(This is the pastor column from the August 2009 newsletter of Amazing Grace Lutheran in San Antonio)
An Amazing Grace family recently told me about how they explained to their children the differences between our Lutheran faith and the spiritual practice of fundamentalist street preachers spewing out judgmental admonitions and boisterous warnings of hellfire and wrathful destruction. “We’re not a shouting church.”
That simple sentence says a lot. I know that when I preach, I often try to speak loudly in order to project, but I don’t think I shout. There is a difference between “making a joyful noise” and yelling at somebody.
I think the term “shouting church” refers less to a liturgical worship practice than a way of dictating a religious leader’s role in shaping one’s life and behavior. A “shouting church” may expect you to be a certain way, and then yell at you if you didn’t meet expectations.
As Lutherans, we have an understanding of God’s grace. We know that God loves us, even if we screw up. We know that we are not perfect. We are simultaneously saint and sinner. God’s grace is not a free pass to do whatever we want, but rather, it is the comfort of knowing that we are still loved even if we do make a mistake.
Whatever we preach, whatever we share when we “go in peace, share the Good News,” hopefully is not scolding or smiting, but instead welcoming and forgiving. Ultimately, it’s not about what we do or don’t do. It’s about what God keeps on doing for us—loving.
Let’s keep on being a non-shouting church.