We don't go to church very often because it does not seem spiritual. First we hear announcements, then we shake hands and sing hymns no one knows. Then there's a sermon you can give or take, another hymn no one knows, the offering, more hand shaking. We go to give our attention to God, not our neighbors. Are we wrong?
Yes. Like many in our society, you tend to see religion as purely private and subjective, something you consume to get a product, spiritual feelings. Christian worship joins us with God and with one another as members of the body of Christ.
No worship service is perfect. Even where you may find much to fault, you are called to what Paul termed a "more excellent way," to a love that doesn't insist on its own way. Congregations also need to shape worship in ways that are accessible to people.
Go with a spirit of humility, rather than judgment. You will be filled with Christ's mercy. You may become comfortable with the unfamiliar and involved enough to make announcements about the work of the church and to extend a hand to the stranger.
Does the Sexuality: Some Common Convictions statement (The Lutheran, December 1996, page 43) mean the ELCA understands marriages by the state and holy matrimony always go together? What about those married by courts or other religions?
You misread the statement. It recognizes that the state's binding legal contract reinforces marriage's staying power when threatened by sin. Lutheran teaching sees marriage as part of God's work of creation (not redemption), which the state has a right to regulate. We recognize and rejoice when people, of any religion or no religion, under the auspices of the state, make marital commitments to each other.
Christians celebrate those called to marriage and offer prayers and blessings for the ministry they give to each other, their families, church and community. Christ's grace gives guidance, and the church promises to help them sustain that commitment.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers