Anthea's Lutheran Ramblings

thoughts and observations from an evangelical turned confessional

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My first Lutheran sermon
Luther Rose
I will never forget the first time I noticed a Lutheran sermon. I had grown up attending a liturgical Episcopal church, and had attended services at many, many denominations over the years going with friends' families when I slept over or playing my flute for some special something or another. I had also attended many, many Lutheran services and had attended a "Lutheran" high school. In fact, I represented the school on "Lutheran High Sunday" at almost every LCMS and ELCA congregation in town. The point is, it wasn't the first Lutheran sermon I heard (probably), it was just the first one I noticed.

I think at this point I was in college and home for some break. I went to church with my friend and his family to their church. Everything was pretty normal for the whole service, more or less the same as the Episcopal services I was familiar with. Lots of standing and sitting (no kneeling, though), lots of singing, all leading up to the sermon.

But, this sermon was different. In this sermon, the pastor talked about what God does for us - I mean, beyond the obvious "Jesus died for you" stuff. He kept saying things like we go to church to receive the gifts God gives us there, not for what we bring to God, and how He saved us and it wasn't through anything we did. I was shocked, offended even!

I had learned the Jesus stuff a few years before, and had been literally living my life based completely on: "Awesome! I believe and accept Jesus died for me and saved me! Okay, what now?? How do I show God that I'm a Christian and want to please Him and grow in my walk every day getting closer to Him?" I had been going to church to learn how to be a better Christian, and this pastor was saying the opposite. He was saying all my work was in vain and that church was there for God doing things for us!

When we were on our way to the car after the service I turned to my friend and said something along the lines of, "I can't believe the pastor said that stuff in the sermon! About the point of church being about what God does for us [note: other than the Jesus thing, God always did that]!! That was so crazy!!"

I was fully expecting him to say, "I know, right? That was insane!" Instead, his face seemed to reflect my shock as he stared at me for a few seconds and then sort of shrugged and said, "Um, I think that pretty much is the point."

It would be another 5 years or so before I would change my beliefs about the purpose of church. And it was a long and ugly battle of my righteousness versus God's gifts. But, I will always remember that shocking morning vividly.

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I have little idea when I learned or believed different things, just that it was a slow progression for me too. Conversion, or at least finally believing in God and automatically switching over to believing the Bible was inerrant, since I knew that was part of the paradigm, though all I knew were the stories and little of the theology or the point. Memory of being corrected on 'how do we know we're going to heaven?' Etc.

Makes for trouble figuring out what to say when people ask how you were saved, etc. But at least it's truer to life, both yours and theirs, since it remains a struggle.

That "when I became a Christian" thing has been sticky for me, too. When I started at the Lutheran school, we had to do "Bible reflection" journal entries sometimes in class. I misunderstood the assignment and thought we were supposed to do them every night at home. So, I went home and started reading the Bible completely haphazardly (randomly opening to a page and reading) and writing my thoughts about it in a journal.

I remember figuring out at some point that the 'more interesting' parts were closer to the end, so I started regularly flipping to the NT. Then, I sorta got into what I was reading and started believing it. Dunno when, didn't have a "Ah ha!" moment. Just... gradually over time grew into my Baptism, if one can say that. I wish I still had that journal, but I've never been able to find it since then.

Now, for a while I was afraid I wasn't really a Christian because I never answered one of the many altar calls we would have in Chapel because I was too shy and scared (and didn't have a lightning bolt from the sky to my heart kind of conversion experience). So, I thought I must not have very good faith if I couldn't even do that for God.

it's been good thinking back about this stuff recently... and remembering where I've come from. It makes me appreciate all the more where I am now (not that I've arrived, just let go a little along the way) :)

Lightning bolt from the sky can also be the cross being torn off the top of the church when ELCA had its assembly! Not always a good thing. =) Luther's lightning bolt is in the biographies, but it actually drove him to be bathed in the Law for a long time.

A lot of the more interesting things to me are in the OT. People being people, what happened and the consequences. And a lot of hidden comfort from God, with the NT more blatant about it because I need that too. Walther's Law and Gospel was very helpful for making me want more, but it still took the shock of stupid things I did, as a Christian, to put me there.

I have the same 'not really a Christian' fear even now. But maybe it's just the current struggle?

I'm always glad when you think about this stuff. Or at least when you post about it. =)

Answering "How were you saved?" is only a problem because we want to answer in terms that the questioner will understand, in their language. If we answer, "When Jesus died on the cross to wash away my sins, and when He baptized me to make me His own" they might think it's a weirdo answer. But it's the real answer. And the Holy Spirit works faith when the Word is spoken rightly. In human terms, the questioner may not understand or may protest that WE didn't DO something, but that's a step in the right direction.
-- Susan

So, I'm nosy. Do I know this pastor who preached that offensive sermon?
-- Susan

Susan, I don't even know who the pastor was! It was at Redeemer in Rockford early 2000's, and that's all I remember. So, maybe you do?

Nope, I don't think so; I can't think of any Rockford pastors I knew. Just wondered, though. Thanks.

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