For an introduction to Holy Envy, and Part 1 of this series, click here. Or, read Part 2, here.
I love the Lutherans. I had a chance to attend a Lutheran service a month ago at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem. By halfway through the service, I was in tears. I have never been so deeply moved by a service with which I was so unfamiliar. For some reason, the ceremonies of that service touched me in a way I had not expected. They resonated with a part of me I had neglected. They felt right. And I learned that the Lord speaks to people according to the language of their understanding. I learned that we do not have the only right way to hold a worship service. I learned that the Holy Ghost can speak to my heart in many different circumstances, through many different vehicles. Several weeks later, I returned to services with a group of friends. And I returned again and again, as often as time would permit. There is something holy in that church. Here are some things I love about the Lutherans.
* They have a beautiful sense of the nature of communion (what Catholics call Eucharist and Mormons call the Sacrament). At the services I attended, the first liturgical hymn was a song whose words have remained with me ever since: "This is the feast of victory for our God. Alelluia!" What a beautiful understanding of the purpose of Sunday worship services--by taking communion, we celebrate Christ's victory over sin and death. It is the feast of the victory of our God! And indeed we must shout--Alleluia! For we are there to speak the good news, to pray for forgiveness, and to receive the body and blood of Christ, not to dress up in pretty clothes to show off, not to listen to dull sermons. Sunday is a day of rejoicing, for Christ has conquered sin and death!
* As in many Christian churches, the administration of the sacrament is the central focus of the service, and everything before that event is done in preparation for the real purpose of the service--to receive the body and blood of Christ. When I received communion, the pastor tore a piece of bread for me, and handed it to me, saying, "the body of Christ, broken for you." The atonement of Christ became very real to me then, and was reinforced in my mind as his helper, standing with the cup of wine, said simply, "the blood of Christ, shed for you." In order to participate in this beautiful ordinance, congregants have to come forward to the front of the chapel, physically witnessing their desire to come unto Christ. The pure holiness of this service moved me in ways that I cannot explain.
* The Lutherans are generally a hospitable group of people. They have a great sense of community that I didn't feel in some of the other Christian churches. After Sunday services, members gathered for tea and refreshments and socializing. It promoted a feeling of unity that contributed to the peace and the beautiful Spirit in the service.
* Lutherans have awesome music. It isn't nearly as boring as ours sometimes is.
* I love the sharing of the peace. There is something incredibly fulfilling about a public recognition that Christ's Atonement reconciles us to God and also to each other, and that having been thus reconciled, we can greet each other warmly with the peace of Christ.
* I used to say that if I wasn't LDS, I'd be Jewish. I still love Judaism and its rich traditions, but I think I love Jesus too much to be Jewish. So if I wasn't LDS, I think maybe I'd be Lutheran.