I visited a Lutheran worship service today, and had one of those odd experiences where what I expect to be familiar is not, and what I don’t expect to be, is. I felt like I had walked into my childhood chapel, built perhaps in the fifties, only with the floorplan slightly rearranged. Everyone I passed in the hall said, “Good morning,” with a warm smile (and when I was leaving, they would each invite me to come back often). Paintings on the walls, of Christ holding a sheep, or walking and talking unrecognized on the road to Emmaus, looked like paintings one might see on the walls of an LDS chapel a few years ago, say, before some of the recently popular paintings were made. Some of our older chapels have exactly the same amount of stained glass as this one. A plaque at the front of the chapel, on one side, displayed the numbers of the hymns to be sung during the service, though some implicit subtlety was required since there were fully three different hymnals in slots on the back of the pews. On an altar at the front, two white cloths were draped over what would later be distributed in remembrance of the body and blood of Christ. My friend who is a regular there explained to me that they feel strongly that only those in communion with the (Lutheran) Missouri Synod should take communion, and I wanted to say, “Of course.” They talk about Luther a lot like we talk about Joseph Smith. I hear Joseph liked Luther’s translation of the Bible a lot. The homily was rendered with a bit too much sanctimony, a squeaky voice and a somewhat strained reading of the feeding of the five thousand, but also with the vital truth that salvation is only through Christ; true happiness is only found with him. Other than the section of the homily about how we all deserve eternal punishment in hell, there were perhaps three words in the service I couldn’t sincerely join in. The organist was an energetic woman just entering middle age, and some of her older children cheerfully helped pour milk into cups and slice donuts in half for a social interlude between “sacrament meeting” and Sunday school. She reminds me of the woman who plays the piano for Primary. Where two or three together are gathered in his name, surely Christ will have a finger or two in, to see that some good is done, maybe even a lot of good. I should invite my friend to my ward one Sunday; she might feel right at home!
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Sectarianism and sincerity
July 31, 2005 | 11 commentsBy Ben Huff