Saturday, April 01, 2006

Walking the Midway: Lutheran Blog Carnival I

Better late than never, eh...welcome to our first blog carnival, speaking to the topic of Lutheran Spirituality.

(I am going to add the disclaimer that, because of my state of distraction in the past days, there is a very good possibility that I have missed some people's submissions. If you sent me material and I haven't included it, could you please e-mail me? and I'll add it. Thanks. And Clint and Sheryl -- still in? I'll add your posts as well, if you e-mail me the links.)

Chris Halverson affirms that Lutheran spirituality is not an oxymoron, thanks to the paradoxes of our theology.

Mata H at Time's Fool , talks about the spiritual struggle involved in forgiving people who aren't at all sorry. (I loved that "fetal or fist position" line, by the way; I resemble that remark!)

Melancthon suggests that we Lutherans would do well to go back for the wisdom of the Desert Fathers and Mothers .

Here are some thoughts by Pastor Erik Karas at Word For the Week :

Lutheran Spirituality…hmmmmm? I suppose when I first hear those two words crammed together, in a painfully unnatural manner for a group of people mostly made of stoic Northern Europeans, I think first of my first parish in rural Wisconsin where the closest thing to Lutheran Spirituality happened on Sunday afternoon. There in the midst of cows and corn Lutheran Spirituality involved beer, brats and the Packers. While a GOOD beer and a brat can be a spiritual experience I expect that probably isn’t where I should stop in my thinking on this subject.
In seminary, Lutheran spirituality was the “new” thing and at the end of my time there we even got a seminary spiritual director. We were introduced to all of the traditional spiritual disciplines like labyrinth walking, Lectio Divina, some Taize worship, journaling and the like. I always felt a little sub-spiritual because none of these methods really did anything for me. Many people found the discipline that worked for them, or at least they said they did, but nothing ever worked for me. Since then I have talked to lots of people about spirituality and what it means to them but spirituality still has not rubbed off on me in any of the methods “officially sanctioned” by the spirituality police. I have even participated in group spiritual direction with other clergy (five Methodists and me) for two years now and while I love the group and cherish the support, I still don’t feel a whole lot more spiritual.
For me, the Lutheran part of Lutheran spirituality happens to me simply because I happen to be Lutheran (thanks mom). The spirituality part seems to happen mostly when I blindly stumble into or over God; typically when I least expect it. The frustrating thing is that it’s hard to make a discipline out of haphazardly stumbling into God. “Spiritual clumsiness” just doesn’t have that mystical ring to it that you really want in your experience with the Holy Other. So, I’m still not sure what to make of my personal Lutheran spirituality. The bottom line is that while I don’t have an officially sanctioned method of Lutheran Spirituality that connects me to God in an overtly mystical way, I do find times when God is present in my life and I am connected to the Holy. Sometimes that has happened when I’m fly fishing with the water washing away the worries of the world and my focus is in the moment and not on anything else. Every once in a while it is at the altar when I am presiding at Holy Communion but usually I can’t help thinking about what’s next in the service. There have been times when I have been in the presence of people who were incredibly spiritual and some of their spirituality seemed to rub off on me in that moment and every once in a while someone’s laugh, cry or look will give me a wonderful glimpse of the Kingdom.
I think Lutheran spirituality can be an officially sanctioned spiritual discipline for some but I don’t think it has to be (just don’t tell the spirituality police I said that!) I think that probably the best way to think about spirituality, whether Lutheran or another brand, is as a time when we become aware that we have just bumped into God. If you can figure out a place or a way where that happens more often than not…fantastic! But if you are more like me, maybe our spirituality is can be boiled down to just being thankful for the times when our spiritual clumsiness causes us to do an unexpected face plant for Jesus and we know for a brief moment that God is present in our lives. And then, if that doesn’t work for you, you can always try a good beer and a brat!

And Beth O'Connor shares the following:

Hi Folks. I’m sure that other carnival bloggers will tell you more about specific spiritual exercises, a topic for which I haven’t done near enough research to have anything to say. Instead, I want to talk about getting over the Lutheran fear of spirituality. Lutherans tend to get it from both barrels on this one. We fear older spiritual exercises because they can seem like “monkery”, and we fear newer exercises (or exercises newly brought in from old traditions) because we think they might turn us into “spiritual, but not religious” people. In either case, we fear that the exercise is done in order to be saved outside of God’s grace. One way to help calm this fear and put ourselves into the proper frame of mind is to start each exercise off with a prayer that focuses on its purpose, like this:
Lord, I thank you for saving me, even though I don’t deserve it and nothing I can do can change that. I thank you for all the wonderful ways you have shown me your presence. (List some, if you like) I thank you for the opportunity to experience your presence as I (name spiritual exercise here e.g. pray the Daily Office). In your name, amen.
Now that we’ve acknowledged that the spiritual exercise won’t save us, we are free to do it with joy. Pray boldly. Live boldly. Sin boldly. Believe boldly.
In Christ,

I was going to include a post of my own; my theme is still in my head, in embryonic form. If I get it together I'll include it in another carnival post, along with any late entries. Again, thanks for your patience during this difficult time.


Verdugo said...

Reformed spirituality has about the same oxymoronic ring to it as Lutheran spirituality. But now with Eugene Peterson and Kathleen Norris, we feel like we can use the phrase without sending some of our more contemplative brethren into fits of giggling.

In that light, Peterson's definition of spiritual direction as "paying attention to God" seems to fit well with Pastor Erik's description of "spirtual clumsiness". It's not about what we do, it's about recognizing when he shows up (and he always does).

Tom in Ontario said...

Couldn't you move this, or repeat/copy it onto the carnival blog and then put the next carnival up over there? It just makes more sense to me to give it its own place.