Sunday #19 – Concordia Lutheran Church, 16801 Huebner Road, San Antonio, TX
The wedding of my good friend Carla Hanson to Scott Benton prompted my first entrance into a Lutheran church. After that, a decade or two went by before I would step foot into another Lutheran church. When I arrived in Colorado with a three-year old in tow, I had to find another Mother’s Day Out program similar to what I had enjoyed in Texas at First Presbyterian Kingwood. I settled on Faith Lutheran Church in Golden. Heather loved going to school there and I even tried one service because I couldn’t find a Presbyterian Church in which I felt comfortable. So, going into yesterday’s Saturday evening service, I had some familiarity with the denomination. After my last trip to the Al-Madinah Mosque in San Antonio, where I didn’t have a clue what was going on, I welcomed the spiritual respite.
Even though another Lutheran Church is only a mile or so away from where I live, I chose Concordia Lutheran because they have four services with the first of the weekend on Saturday night.
Preconceived Ideas about Lutherans
I have only a few preconceived ideas about Lutherans, so I decided to do a little search to refresh my memory about Martin Luther — the founder of this faith. Luther was a German Catholic monk, priest and theologian who was ex-communicated when he strongly disputed that freedom from God’s punishment for sin could be purchased with money. That’s about the extent of my protestant reformation knowledge. So on to my preconceived ideas of Lutherans:
- Lutherans, to me, are primarily of German decent and as someone with German ancestry, I’d say that most all Lutheran worship buildings are clean and a bit austere, compared to those found in the Catholic church.
- Lutheran ministers have a delivery style more like a teacher than a fire and brimstone type of delivery you might find in the Baptist Church.
As with many large churches that sit along the 1604 corridor, Concordia Lutheran has a huge footprint with fifteen acres, several buildings and a well-manicured campus that also is home to a large school.
I didn’t see many cars in the church lot, so I started looking at the signage to determine if what I read on the website might be wrong about a Saturday service. I couldn’t read that fast, so I just weaved in and out of the lot to where I saw a family getting out of a car. I parked and followed them around the side of the main building and into the large plate glass vestibule area. Still not many people there at this point and no one greeted me at the door, but some nice church-going men held the door open for me. Extra Texas hospitality points for that!
I walked into the sanctuary that seats about 1700 people, but only saw about 25 people sprinkled around the pews. The dress was typically what you might find for a Saturday service – jeans, dresses, capris, shorts; church attendees ran the gamut from young to my peeps and a bit older. As I walked in, a man played a guitar from stage right. Words to the music appeared on two large screens to each side of the stage so we could all follow along. And yes, we stood while he sang, but quickly got to sit down. I liked this place from the get-go. I ran seven miles and walked two more for a total of nine miles yesterday, so sitting was preferable.
Then came the video announcements. This seems to be the way announcements are done at most churches these days. I suddenly had a pang of sadness, in being so far away from Mile Hi Church in Denver where Rev. Barry Ebert gives his comical rendition of announcements. If you are ever near Denver, CO, attend a Mile Hi service if nothing more than to hear Rev. Barry’s announcements – AWESOME!
Then retired pastor Bob Nordlie came to the middle of the stage and led us all in prayer. He gave instructions that we could either sit or kneel. Wanting to experience it all, I pulled down the bench from under the pew (what do you call those things anyway?) in front of me and knelt. Ahhhhh….cushioned and comfortable and so unlike St. Mary Cathedral in Austin. Or was it just that I took my sister’s advice on how to properly do the butt-in-the-pew kneel thing? Either way, I was completely comfortable kneeling this time.
Then the pastor, dressed in a white robe with a stole that appeared to be made of some type of gold lame, made the sign of the cross. The Catholic roots of Lutherans just rose above the ground on that one.
Then guitar guy sang a song and the congregation followed along from the words on the screen. I gazed ahead wondering about the big cross, suspended from wires, and considered its load capacity, but I digress….
Then the pastor read the scripture for the service and we all spoke the words of the Apostles’ Creed. This is the same in the Presbyterian Church, so that was familiar.
After that, the pastor called the children to the front for the children’s message. They are always so cute. The pastor asked them to tell him what they’d see in Heaven. He received answers like, “jewels,” “paradise,” and “gates of pearls.” Then he asked, “If God asked you to tell Him why He should let you in to Heaven, what one word would you say?” Took them a while, but eventually they came up with “Jesus.”
Then the congregation joined in a prayer that everyone seemed to know by heart – this newbie didn’t have a clue what they were reciting. Then came the offering. Typical offering — brass plate passed by the elders of the church. The only difference is that this church played a video about the video ministry during the offertory.
The pastor then instructed us to sit or kneel while we prayed. I found myself praying for the pregnant Christian woman in Sudan that everyone heard about this week. If you recall, she was convicted of renouncing her Muslim faith and would soon be hanged. This story has really torn me apart inside.
We sat back down and sang a contemporary song that I actually had heard before!!! So excited. Was called “O My Soul.” Or, at least that’s what I call it. Very good song, but at this point, I looked down and noticed that the pews contained no hymnals on the backside. Yep….hymnals are already starting to disappear. I’m not a big lover of singing hymns, but sad, nonetheless.
Then Pastor Nordlie delivered his message “I Hope You’re Left Behind.” He went over countless Old and New Testament scriptures that covered The Rapture, The Tribulation and The Judgment. Even among Christians, there are so many versions of where the rapture occurs during the tribulation. Some believe it will occur in the beginning before it starts. Some believe the rapture will occur half way through and others believe it will occur at the end.
My favorite part of the sermon was when the pastor talked about a recurring dream he has had through the years – showing up to preach at church but only donning his underwear. I think that is a nightmare that we’ve all had at one time. I know I used to have the same dream about college classes. The pastor says that we have those dreams when we don’t feel prepared. So he ended his sermon on being prepared for the end times.
After that, we had another prayer and the pastor gave his blessing. That reminded me of the same often said in the Presbyterian Church.
Post Service Commentary
After the service, a woman came and introduced herself. I believe her name was Karen. She was a full-time teacher at the Lutheran school there. Then Richard, one of the Elders and I had a long conversation about Concordia Lutheran being a part of the Missouri-Synod, as opposed to the American-Synod or Wisconsin-Synod.
All in all, felt rather comfortable compared to last week’s foray into the mosque. The Lutherans didn’t throw too much my way that felt new or different, other than that prayer I didn’t know.
This felt entirely too comfortable, so I’m thinking I might venture into a Quaker or Jehovah’s Witness service next week. Still not quite ready for the Hindu’s just yet