Thanks to a loyal BJS reader for pointing us to a new to us blog by the Fearsome Pirate .. Cruising Down the Coast of the High Barbaree. This post was put up a couple of days ago about his experience Christmas Eve at a LCMS Baptist church.
I made the mistake of going to an LCMS church for Christmas Eve service. I had originally planned to go to a Catholic church, since few Lutherans do a late night Christmas Eve, but I saw that one not too far from where I was staying had one, and the Catholic friend I was visiting agreed. So I went.
First, the positives: They sang traditional Christmas hymns, the readings came from the Bible, and they had communion.
I knew I was in for a “treat” when an overly caffeinated young pastor greeted me in the narthex. Of course, he wasn’t wearing a robe. After his effusive welcome, I said, “And you are Pastor…?” “Oh, call me Pastor Kevin,” he chirped. I entered the sanctuary and took my seat, noting the guitar and drum set in the background. Fortunately, whoever had planned this service had decided to not inflict them on us tonight. Unfortunately, they had decided that the traditional liturgy just wouldn’t cut it.
“Where are the kneelers?” my friend asked.
“This isn’t that kind of Lutheran church,” I glumly responded.
My field work in Fort Wayne had trained me to sniff out “Creative Worship” stuff, and this service was full of it. The service itself was largely inoffensive, which I suppose I ought to be thankful for in today’s day and age. I saw much worse when I was in seminary. At least there wasn’t a custom “Christmas creed” or something. However, the structure of the service was basically lifted straight from the traditional Baptist playbook, with hymns, readings, and special music alternating, with a sermon near the end.
The sermon was horrible. The pastor decided that what is important about the Christmas story in Luke is that it’s a unique display of how God’s power can beat the odds when our lives seem hopeless. The sentiment is inoffensive enough in itself, but I seem to recall Luke embellishing his narrative with decidedly different themes. Even the pastor seemed aware of this, which is why he detoured almost immediately into Judges and preached about Gideon. I shouldn’t be surprised that a Baptist service structure had a Baptist “Trust God, and life will go okay” sermon, but somehow, I was. Is Pastor Kevin a DELTO guy, or is this how they teach them to preach at St Louis? He couldn’t have been over thirty, probably younger. The worst part of the sermon is that Pastor Kevin noticed that the name of God sounds kind of like “Yeah way,” so he said at various points in the sermon, “When life says ‘no way,” God says ‘Yahweh!'”
I kind of wanted to leave.
Now, I’m no Pharisee about the name of God. In case you hadn’t noticed, lots and lots of the faithful in the OT addressed or spoke about the Lord using the divine name of Yahweh. The later Pharisaical piety insisting that this name should never actually be spoken aloud is misdirected and shouldn’t have been adopted by Christians when translating the Bible into English. But, you know, that doesn’t mean you should be making puns with it!
So it was a terrible service. Not the worst I’ve been to, but still not good. The Catholic friend I was with turned to me as we left and said, “That seemed more like a Baptist service. I miss singing the Gloria, the Sanctus, and the Kyrie on Christmas Eve.”
“So do I.”