Monday, July 9, 2012

No... Lutherans and Catholics are NOT the Same Thing

After a refreshing dip in the pool we all gathered around the table laughing, drying off, and grabbing the last extra pieces of pizza. When it's been about 110 degrees every single day for ten days with outrageous humidity, getting wet was exactly what the doctor ordered. And making a few new friends was pretty awesome too.

"Yeah, I'm the bad youth minister and I'm blasting Lady Gaga all the way up as I pull into the church parking lot," I joke to my new friends.

"Not Christian music?" one of the guys asks, surprised.

I shrug as I ring my hair out. Water splashes onto the ground. "I used to be really into the Christian music scene, and I like some of it, but not a whole lot anymore."

"I don't like much of it either," one of the other guys says. I'm a little relieved as he says this. In some circles I at times feel a little guilty that the popular Christian station in town is my last resort for music.

"But I also grew up in a really old school Lutheran church," I add. "Hymns, chanting, the whole thing."

The second guy laughs. "Oh, so you're like Catholic!"

Growing up in a traditional Lutheran church, I hear this a lot.

Apparently, singing liturgy and using a hymnal is everything being a Catholic or Lutheran is about.

First, Lutherans aren't Catholic - at all.

Second, the old traditional style isn't all that bad.

Now, I love praise songs and a more "contemporary" or "emerging" style of worship when it's done well. God has used, and is continuing to use, newer musicians in some really powerful ways.

But, I do have a special place in my heart for the "old school" stuff.

This morning at church we had a funeral for one of the charter members of the congregation, and he was the grandfather to two of the youth I work with. He was 91 years young and had been married to his wife for 60  years. He had been in WWII, worked as a carpenter, loved to square dance, and always had a witty remark on the tip of his tongue. Pastor talked about how he didn't need a bumper sticker on his car or wear "Christian" t-shirts to show he loved Jesus. He simply lived it.

As we sat in the pews and I held the hymnal in my hands and sang those classic songs, it reminded me of how much I really do appreciate those traditions. It's like the man who's life we were celebrating. They didn't need to be flashy or anything. Simply... be.

Yes, some traditional worship services can be boring. It's so easy to simply get into the habit of repeating the same words and chants over and over and over again.

But the lyrics to those old songs... they're poetic.

My song is love unknown, my saviors love to me
Love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be
But who am I, that for my sake
My Lord shall take frail flesh and die?

Abide with me fast falls the eventide
The darkness deepens, Lord with me abide
When other helpers fail and comforts flee
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me

Rock of Ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee
Let the water and the blood
From thy wounded side which flowed
Be of sin the double cure
Save from wrath and make me pure

Guys... people just don't write like that anymore. It comes straight from the soul. You can tell the writers thought about what they were saying, and put time and effort into the music.

And the history behind those words and tradition is just as beautiful. It's people who lived, breathed, suffered, and sometimes died so they could sing those songs. So they could say that liturgy. So they could worship God freely.

Songs that have been handed down for centuries sometimes that connect us to the people of faith who have gone before us.

Yeah, someday our newer praise songs might be like that too. Which is awesome. But, can I have my hymnal too?


  1. I really love the old hymns, too! I think a lot of the contemporary Christian music just feels very shallow. The lyrics aren't as powerful as they used to be.

    1. I agree! Some are wonderful, and some of my favorite songs are contemporary. But I really appreciate the old music as well. My favorite worship moments have been when people have been able to fuse the old and the new. It's hard to do, but when done well it's amazing.

  2. I went to an Anglican high school, so church services and assemblies there were ALL about the old hymns, and the bells and smells (that's what my mum calls high Anglican services, with the incense wafting).

    My mum teaches at a Baptist school. One of the "hymns" they sing is called "Jesus is an action man", which includes hand actions, and the line "Nananananananana, JESUS!!". Because apparently Jesus is also Batman in his spare time.

    Basically? I know which one I'd rather have.

    1. Ha! The church I grew up at didn't do the incense as much, but they did on occasion at the university I went to. And the "hymns" like at the Baptist church... we do more of those at camp with the little kids. Cause they like hand motions. One of our favorite prayers is the "Superman Prayer."

  3. I, of course, LOVE this post! I grew up with the red hymnal (Which I loved, by the by) but totally feel connected to both styles of worship. God works through all music!

    1. I had a feeling some of my CUC friends would! I think my favorite is when people can fuse together the old and the new. It's hard, but when done well it's amazing. Once at my fieldwork church (Sanctuary) they did the Introit on acoustic guitar and it was one of the greatest things I've ever heard.

  4. I think much of today's contemporary music has a very shallow meaning. Not many people write with the intensity and passion of the old days. It's a trend you can see almost everywhere, from Shakespearean plays to modern-day films...even Lady Gaga songs :P I personally feel some of the older songs can be much more powerful. Suppose, as you mentioned, that someone was persecuted and died for the right to write (see what I did there) a certain hymn? Well, singing it 500 years later makes them a very powerful and lasting influence. I like that idea.

    1. I do see what you did there. :)

      And yes, I agree. I mean, I like some contemporary music (obviously since I listen to Gaga all the time). But yeah - for the most part it all is really shallow. Which is part of why I listen to musical soundtracks so much lol. Granted, every generation has its duds. In every decade and genre you are going to find a musician whose lyrics are crazy dumb and shallow. But I feel like we have more than in previous years.


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