This is uncomfortable to me, this idea of showing you how “Lutheran” I am. It’s almost embarrassing.
If you could see my resume, you’d see that the word “Lutheran” appears in my listing of employers since 1983. My pension is Lutheran. My published writing is Lutheran. And in a relatively recent development, my husband has turned into a Lutheran pastor. Which means I have morphed into a — breathe deeply — a pastor’s wife. Which also means that my kids, my lovely 13-year-old daughter and my adorable 11-year-old son, are now PK’s with all the ambivalence toward church that the status offers.
And friends, to further illustrate just what a Lutheran nerd I am / we are, this summer we went on a Lutheran vacation. (If you come to my blog, there may be pictures. Think family dude ranch.)
But I can’t help but to tell you that I wasn’t raised this way. I grew up in southern Minnesota where it was hard to find a Lutheran church full of truck drivers, which was the culture of my family. Still is.
At age 67, my dad puts thousands of cross-country miles on his odometer every week. My mom, who handles the bookwork and routing, was also licensed to drive an 18-wheeler, even though at the height of 5 feet 0 inches she had to brake and accelerate with the aid of wooden block extensions that my dad clamped to the pedals.
In the many Lutheran parishes that I’ve ever joined, attended, or visited, I’ve never heard a sermon that used images such as truck stops, diesel prices, log books, lumper hires, tire chains, nor trailer refrigeration. Although we always called ourselves Lutheran, growing up, I assumed that that we didn’t fit in with the real Lutherans, who all seemed better dressed and just better.
Even though I was raised in Minnesota, a state where there are road sign mileage markers to the nearest Lutheran church, I did not realize that I was raised in the bastion of Lutherdom until I moved to New York City.
I didn’t understand that I was born into a region that boasts a concentration of Lutheran colleges. I choose to study, if you called that studying, at the University of South Dakota, a fine school that gave me a fabulous liberal arts education, in spite of me.
When I moved to New York City people told me that they didn’t know South Dakota had universities, but most everyone had heard of St. Olaf College. Even I had heard of St. Olaf College, but I didn’t know it was Lutheran.
So what does being Lutheran mean to me in terms of faith and family? It means that I worry about all the ways we inadvertently tell people they don’t belong. It means that for all their complaining, my kids have enjoyed communities of love and support wherever we’ve lived.
My son, in a quiet moment, still, will sit at the computer and find Luther Seminary on a Google Earth satellite image, zoom in close on the family housing apartments, and long to be there.
My daughter, I wish you could hear her this week, is still telling me stories of the nursing home residents where our wise and wonderful youth director planned a mission trip.
It means I don’t know why my life has turned out to be so, so, Lutheran. I can only try to tell you what it’s like for me on a typical Sunday morning at church:
- a private showing of a gorgeous handmade quilt
- a dinner party invitation
- a choir of kids who sound like angels
- a discussion of the merits of backyard chickens
- a filler up of coffee
- a plan for the first rototil of the new community garden
- a chamber orchestra
- a map to today’s taco bar
- a pointed networking conversation
- a birthday gift for the party we can’t go to
- a sign-up for meals at the homeless shelter
- a doughnut hole, or five or 10, for my son, a ride to the mall for my daughter
- a creative exchange with a gifted graphic designer
- a coveting of the Coach purse sitting behind me
- a gathering of friends, friends, and more friends
- a hearty congratulations for a cool new job
- a prayer for the broken organ, a prayer for Haiti, a prayer for the leaders
- a question of what can I do
- a proclamation that God is good and there is value in all
- a belief that Jesus Christ came to declassify the human race
- a typical Sunday morning in this Lutheran community
- a sincere welcome to everyone
Unfortunately, the only time I see truck drivers at my Lutheran church is when my parents come. Fortunately, they come whenever they can.