Friday, June 27, 2008

The Summons

Below is the text of a hymn that was sung last week at my church. It's a wonderful experience to discover a new hymn that not only has a good tune but spirit-filled words. Our rendition of this hymn could have been tooth-achingly sacarine but thanks to our wonderful cantor it didn't stoop to sentimental pathos. Which is good because Lutherans don't do pathos.

If I wasn't a believer it would be ironic that we sang this hymn at the same time as I'm reading two books about discipleship (see side bar to your right). But the Spirit moves in mysterious ways.

"To sing is to pray twice." -- St. Augustine.

1. Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don't know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

2. Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?

3. Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?

4. Will you love the "you" you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?

5. Lord your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In Your company I'll go where Your love and footsteps show.
Thus I'll move and live and grow in you and you in me.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Liturgical snoozing...

The muse -- she's a no like a me....

That's my only excuse and I'm sticking with it.

Anyhoo, my brother's first child was baptized to Sunday ago at a church who's name will remain hidden. All I'll say is that it's a *very* large Lutheran congregation. The service (one of many) started at 11:00 a.m. and as is typical for my family we were running late. Turns out that it was only 5 minutes late. No problem I say to myself, we'll participate for most of it.


Five minutes late means that 1/2 of the service was complete. I'm not joking here. By the time we sat down it was practically over. Military precision is the operative word here; from the phalanx of men to collect the offering to the homily to the abbreviated hymns to the truncated liturgy, everything was on a strict timetable.

The same can't be said for the baptism. This was the definition of loose and unstructured. The order of service for baptism from the ELW was used but the way it was presided was the antithesis of the precision of the service before it. One would have thought that more planning could have gone into it. Maybe the number of baptisms precludes this. I can kind of understand having the baptisms after a main service in a church of this size but to be this free-form was a little sad.

The question I kept asking myself was: Is this really the best that Lutheranism has to offer? All of what differentiates a Lutheran worship from, say, a Methodist or Presbyterian service have been removed. And Lutherans wonder why membership rosters are shrinking! At the risk of sounding like a one-trick-pony, Lutherans must, for the health of their denomination, understand the tradition and heritage from which they come and to which they owe a great debit. Services like last Sunday's are really a shame. So much unrealized potential.

I've been reading the new translation of Bonhoeffers seminal book "Discipleship". It's a theological tour de force that all Christians should read. The first chapter is about "cheap grace" which, according to Bonhoeffer, is "grace" that is a theological principle or presupposition that comes before faith or discipleship; not the pure grace that is a consequence of a life of following Jesus. I wonder if Protestant worship is a symptom of this "cheap grace". A worship that asks nothing from you and that gives nothing back but platitudes. More on Bonhoeffer latter.