Sunday, September 25, 2011

Hope Lutheran Church

What do you get when you cross smooth jazz with Melrose Avenue? Well, six days a week I have no clue, but on the seventh day, you get Hope Lutheran Church.
I'm going to be less than kind in my remarks about "the Lutheran church," but it should not be taken personally by members of Hope Lutheran Church. Included in their description on Google (written by someone from the church), "We are a Lutheran & Christian church." In other words, they understand. They get it. To be a Lutheran is not the same as to be a Christian. There is a difference.

Around 500 years ago, when Martin Luther fired off an angry email to the Catholics (technology adjusted to 21st century standards), his intention was to cause reform within the Church, but not to break away from it. Martin Luther was a Christian -- not a Lutheran. There is a difference.

Luther's primary complaint at the time was the then-popular notion that you could buy your way into heaven. This perversion of the concept of tithing was clearly not right. However, the modern Lutheran view is that all of your actions -- including financial gifts made to your church -- are meaningless. We are saved by grace through faith alone, which entirely discounts the dogmatic concept that actions matter as well as intent, a concept that has pervaded throughout the course of Christian history, as well as the Jewish history that preceded it (bearing in mind Jesus was a Jew). The Lutherans ignored all the history, as well as volumes of scripture wherein God issues commandments to mankind, telling them what to say, what to do, and what to think. Words and deeds don't matter in the Lutheran church. You can be a big son of a b*tch, a mass-murdering psycho, and even a Libertarian. If you believe, heaven awaits you.

Of course, no true Christian strong in moral character believes that actions don't matter. It is through our faith that we are motivated to perform good deeds. Christ did good for us, so it falls to us to try to do the same for others. Lutheran dogma dictates this is deeply flawed; belief is enough.

Hope Lutheran has been around almost 69 years, and its members are proud of the good works they do. At least I think that was why we were clapping during the church announcements. I'm going to be honest, Hope Lutheran has the worst audio setup of any church I have ever attended. Not only are the natural acoustics of the room abhorrent, the sound system which should have compensated only made things worse. I had a lot of trouble understanding the pastor, as did the older gentleman seated a few seats to my right who yelled out loud (more than once during the service), "I can't hear you."

The audio problems began before the worship began, as the praise band (yep) rehearsed through the official start time of the service itself. This is Hollywood; they ought to be more professional. The microphones were cutting in and out, and I don't think the choir members were able to hear each other over the band, which consisted of a pianist, drummer, electric guitarist, bass guitarist, and a man who played either a saxophone or a flute depending on the song. It was the stuff of a "lite-fm" station like "The Wave."

The design of the church was odd, which added to the acoustic problems. The church was more of a triangle in shape, and the cross was -- at best -- abstract. As the church was "Lutheran & Christian," there was a fountain for holy water, which is certainly not a Lutheran custom. Seating was a series of chairs with space between each seat for a Bible (NIV) to be wedged. Bible passages were read aloud by all in attendance which further contributed to making things hard to hear. The music was a mix of contemporary, traditional, Simon, and Garfunkel.

Speaking of the music, I found a homophone issue with the printed refrain of one of the songs. It dramatically changes the meaning.
The minister dressed in all black, but looked more like Steve Jobs than a man of the cloth. For starters, he wore no cloth. Pastor Mark Rasbach spoke about evangelizing, but I couldn't make out a lot of what was said. I know that someone named Scott made cards for all in attendance that we could give to others to invite them to Hope Lutheran. I know the church bulletin contained many loose pages about church activities and events, but not a great deal about beliefs. I know the pastor indicated we didn't have to find clever and not-so-clever ways to talk about God, but we should all try to mention and be mindful of the good things He has done for us. There was probably more to the sermon than that, but I couldn't hear it.

But I am thankful that I had a reasonably good extended weekend, and I was able to go to interesting places and hang out with people I like. I am thankful that Canter's Deli makes an amazing apple turnover. I am glad that God placed beautiful, intelligent women on this planet who will flirt with me, and I am glad that God invented British television so I have something to watch while US TV continues its steady decline. God is good.


Sunday Scorecard

This will be a regular part of my weekly reviews, a series of short-answer questions about the day's experience.

What is the contact info for the church?

Hope Lutheran Church
6720 Melrose Ave
Hollywood, CA 90038

What was the denomination?

"Lutheran & Christian"

What Bible verses were referenced?

Psalm 78:1-4 and Matthew 21:23-32

What are the demographics of the congregation?

About a 60/40 split of white and black, with no children in attendance (Sunday school instead) so the age skewed older

Was the atmosphere formal or casual?


What was the music like?

Kenny G

How was the use of PowerPoint?

None at all

Being Hollywood, were there celebrities in the congregation?

Actually, a few familiar faces in the mix

No comments:

Post a Comment