I had the joy of participating in two events over the weekend taking place at a beautiful Catholic church. On the way to the events, my daughter asked me what the difference was between the Catholic and Lutheran faiths. After first highlighting what makes them similar, I went through a few of the differences. One of which is that you will often see a crucifix in a Catholic church, but a cross (without an image of Christ on it) in a Lutheran church. I explained that Catholics focus very much on the painful sacrifice that Christ made, while Lutherans focus very much on the incredible victory achieved through His resurrection. But I noted that it would be easy for either faith to focus on either one of those too much since both are so critical. We talked about the fact that one is equally important as the other.
So here I was in this amazing building, so beautiful that just sitting there imagining how it was built was a form of worship. Staring above me was a crucifix of incredible detail. I was literally face to face with an image of incredible physical suffering. It was a poignant reminder of something we really do not focus on as much in the Lutheran faith. We don’t ignore it. But we don’t focus on it. It is at least not a central image in our sanctuaries. I was reminded that Christ went through hell for me. At one point literally went through hell itself. But even on earth he went through a physical hell for me. For me. Me personally.
Something for us to consider. We can argue about a lot. Is the communion wafer actually the body of Christ, and if so, at what moment does this occur? Should communion be made available to anyone who professes to accept Christ or is it proper to limit it to members of a particular faith? Is a wedding outside of a particular faith really a wedding at all? The loftier issues of gay marriage, women as clergy, contraception, abortion. These are questions that are worth answering. But before we wrap ourselves up in too much debate, it can be a peaceful process to simply look on as others worship. And experience it. Just experience it. There was a sense of loss for me looking at the crucifix over the weekend. A sense of loss that can be easy to forget when celebrating the resurrection each weekend. I would imagine that a Catholic might feel a sense of victory in looking at the empty cross of our Risen Lord at my church some weekend. A sense of victory that might be easy to forget from time to time.
I don’t subscribe to the watered down statement that it doesn’t matter what or how we worship because everyone is basically right. I think it is possible to get worship wrong. And I think it’s worth talking about in order to get it right. But sometimes it can be good to simply worship through a different lens. And I’m thankful I had that opportunity this weekend.