After two months of trying to post at least a couple times each week on this blog, the last week or so has felt really delinquent. I haven't posted and have barely thought about this blog. Spent some time yesterday and today trying to figure out why.
Biggest reason I can come up with is that my daughters both came home on Tuesday evening and I have been reveling in having them both around. It always takes me a little by surprise how all-consuming fathering can become, even now that my girls are 17 and 20 and living away from home. I want to be available for the conversations, hear the news and perspectives and sense the tiny seismic shifts that are going on in their development as fledgling adults. So that's been taking a lot of my energy and focus. Both are also working on projects at college that involve analysis of various theological subjects. One is doing an exegesis of 1 Peter 3:1-7 (very interesting passage!) and the other is working on a project looking at her own faith upbringing (mostly at Central Lutheran Church in Elk River) compared and contrasted with Roman Catholicism.
So this morning, just for fun and comparison, she and I went to St. Andrew's Catholic Church in Elk River, an excellent Roman Catholic congregation that I've attended for special events a few times but never on a Sunday morning.
We went to the early service at St. Andrews and it was very traditional -- in many ways, it reminded me of the liturgical worship in which I was raised. There were, of course, a few specifically Catholic things in the service -- acknowledgement of "the Virgin Mary and all the saints who perpetually make intercession for us," along with several mentions of prayers for those who have passed away, prayers offered in the sincere hope that those deceased persons will at some point be allowed into God's heavenly kingdom. Not things you'd hear in a Protestant church. We expected to feel a little out of place what with people genuflecting and standing and sitting without warning, hymns out of hymnals we didn't know how to navigate (Teya told me later there was in fact a digital readout on the wall behind us that specified the hymn numbers, which were not announced), and numerous different books, slips of paper, preprinted cardstock worship orders and such that veterans seemed to not need in the first place.
But the biggest difference, and Teya and I talked about this quite a bit, was that the ritual-heavy, traditional worship at that service at St. Andrew's (and I have no idea if all their services are the same, though I suspect they're similar in this regard) did not seem to cater to the attender at all; rather, the worship seemed to be a necessary exercise. I listened as hard as I could and I didn't hear any attempt to relate the gospel to the culture, or to persuade listeners that it was relevant to their lives, though the short homily seemed to assume some relevance even though it was never spelled out. The whole thing sort of felt like a financial transaction -- somebody might smile at you and welcome you but that's not the point, the point is to transfer the money from one account to another.
Then we went to Central's contemporary service, and it was almost over the top the other direction. (Teya made the observation the other day that though Central's theology is without doubt Lutheran, the worship style tends toward a more generic protestant evangelical style.) Worship songs, testimonies, lyrics projected on screens so we never had to think about what we were going to say or sing next, a sermon laser focused on helping us to relate the story of Samuel and Saul to our own lives, our own decision-making. We were invited, encouraged, even cajoled a couple times to get involved in kingdom activities that could make a difference in the world. We were invited to come forward and pray, either for ourselves or for several people whose grief or need was specifically mentioned in the worship time. There was a deep sense of compassion, of personal involvement.
I'm not sure what to do with this but I think I want to chew on it for a few days.
I will not be posting for the next week or so on this blog, but I encourage you to consider using the "Twelve Meditations for Christmas" in the column of articles to the right of this blog. These meditations may help you to start focusing on the fact that Advent begins a week from today, and that it is the birth of Jesus that we anticipate. If you read a couple of those each week for the next several weeks, they'd take you right up to New Year's. That's a little intimidating, huh?