“I’m a Good Lutheran”

That’s what she told me as she dropped off flyers for a local charity event.  She was already turning around and prepared to run off as she said this, offering the additional comment to the effect that, since she was Norwegian, the Lutheran issue was a given.  

My response stopped her short.
“So where are you going now?”
There was a pause as she checked her direction.  Arms crossed as her face changed from a bright and cheerful smile to a look of concentration and reflection.  She attends a local mega-church (well, mega for this neck of the woods).  She had been involved with other large churches as well after marriage – Mariners, Calvary Chapel.  And now her current one.  She conceded that maybe she ought to check out a Lutheran church again.  But she didn’t seem very convinced of that admission.  “But I’m a good Lutheran” she repeated as she left, the smile back on her face, probably relieved that I wasn’t going to try and lecture her or something.
I thanked her and let her know she was always welcome.  I hadn’t intended to make her feel guilty, but if you’re going to share that you’re a good Lutheran (Episcopal, Baptist, Methodist, Whatever) to a clergy member of that particular stripe, you ought to expect to be asked where you’re attending worship now.  That’s part of our job – to take people seriously when they make assertions about who they are.  Because our culture makes it eminently easy for us to claim to be something – and to really believe our claim – that we really aren’t.  Not in any tangible, meaningful sense of the word.  
What did she mean by “I’m a good Lutheran”?  Maybe that’s how she really thinks of herself still, theologically, as a Lutheran.  In which case my question should challenge her to think seriously about why she chooses to worship non-denominationally if she values her Lutheran-ness.  My question might have exposed the fact that she’s not really attending anywhere right now, in which case the Holy Spirit might have worked on her to convince her to try worship again somewhere, if not necessarily at a Lutheran church.  My question might have revealed that she’s active in another Lutheran congregation, in which case that’s awesome and wonderful.  
It reminds me of a scene from the short-lived sci-fi series Firefly, where one of the characters, a preacher, is conversing with the less than orthodox captain of the ship.  When asked why the preacher received preferential treatment at a medical facility, he tried to joke about how everybody likes to welcome a man of God.  The captain’s retort is probably more accurate than most pastors would like to believe – “No they don’t.  Men of God make everyone feel guilty and judged.”
It wasn’t my intent to make this very nice woman feel guilty, but it seems clear that my simple question did.  I’m not out to convince her to leave her mega-church to come to my church, or another Lutheran church.  But the Holy Spirit works in strange ways through insignificant connections sometimes.  It seems clear that maybe this woman feels a little guilty for having left Lutheran churches even though she still considers herself a Lutheran.  It’s not my job to judge whether or not that guilt is appropriate or not.  But I pray that wherever she goes to church this Sunday, she hears the Gospel and recognizes that it’s not a guilt she needs to carry around with her.  And I pray that she spends some time in prayer and reflection over why my question made her feel awkward.    
And hopefully I didn’t ruin her day!

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