Posts Tagged ‘Lutheran’

What it Means to be Lutheran and Why I’m Part of the #decolonizeLutheranism Movement

Lately I’ve become involved with a movement within my Lutheran Christian world and I want to tell you about this movement and why it has captured my heart.

The movement is called #decolonizeLutheranism.

A fundamental question of the #decolonizeLutheranism movement is what does it mean to be Lutheran? And honestly, I didn’t know this answer on a theological level until I got my theology degree. But I experienced it to the bone in my home congregation in my youth without knowing that’s what was happening.

Now, there are a lot of cultural norms that come out of predominately white, European-decent Lutheran expressions in the US. But those are not the core of what it means to be Lutheran.

To me, what it means to be Lutheran is to be a people so intimately acquainted with the grace and goodness and love of God that we can’t help but live grace and goodness and love as we move about our lives.

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Art by Jennifer Clark Tinker

When I look back on my childhood congregation, that’s what I remember of the people who touched my life most profoundly.

Sondra Johnson

Marv Schmehl

Marie Renner

Ric Barnes

These are just a few of the people who lived and breathed grace to me in how they related to me as a child of Holy Redeemer Lutheran Church (HRLC) in Pickerington, Ohio.

As a mission congregation, started in the 1970s, HRLC drew a crowd of Christ-followers from various religious backgrounds. To my knowledge, we had folks who were raised Methodist, Catholic, Jewish, as well as those raised with little to know religious upbringing. We were not your typical, established, European-ethnically-Lutheran congregation. We were predominately white because of our location in a the suburbs, yet in many ways we were outside of a lot of Lutheran cultural norms.

My family didn’t even begin attending church at all until after I started school. We chose HRLC as our church home because of the grace and warmth we received there from the very beginning. This mission congregation, despite its position on the fringes of Lutheran culture, was right in the heart of Lutheran theology. And it spoke to each member of my family of origin. My mom had grown up Methodist, and my dad had grown up without a church, my brother and I were unsure of church coming into our lives in our childhood, but we all resonated with what the Spirt was doing in and through HRLC. My mother joined the church, eventually my brother was baptized, then I was baptized too at the age of 9. Finally, even my father was baptized at HRLC.

But as time went on, I grappled with the faith. I have never been one to accept easy answers to complex questions. And as a youngster who wasn’t a “cradle Lutheran,” I had a lot of questions. I mean, a lot, a lot. I don’t recall always being particularly tactful in asking them. Sometimes I was outright irritated about what I was being asked to believe about God and Jesus.

I know I can be argumentative. I know I can. In fact, in 8th grade, I had a teacher tell me I ought to be a defense attorney because I was one of the most argumentative people he had ever met.

I tell you, I can be difficult. If you don’t believe me, just ask the other students from my Sunday school and confirmation classes from the time.

In another time and place, in another congregation where people didn’t know grace so intimately as the folks at HRLC did, this may not have ended well for me. But the teachers and other adults graced me with their patience and forbearance. They gave me answers when they had them, but they didn’t make stuff up when my questions were too hard. Sometimes they just let me have my questions. They just sat in my questioning with me.

HRLC is closed now.

There is a Starbucks where my childhood congregation used to be.

But I carry the legacy of HRLC in my heart. The grace upon grace I experienced at HRLC in my youth is what it really means to be to be Lutheran. Anything that holds us back from doing and being this needs to be shed, laid at the cross.

We’re not great at diversity in my particular denomination of Lutheranism–the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American (ELCA), but we’re not just a white, European denomination. We do have people and congregations among us who are of other cultural backgrounds. It’s sad then that even people of color who have been born and raised in historically Lutheran congregations get asked, “When did you become Lutheran?”

Never in my white, Lutheran life have I ever been asked when I became Lutheran. When it comes to heritage, there are black Lutheran congregations that go back for generations! In fact, the oldest ELCA congregation is Frederick Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Virgin Islands; it is a black congregation that was established in 1666. They are more firmly rooted in Lutheranism than this questioning little soul from Methodist and unchurched parents. But no one questions whether I belong because I’m white?

Cultural presuppositions about Lutheranism are in the way of the Good News of Jesus Christ actually getting out. If an impertinent, back-talking girl like me can be permitted access to the grace of God, I want that grace flung far and wide. And where that grace is already abounding and shaking up our safe, cultural ideas, I want to see us learn from that and lean into that.

These are the kinds of things I see the #decolonizeLutheranism movement doing, and this is why this movement is so very close to my heart.

If this sounds like something you want to be part of too, join me at the first ever #decolonizeLutheranism gathering in Chicago on October 22 and/or donate to the cause.

More Confessions of a Lutheran Charismatic

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I wrote last summer, in a post titled Confessions of a Lutheran Charismatic, about how reading Light Your Church on Fire Without Burning it Down by David Housholder was a very meaningful experience. This was because it awakened part of my spirituality that I had kept hidden for a long time–namely my singing in the spirit (aka in tongues).

I was inspired this week to share a bit about how my prayer life has evolved since rediscovering this melodic gift. That post is over at Life & Liberty under the title, Singing in the Spirit. Click the title to read that post.

Note: the artwork above is my attempt at a visual representation of a prayer song that was with me as I wrote about this topic.

What Is She Doing Up There? -or- How I Use My Hands In Worship

Hand

Last Sunday was our once-a-month praise service at my small-town Texas, Lutheran church. I recently joined the praise team for these services and I want to tell you why I felt really vulnerable up there this past Sunday.

Well, of course, as a pastor’s wife, there’s always, always a sense of being in a fish bowl–like everyone is watching my family and me even when we’re minding our own business. Fortunately, most of the church members in the churches we have been in have been very respectful of and gracious toward us fish in the bowl. Our current church has been exceptionally warm to all three of us, so that was no more a factor than usual this past Sunday.

No, the reason why I felt vulnerable is because I use my hands a lot in church. And suddenly, being up front, facing the congregation, all of my gestures were on display.

Nobody said anything to me about it, but with my view facing them I kinda couldn’t help but notice that not many other people (if any) use their hands quite as much as I do.

And here’s the other thing…I have the propensity to offend people across the spectrum of Christian faith expressions because I’m as likely to make the sign of the cross as I am to raise my hands to praise the Lord. Some people might accuse me of being too “religious” or too “Catholic” for crossing myself whereas others might be put off by my charismatic tendencies when I raise my hands. I could face scrutiny for either one, but put them together and what will people say?

And maybe they won’t say anything. And maybe they didn’t think a thing of it. And it is quite possible that I’m overthinking the whole thing because I do that.

Then again, maybe, and this is a big maybe…but maybe somebody else out there has been worried about looking too religious or letting their charismatic spirituality show…As vulnerable as I feel up there doing the things I do with my hands, maybe it can help free up others to express their whole selves in worship?

It could happen.

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This post has been added to Elizabeth Esther’s link-up: The Saturday Evening Blog Post, vol. 6, issue 2

Humorous video by Tim Hawkins about the different styles of hand raising: http://www.davidhousholder.com/raising-hands-in-church-0153-life-liberty/

When Exactly Are the 12 Days of Christmas?

Live Manger

Live Manger (Photo credit: comprock)

Link: When Exactly Are the 12 Days of Christmas?

My husband, David Tinker, who is a Lutheran pastor, wrote this informative piece about the 12 Days of Christmas. He clears up some common misunderstandings and also suggests some ways to celebrate. (Click the link title above to view his post.)