Well, here we are at the last chapter of the book, The Spirituality Of The Cross, by Gene Edward Veith Jr. He literally titles this chapter, Conclusion, although there are some appendices to the book.
This chapter the author delves into his experience of walking into a Lutheran church for the first time with his wife and being awed by the service. He talks in some detail about becoming members and what it entailed and how all of it affected him. Through his vivid description, you do get a real sense of how it affected him. He talked about Lutheran worship being this “divine drama, a mystery in which Christ’s gift are received.” He continues to speak of the holiness of the service, the very sacred feel of it, contrasting it with mainstream evangelicalism’s current laid back manner of regular church service. He also talks about the difference between the current mainstream way of emotionally driven services against the backdrop of the Lutheran service which at first glance can seem emotionless, but can elicit deeper reactions that may not be readily seen by all.
This is where I’ll interject.
My experience in the Lutheran Church is minimal at best. I have attended a handful of services at a local congregation that would probably not pass muster in some LCMS circles(and it’s not ELCA either). The pastor dresses like a regular guy and while it is liturgical, it also feels a bit contemporary. I say all that to make you understand my first experience is not the author’s. I have only visited with a friend and not my wife, who enjoys attending our current non-denominational church. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the opportunity to become a member. I’ll have to let time be the judge of that. Despite all these differences, I truly understand what the author is saying. He uses words like “holiness”, “sacredness’, “set apart”. For me, walking into the service, listening to the liturgy, the hymns, the Word of God being preached, immediately brought to mind the word CONTRITE and it was wonderfully freeing for me.
There was this acknowledgment of our sinfulness against the backdrop of Christ’s forgiveness. It was marvelous. I can be a forgiven sinner and a child of God and feel comfortable that both titles apply to me right here, right now. The hymns, the prayers, the sermons, even within the liturgy, there was this deep acknowledgment of our flawed condition and Christ perfect atoning work which is forever applied to us, past present AND future. Where mainstream evangelical churches avoid the words “sin” or “sinful” in favor of current mainstays such as “mistakes” and “failures”, the Lutheran Congregation seem to purposefully use those words, not as a badge of honor but as a simple acknowledgement that puts us in a right place in relation to God and all He has done! When the pastor spoke of the weakness of the flesh in any of the sermons I heard and he put himself in the same boat as the rest of us, there was a sense of truthfulness in those statements and not simply saying it to “identify” with people.
Furthermore, within this service, as I was being brought low, God was being magnified even more. This Law & Gospel preached, this simple but contrite service had made me feel more like a child of God than the grandest affirmations I had ever heard elsewhere. I felt more thankful than I had in a long time.
There is something within Lutheran theology, within its doctrines that I believe brings us to the very heart of God and all his has for us. Whether in His Word, in baptism or in the body and blood, it is very simply, HIMSELF…..JESUS CHRIST.
Note: If anyone is interested in the congregation I had the pleasure of attending they can check out the website for Church Of The Lutheran Brethren and look for a church nearby. It’s a smaller band of Lutheran congregations but I feel confident that its one you will find encouraging as you travel this road God has called you on.
Thoughts on chapter 5: click HERE
Thoughts on chapter 4: click HERE
Thoughts on chapter 3: click HERE
Thoughts on chapter 2, Part 2: click HERE
Thoughts on the 1st part of chapter 2: click HERE
Thoughts on chapter 1: click HERE