A Sacrament...and a welcoming
More from the wonderful Peterson Interview in Christianity Today:
In church last Sunday, there was a couple in front of us with two bratty kids. Two pews behind us there was another couple with their two bratty kids making a lot of noise. This is mostly an older congregation. So these people are set in their ways. Their kids have been gone a long time. And so it wasn't a very nice service; it was just not very good worship. But afterwards I saw half a dozen of these elderly people come up and put their arms around the mother, touch the kids, sympathize with her. They could have been irritated.
Now why do people go to a church like that when they can go to a church that has a nursery, is air conditioned, and all the rest? Well, because they're Lutherans. They don't mind being miserable! Norwegian Lutherans! And this same church recently welcomed a young woman with a baby and a three-year-old boy. The children were baptized a few weeks ago. But there was no man with her. She's never married; each of the kids has a different father. She shows up at church and wants her children baptized. She's a Christian and wants to follow in the Christian way. So a couple from the church acted as godparents. Now there are three or four couples in the church who every Sunday try to get together with her. Now, where is the "joy" in that church? These are dour Norwegians! But there's a lot of joy. There's an abundant life going, but it's not abundant in the way a non-Christian would think. I think there's a lot more going on in churches like this; they're just totally anticultural. They're full of joy and faithfulness and obedience and care. But you sure wouldn't know it by reading the literature of church growth, would you?
I have a good friend who is in seminary studying for a call to the pastorate. As a part of this process, she has taken a class on Pastoral Care and Counseling; and a requirement of the class is that everyone attend at lease one AA meeting. At the meeting, there was a discussion about the concept of a "Higher Power", which is a mainstay of AA practice.
Attendees were discussing why it is that AA uses the concept of "a Power greater than ourselves", and this discussion had lead to a conversation about God. From this conversation came a number of comments about pain inflicted upon AA folks by people in the church. Judgment, isolation, awkwardness, and a lack of compassion. All from us in the church. Church. That's us, people; me, and you. Causing pain, not loving like Jesus (who hung out with some rather nasty types on occassion) for those most in need of healing. We can be a pretty awkward and judgemental bunch, can we not?
Maybe we need to hang out with some rather dull Lutherans. I believe their church is somewhere in Montana.