Regular readers of this blog -- if there are any -- know that the only time I go to an RC church, having been raised in them, is when someone who is RC gets baptised, married or dies. It happened Friday, in the parish I am "supposed" to belong to having knocked off all this Lutheran stuff and "come home".
Someone died. The kind of funeral I would hope not to have to go to even in a Lutheran church. A kid's. A fourth grade class-mate of my younger son was killed in a freak accident while playing with some friends. Not running the streets or running out in traffic, playing tag in the backyard on a Sunday afternoon. Tripped and fell into something with a rod extending from it that pierced his temple. Rough. My son tearfully asked if he could go to the funeral Friday morning, and I was able to get time off from work to take him. My kids have a little experience with the death and dying thing, as their mom died of cancer when they were fifteen months and three months old. Not sure if that makes it easier or harder. It's just rough, and that's for everyone regardless of prior experiences. And that would have been enough to deal with.
As a kid -- a classmate of mine drowned in about seventh grade, so I could share some experience, strength and hope with my kids on a having been there basis as well as a past Lutheran elder and dad -- I served tons of RC funerals as an altar boy, and as we school kids were always the choir for parish funerals, sang for tons more. So, besides what one might imagine regarding a funeral for the untimely death of a child in any house of worship, it also hit me again how there was nothing -- from the architecture to the interior design (except for a statue of Mary stuck in a corner of the sanctuary) to the music to the service itself -- that was recognisably Catholic to me, or even Catholic recognised under different forms.
That is always the case attending RC services in the last forty years or so, but at least at baptisms and weddings there is a joyful atmosphere and one can join in celebrating the joy. But here, as the service unfolded, I thought beyond the humanly tragic loss of a young boy's life what a tragedy that such a load of crap was passed off as a Christian or Catholic funeral service for the mourners. Requiem Mass we used to call it, from the Introit as all masses are named: Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis; eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. These days, Requiem Mass might as well be a small town in Massachusetts.
Actually, there was no Mass at all, just the funeral part. Although the priest was prominently displayed in his presiding minister's chair, which was closer to the people than the altar, he didn't do much. Except for the "homily", which was five minutes tops. The name of Jesus came up twice. A woman who delivered a eulogy had more to say, along the lines of God needing another angel, but at least with remembrances that since there was nothing else may have given someone something to grab on to. And of course we had the song leader, grandly raising her arm for sung congregational responses which hardly anyone did.
I heard more about Jesus, resurrection and eternal life from my ten-year-old Lutheran son on the way back to the van than I did in that service. I couldn't help but remember the sermon at my wife's funeral, who died the night before Thanksgiving leaving two small children and a husband picking out a casket when normally one would be eating turkey and stuffing. But the pastor -- a new sem grad so I don't wanna hear bupkis about lack of experience in new sem grads -- took it head on, preaching a sermon in which one could not miss that the only dead people in the church were the ones not alive in Christ, and concluding "A couple days ago most of us celebrated a thanksgiving that lasted one day, but Nancy began one that lasts an eternity." What an absolute shame that those there at this young man's funeral could not hear the same message. It's in there somewhere, yes, but as Luther once wrote the thing that should be the most obvious about the church has become the most obscure.
What an absolute shame, what an utter offence to God, that it remained obscure, that this church obscured it, for these mourners, offering neither the comfort of the Gospel nor even the comfort of what was once Catholicism, both now pushed even further into obscurity by what travels under the name Catholicism now. It was the same at the RC funerals of both my parents some years ago, but at least they got to live long and fruitful lives rather than inexplicably being cut short just being a kid. And how ironic to come at the end of all the media buzz about the papal visit, to re-visit what actual life is like in the Catholic trenches. The whole thing concluded with that great affirmation of Christian faith, "Let There Be Peace On Earth".
Thank you God that this is no longer my life! Thank you God for the Gospel rightly preached and the sacraments rightly administered!
We worry about our synod in particular and confessional Lutheranism in general, and in recent weeks have been given, as if it were needed, even more cause to, with the whole Issues, Etc. thing and the issues that lie behind it. This funeral underscored that "transitioning" isn't just about morphing into another pseudo-evangelical suburban Protestantism. We are just as equally and dangerously transitioned away from the historic faith and practice of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church when we adopt and adapt the 1960s revisionism of the Whore of Babylon in our Vatican II For Lutherans services offered as "historic" equally with the historic. They are two forms of the same thing, and the presence of vestments and rubrics in the one no more overcomes this than the absence of same in the other achieves it.
"Therefore, since the Mass among us follows the example of the Church, taken from the Scripture and the Fathers, we are confident that it cannot be disproved." (from AC XXIV)
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