Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Two very different church services, and my judging mind.

When I was in another state 2 weeks ago, I attended two church services in the nursing home. The Lutheran service takes place once per month on a Thursday morning and the other one is every Sunday afternoon at 2:00. The Sunday service seems to rotate between three or four pastors/groups/churches.

The Lutheran pastor was late due to having to preside at a chapel service at the Lutheran school just previous to the nursing home service. There could be numerous reasons why he ran late, but I'd add poor planning to the list because the lay people there to help knew he was going to be late. The nursing home is in a time bind due to using the space for two shifts of meals as well as church services and any entertainment. So in breezed the pastor, and then he led the service with his really nice voice, the invocation, the liturgy, two hymns ("you might not recognize this one") a full sermon, and the communion. To say he breezed through the liturgy is an understatement. Double time might be more like it. Then we had communion, from the common cup.

My reaction to the whole thing was not positive. Yes, the Word of God is valid even if it is said rapidly. Yes the communion was real even though the pastor talks fast. But there was not one bit of warm pastoral concern or connection during the 30 minutes of the service. I can't understand a pastor picking a song that people in their 80's and 90's haven't heard before. And, although I know that the common cup is sacred to some groups, I consider it irresponsible in the nursing home setting. There are ways to get around this and still have one cup.

There was one sermon illustration that I remembered after the service. I remember it because it was so jarring. Maybe my memory isn't accurate, but what I thought I heard was this: Jesus is like the life guard. Your son is swimming and starts to go down. Jesus swims out to save him and they both go down. We can rejoice because we are saved by Jesus' death.

On Sunday I attended a service led by a denomination I've never heard of. I went reluctantly, but went for my relative's sake. I was incredibly blessed by being there. The man whom I assumed was the pastor, led the prayers and singing. The woman, his wife, I think, played the piano. I jumped to the sad conclusion that they may belong to a group that keeps the woman in her place on the piano bench. But she got up and read the scripture. Oh what a reader she was. The scripture came alive. Then she gave the sermon (the Woman at the Well.) The story came alive with meaning and drew us in to be part of the scene without adding extra-Biblical notions.

So I said to her after the service, when the two of them were warmly greeting the people, "I made the stereotypical assumption that you were the pastor's wife, and he was the pastor." She said, "I'm not a pastor, I'm a teacher. I love to preach whenever I get a chance."

Jesus warned us about being judgmental, but that I am. Dear Lord, teach me to be less judgmental.


  1. That's a lot of nice crucifix photos. Made me realize that within a couple hours drive if where I am, I have the actual "Old Rugged Cross" (not on Calvary of course, but where the guy who wrote it lived), a huge lit-up underwater cross in Lake Michigan, and the world's largest crucifix.

  2. sounds like they are a great team!

  3. Yes, an even better team that I wrote about as he sang hymn versed during interludes in the sermon that went with the message. And apparently they do that regularly.

  4. What a great account, and a reminder for many of us to be more intentional about those sorts of services. Thanks.

  5. Good story.
    Thanks for sharing it.

    I had to eat my share of crow for making assumptions about a week ago.



And what do you think?