Our Savior Lutheran Church
I don’t know about you, but it seems I spend a lot of my life trying to make 10 pounds of doorknobs fit in a five-pound bag. I always try to combine trips, to figure out ways to multi-task my work life and family life. And that means I rarely go out of my way for church. I’ll bet a lot of people are like that, eschewing a drive across town to a church that may be a better fit in order to attend a service in the neighborhood.
I’ve always been a proponent of the hyper-local economy, but it strikes me as interesting—if my work didn’t force me to include a larger section of town than most, I would have missed a perfectly charming little Lutheran congregation.
Anyway, Hunter and I were volunteering at his school, High Desert Montessori, building the new playground on Sunday. We wanted to get there as early as possible, so we were looking for a close-by, 9 a.m. service, and we were just going to take a change of clothes over.
So there we were. The sanctuary and outbuildings have a park-like feel. The exterior of the building has kind of a low-to-the-ground wooden shingled building with a low steeple. It almost didn’t look like a church. I met Pastor Ron Arnold shortly after we sat down, when I began taking notes on the ‘70s elegance of the sanctuary and chancel.
Simplicity is the obvious theme in this building: instead of stained-glass pictures, it’s stained glass panels of red, white, gold and green. Instead of chandeliers, it’s hanging globes. The comfortable pews have a golden upholstery. The carpet is an indeterminate pattern. The chancel was made dramatic by bold background coloring—a smoky blue—and inset cross. Much of the walls had that popcorn texture. It felt very much like a home I could have grown up in.
The whole service kept up those themes of simplicity and family, which, when you get right down to it, symbolize the Lutheran ideology—at least from my point of view. There was one exchange, near the beginning of the service that illustrates my point. Pastor Arnold was having mic problems. “It didn’t sound like I could be heard by me,” he said. “That was OK with us,” came a voice out of the congregation. “Careful. I’m your patron saint,” he retorted back. Friendly, like an exchange made over dinner.
The music was not very robust for the most part. But the seven-person choir and pianist did a great job with one harmony-driven standard in particular, although I’m afraid I failed to write its title in my notes. The readings were from Amos 5:18-24 and 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18 with the gospel coming from Matthew 25:1-13, the parable about the 10 bridesmaids who are awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom. Five brought extra fuel for their lamps, five didn’t. Since the parable is a metaphor for being prepared for Jesus Christ’s second coming, it’s pretty easy to figure out which group of bridesmaids came out on the wrong side of the parable.
Pastor Arnold sermonized on the topic of being prepared, but again, since this is one big family, he did it with a lot of humor and cultural references. It felt not so much like being lectured to as having a conversation with.
“God’s rain falls on both the good and the bad,” he said. “Because we are God’s people, [some feel] we should have an invisible shield to protect us from the slings and arrows of Satan and evil. … Our religion is not any protection from the bad things in life. … Please don’t think today I’m trying to raise the level of anxiety and fear. What I hope to do is raise your level of faith.”