Friday, October 12, 2007

Romans 14 and My Grandma

One of the most influential people in my life is my Grandma Marian. She is such a rock of faithfulness and has been committed to the Lutheran faith for over 50 years (since she married my now at rest Grandpa, another titan of the faith). It was not easy for her to become a Lutheran. She went through adult instruction at a time when non-German, non-Lutherans were practically the same thing in the Midwest. She was seen as a dreaded Methodist outsider, what Gus Portokals from My Big Fat Greek Wedding would have called xeno. She came into this lifestyle from a broken home, a rarity in those days. She endured suspicious looks and German "converstations" about her for years. It was a long time until she felt accepted at her church. And yet she endured and grew in her faith. She now is a widow with severe arthritis and mobility issues, but she makes it to church. It is a priority, end of story.

It is no exaggeration to say that this dear woman's example is a very big reason I entered the seminary and am now serving the Lutheran Church as a pastor. And yet, we are two different Lutherans. My Grandma's church in the the greater Ft. Wayne area, so they always have field workers. I learned a lot from my Grandma about field work. She always told me while in seminary who important it was to make sure my alb was straight and ironed, how important it was not to talk to quietly or too loudly, how important it was to be polite to the old ladies in my congregation in St. Louis. She still tells me her opinions of the field workers. But I find that some of the things she finds odd and even questionable are things I do every day. For example. she has noticed more and more how these seminarians are always crossing themselves. How they bow all the time and walk around with their hands folded. It really made me realize that the things I do out of respect and a healthy piety can be objectionable, if not outright offensive to some of the pillars of the faith. Now, that does not mean that we should chuck all these "high-church" pious and reverent gestures, but it has made me very sensitive to the needs of people like my grandma: faithful men and women who have lived in their faith, who know more about being and living as a Lutheran than I do, people whose faith is firmly rooted in the gifts of God's Word and Sacrament.

They don't understand why us youngsters are so anxious to look "Roman," and why should they? They were taught by well-meaning, and perhaps some not-so-well-meaning, pastors that some things are just not for Lutherans. So, in my own congregation I continue to boldly live my own rather catholic Lutheran faith, but I try to keep in mind Romans 14 and remember that I am the weaker brother to my dear Grandma Marian:
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel
over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak
person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who
abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who
eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant
of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will
be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree regarding the Romans 14 but I believe that the answer is in education not in the quicker fix or canning the reverence. If they were taught that it didn't belong in the Lutheran church, tell them why you do it. I know that I've had that very conversation with some people and there was a little old lady a week or so ago who told me that she didn't understand when the last person started crossing himself but now she has come to not only like it but to do it herself.

I don't do it to be Catholic or catholic, I do it out of honor for the same God who others thought would kill them on the spot just for catching a glimpse.

Just me typing what's going on in my head. Tell your grandma we bid her well from the deep south!

God's blessings!