Sunday, January 17, 2010

Debriefing on Church

Church should not cause me more anxiety. I went to church today, since I hadn't been since before Christmas. And I left discouraged, frustrated, and sad.

Problems with the national church body?

I was impressed that our pastor actually mentioned what's going on in Haiti. He even fit in pictures of televangelists (including Pat Robertson) to show who is *not* necessarily a "super fan" of Jesus. (our sermon series is about being an "over the top fan.") Heck, I was even impressed that he gave information about Lutheran disaster relief, as sometimes we have been directed to some other Christian non-profit. Yet, when giving information about Lutheran disaster relief he said, "For as many problems as our national church body has, this is something they do really well." No denomination is perfect; I get that. But to publicly call out the denomination (when no praise is ever offered), rubbed me the wrong way. And at that point, it was hard for me to really engage what was going on. I just kind of checked out.

Is God's grace really enough?
We sang a worship song that said, "Remember your people, remember your children, remember your promise, oh God. Your grace is enough...your grace is enough for me." During the line of remember your people, remember your children, all I could think of was the pictures I have seen of Haiti and the faces behind the tragedy. I sang those words as a prayer for these people. But is God's grace really enough? That sounds like such a privileged theology. Grace doesn't feed people, heal their wounds, or provide them with clean drinking water. I don't have the whole theodicy question answered, but rather than celebrating God's grace, right now I am clinging to the hope that God is with the victims and is suffering with them.

Other thoughts
I am starting to wonder why my church is Lutheran. Why stay Lutheran when there is little involvement in the denomination, and the only sign of being Lutheran is the words Lutheran ELCA on the sign out front? I am not saying they should leave the denomination over some petty difference. If they left the ELCA, I would likely find a new church. But what are the reasons for their association with the ELCA? What are the benefits? As much as I would like to say denominations don't matter; they do. That isn't to say that salvation is exclusive to certain denominations. It's not. However, denominations allow a group of churches to accomplish so much more; to organize and cooperate with one another. Why does my church choose to associate with the ELCA when a lot of people probably couldn't tell you what ELCA stands for, when the churchwide assembly was, who the presiding bishop is, and what Lutheran theology is. I know, not everyone will be a Lutheran expert. But why does my church choose to say associated with the ELCA rather than, say, the Willow Creek Association? I don't know.

This has made me feel so discouraged. I have, for some time, looked online for other Lutheran churches in the area. The number of ELCA churches seem few. Up here, LCMS and WELS seem more widespread. Plus, leaving scares me. I have a small group that has become my community and my friends. If it is not close, it's harder to make myself go. And it's easy to get lost in the search and just give up.

I know this post isn't highly theological or academic. But what it is, is real. I needed to sort of debrief on my experience at church, this morning, in hopes that maybe it would ease my anxieties, quell my anger, and calm me down.

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