.

In closing, here’s Pastor Harrison’s Holy Week video from last year:

Isaiah 2-4: God’s Mercy Throughout (Part 3)

(All scripture quotes from ESV)

I had an odd experience in preparing my study for Isaiah 2-4. I read the text, the notes, and the commentary, but the most I learned about it when was I listened to Isaiah 2-4 online. As I heard Isaiah’s sermon flow together, I realized how little I’d learned about reading everyone else’s thoughts on it.

After Isaiah’s firey first chapter, the prophet then continues to deal with his main theme: Israel has transgressed against her maker and is deserving of condemnation. There is a perfect kingdom to come, so this transgressed one must be judged. God wants all men to be saved, but that requires judgment.

The structure of the three chapters is very straightforward: God’s perfect kingdom (2:1-5), the judgment at the end of times (2:6-22), the present judgment on Judah (3:1-4:1), and again, the glorified branch of the Lord (4:2-6). As I wrote in an earlier post, I struggle greatly with the structure that Isaiah uses: visions of God’s perfect kingdom, followed by decries of judgment. But God always gives us hope in the midst of sufferings, for we are never completely free of sufferings, even if it appears this way.

Isaiah 2:2 begins with a familiar phrase: “in the latter days”. Joel will use this latter on, in the passage Peter quotes in his sermon to the Jews on Pentecost in Acts 2. This is definitely a phrase that means “after the end of this world, when God has established his kingdom on earth. In 2:5, Isaiah calls Judah to “walk in the light of the Lord”. This concludes His calling the church from all nations to come to mount Zion, but it also serves as a transition to the section on judgment. When the Judah Isaiah was calling comes into the light, their sin is exposed.

Isaiah’s proclamation of the final judgment juxtapositions two things: God’s glory in judgment, and man’s helplessness before God in the face of that judgment. Israel has used its worldly standards for its society and has put its trust in material things, and above all its riches. But when God comes in his might, man will flee in fear and try to hide, just as Adam and Eve tried to hide in the garden and Israel hid before God’s face when he came down at Mount Sinai. The temptation Israel gave into was to think they were doing well. And that is one of the hallmarks of wealthy people: they see all their wealth, and to a certain degree, they are delusion because they had to break so many rules to get that wealth. But what does God say? “Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?” (v. 22)

Too often, we need to be reminded that God’s judgment also means wrath as well as salvation. Many of the modern praise songs say “Mighty, mighty, mighty”, but God has said he will judge the unbelievers. In the Te Deum, we sing with the cherubims, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Sabbath” but those words can only be sung in joy after we recount Christ’s work for us in the later verses.

Then Isaiah moves to the present (chapter 3): just as Judah will be judged on the last day with all people, so they will be judged here and now for their sins. Because of their confidence in their possession,  poverty will grip the nation. This will come through one form: a lack of leadership (v. 4, 12), which will be passed down to the people as they will have no one who will be able for households.

As in Isaiah 1:9, the prophet once again compares Judah to the city Lot fled “they proclaim their sin like Sodom” (v. 9). This comparison is to show the depth of Judah’s falling: “they do not hide (their sin) Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves.” (v. 9b) This corruption lies in the mind, because Israel has believed that their living it up on the wealth of the land and burning incense in the high places is the right way of living.

But, after Isaiah speaks of “seven women shall take hold of one man” (4:1), he then again goes back “in that day” (v. 2) “The branch of the Lord” is indeed Christ, the branch of David. As in 1:18, Isaiah speaks of God washing us (v. 4), and God creating a pure Israel, and the language of verse 5 (“a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night”) is reminiscent of God leading Israel in the dessert.

God has a blessed plan for people: even though we may sin in this life and run far from His mercy, God will discipline us when we do, so that we see the folly in trusting in the things of this life. And He will establish a Kingdom beyond this, which is what Jesus came to proclaim. Thanks be to him!

Why I am a Lutheran: Because I Can’t Think of a Better Title for this Post

As you might have been able to ascertain from some of my earlier post, I’m a devoted Christian person, and a member of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. The LCMS is a small circle, based mostly in the rust belt, and full of old people. I set out to write this piece to try to explain why I’m a Lutheran, and truth be told, there isn’t a good reason. But here’s my experience.

Seriously, though, the reason I’m a Lutheran: I have no connection to the Catholic Church, and I won’t go to the non-dems. (Side note: when I say non-dems, it is what most people refer to as evangelicals, but since those “evangelicals” have stolen that term and hidden the gospel, I’m going to call them non-dems.) I have really struggle with this over the past few years, as I do feel like the non-dems have a better grasp on dealing with certain practical problems than do Lutherans. But the truth is, I can’t go into a non-dem church, and believe anything they do during the service is more than amusement.

The non-dems just want to get people in the kingdom, and give them lists when they do. One thing that really saddens me is when Lutherans join non-dem churches. They say to themselves, listen, I grew up in an ordered, structured church that taught me a lot of doctrine and theology. I can go over to fun-time, amusement church and have a good time. I have a couple of things to say to that. First, Luther said he always remained the catechism’s student late into his life; saying we’ve mastered God’s doctrine is just an insult to him: if we have mastered his doctrine, why do we even need to go to church? Second, the person who says he wants to get away from the fighting, structured Lutheran church for the happy non-dem church sounds like someone who wants to get divorced instead of work on a bad marriage.

Me, I went through a time of searching after college, but I never thought seriously about leaving the Lutheran church. First, I went to a more conservative LCMS church in Lincoln, then I ended up at an AFLC church, which I knew after about five or six weeks, I wouldn’t stay at long-term. Then I ended up back at home congregation of St. John in Seward, mainly because I was too lazy to go anywhere else, and I just wanted to get the church hopping over with. But I may move in a couple of month, and the whole process may start over again.

I have a lot of reasons not to be Lutheran. In college, I studied theology in order to become a pastor, but abandoned that course of study when I realized I was in far over my head and connections with the people I was going to school with broke down. I really wasn’t prepared to be a pastor, but I learned a lot from my study of Luther and theology back in those day. Frankly, it is that knowledge, which keeps coming to me via Issues, ETC, and through church, that keeps me in church. I know the value of the sacrament, and of my baptism. I know that if I went to a non-dem church those things would not have value. I know the value of a liturgy, that the songs we sing in church should be hard to sing, and we should take time to learn them. I want to sing songs that tell the whole story of the trinity (Te Deum), not just the same Mighty to Save-blah-blah-blah chorus over and over.

Specifically, it is my knowledge of history that drives me to the Lutheran altar, and I think if a lot of people actually took some time to study American non-demism they would find its origins to be quite shocking. For those of you who are interested, let me link a couple of presentations by Dr. Larry Rast, now president of Concordia Theological Seminary. Here, he digs into the roots of American non-demism, and how it sought to bring in the new by discarding the marks of the church, namely the sacraments.  In the end, the non-dems just open the Bible and tell everyone they teach from it, like it’s a magic book. They make little effort at historical continuity with early church, because that would take so much time, and there are too many people to reach. Like God couldn’t handle it. Check out on the link below, the podcast American Revivalism, and secondly Confessional Lutheranism and American Evangelicalism.

http://issuesetc.org/guest/larry-rast/

This knowledge keeps me walking in the fold, but it doesn’t save me. It lets me know that there are a great cloud of witnesses going back 2,000 years, but it doesn’t connect with God. The sacrament itself does that. Every day, I read in the scriptures about how God is great and merciful, and he comes to me. I don’t have to go any other place to feel good about that, because it’s good itself.

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