I didn’t grow up in the church. I never went to Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, or Egg Hunts. I never even got to be in a Christmas Pageant. Ever. I cannot begin to explain what it felt like as a kid, to see the neighborhood churches bustling with activity and knowing I couldn’t be a part of it. Those things were for members only. I wasn’t a member.
Through a wonderful set of circumstances – meeting my husband and moving to Oklahoma – I did join my very first church in 1993, and I have never looked back.
Ten years ago, a friend of mine told me about the All Lutheran Messiah and invited me to participate. That was big deal, because all Lutherans do not see eye to eye, and technically we’re not even allowed to worship together, lest we give the impression we agree on doctrine. — I kind of think that is stupid, but that’s just me. I tend to be more ecumenical than my brothers and sisters in the LCMS realm. Christ is the only thing that matters to me. If we share that, what difference does the rest make?
Hence, I’ll never be an LCMS staff member. — Don’t get me wrong, I love my LCMS Church, I love my pastor, I love my husband, I even love my Synod. I just love God a little bit more. There are too many rules surrounding paid staff. They aren’t allowed to publicly worship, commune, or pray with non LCMS people lest they give the impression that they agree on doctrine. As a newcomer, I can’t help but interpret that to mean they are more afraid of what people think then they are God and I don’t understand that.
Let me re-phrase that. I spent most of my life being more afraid of what people thought than God, and today, I’m trying to repent of that and avoid those traps. So if I spot an issue like this, it’s only because I have an issue like this.
LCMS isn’t alone, we have many denominations under the Christian Church umbrella. I just don’t understand the separations. The body of Christ is the body of Christ. Jesus is ONE bridegroom, and he has ONE bride. I believe the titles on our doors do more to break the body than it does make it.
Up until last year’s ELCA Synodical convention, most local LCMS congregations participated in this joint presentation. Because of changes that ELCA made, many of our LCMS churches chose to drop out. I won’t go into that here. LCMS staff members were even forced out of participating for fear of losing their jobs. We as a group had to make some changes in order to keep this alive.
Structurally, the Messiah presentation is its own NPO and is not supported by any synod. There are no pastor’s leading any aspect of the service, there is just “the multitude,” meaning the singers. We don’t even publically pray together. But those changes are not enough for some people.
Some churches have chosen to do their own in-house services to replace this, and I refuse to support those.
Because I’m the kid who walked past churches like that and felt left out. You had to know somebody on the inside in order to go.
Christmas is a time we are called to look past ourselves, and give to others. In house presentations for members only, flies in the face of what Christ came to do. The Jews wanted an “in-house” Messiah and he shocked them by coming not only for them, but for the Gentiles as well. Jesus became that “somebody” to know.
Being a part of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the community is more important to me than some political debate. I still sing in The Messiah and this is our 90th year, making us the second longest running presentation in the United States.
In our liturgical calendar year ends this Sunday where we look to the second coming of Christ. The following Sunday, marks the beginning of Advent (The Christmas Season) where we as a body, look forward (in spirit) to the first coming of Christ. We celebrate his birth.
Right now, while we practice the choral runs and solos, time intersects my spirit. Christ’s birth, death, resurrection, and return consume me today and I wouldn’t have it any other way.