Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Home At Last
The picture above is from our three hour observance of Good Friday, Tre Or. The pastor and two assistants lie prostate before the stripped alter. The crucifix has been lowered down and will soon leave the sanctuary. This is an ancient ritual, one that is powerful, humbling, thought provoking, and reminds me why I love my church so much.
I grew up in this town, actually I grew up in church, not this one, but St. Paul's. It is the Lutheran mother church of Fort Wayne and one of the charter churches of the synod. St. Paul's is a huge edifice in the city's downtown. It's grade school is the oldest continually operating grade school in the state. I was there six days a week from age four to twelve. Then, entering Concordia Lutheran High School, I would only be around St. Paul's two or three days a week. So much heritage for a young man to take for granted. During my high school years, I visited another Lutheran church, Redeemer, largely because I was dating the current pastor's daughter. It was eye opening, nothing like staid St. Paul's. They had kneelers, people crossed themselves and genuflected. It was not even part of the Indiana District of LCMS, but the non-geographical English District. It's pastor was a tennis playing liberal who went on Freedom Marches. I loved everything about it, it just felt right, but I had no idea why.
I left Fort Wayne in 1965, not to return for forty-five years, that was last year. Somehow along the way, I started to put legs under the first feelings I had at Redeemer many years ago. I discovered my love for things liturgical. I came to understand the Bride of Christ as all the Saints who had ever lived. When I lifted my heart up unto the Lord, I was joining those earliest of Christians in the Sursum Corda bearing witness with them and those around me in worshipping our Lord, Jesus, the Christ.
But as I got deeper and deeper into this, others around me didn't share my enthusiams. I was on the West Coast by now where Lutherans are somewhat of a novelty. I was a novelty among them: I crossed myself, I talked about the historical practices of the Christian Church, I studied St. Jerome, I read the Didache and I generated incredible eye-rolling. But, I would insist, Luther didn't want to abolish the Mass, only reform it. And, when I read more of Luther, he only seemed, as my critics would say, "sehr Katholische". Pastor's counseled me that worship style wasn't that important, just adiophera. I kept thinking that your physical behaviors also informed what you believed. That if your worship was casual wasn't your theology also. I even met a Lutheran pastor who talked about making a decision for Christ.
Fast forward to June, 2010: I had returned to Fort Wayne almost forty-five years to the day when I had left. I began the search for a church. Of course, first I returned to St. Paul's, little had changed, but it was haunted for me. Where were the Knoblauch's, the Schaak's, the Schoenherr's, and other families from my youth. Everything was the same, but nothing was the same. Then I thought, let's check out Redeemer and I did. I feel in love. It observed the historic practices of the church, it was full of seminarians enthusiastically exigeting scripture, there were families with small children, it had a great young pastor, and an extremely talented kantor; it was everything I had been looking for. So, as Thoreau observed, "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." My castle now had a real foundation.
In truth, this has been a long, around the barn way of saying, "It's good to be home."