Identities new and old
Several times in the last few weeks I have been introduced as a “lifelong Lutheran.” Now, this is as normal to hear as a descriptor of me as is blonde hair (well, okay, “formerly blonde”) and blue eyes. But, now as editor of a Lutheran publication, I am asking myself: Beyond an acute appreciation for alliteration, what does being a “lifelong Lutheran” mean to me?
I was born into the church, I guess. My parents were, and still are, active participants in the church. I was baptized in a small, rural “old ALC” congregation in northern Minnesota named Seljord Lutheran Church. When the family moved to North Dakota as I turned five, we joined a small LCA congregation in Mandan. When this struggling congregation closed, my parents considered the “family feel” of a nearby Presbyterian church.
But, at the wise, old age of ten, I declared, “No, I am Lutheran. We should go to the other [ALC] Lutheran church,” or so the story goes anyway. We joined First Lutheran where I was confirmed.
During my decade in Washington, D.C., I attended a now-closed ELCA congregation. My wife, Susan Masters, and I were married there, even though we belonged to an ecumenical (or non-denominational) congregation as well.
On our first date, Susan and I were locked in six hours of fierce conversation about her spiritual journey and the dark night of the soul she was experiencing. Having grown up in a fundamentalist congregation, she was quite aware of her failings. The concept of radical grace, of a God who loves her despite her sins, of a Creator who knows her as weed as well as wheat, was a word of good news to her. (And this very week, she fulfills a long-held dream when she graduates from Luther Seminary and awaits a call. Congratulations, Susan!)
I think that we as Lutherans do a better job than some of maintaining our identity within our faith communities. It is a little bit about heritage, I suspect. And a titch about the familiar. But neither of those explain why Susan would be attracted because, believe me, our “Lutheran culture” is strange to this Appalachian transplant.
No, I think it is more about a shared experience of God’s redeeming love that we come to know intimately as a profound “yes” even though we know we deserve a “no.”
Now that’s good news!