I celebrated Ash Wednesday for the 2nd time in my life, yesterday.
For me, religious ritual is a completely new experience. Growing up completely non-denomational, with every last shred of liturgical symbolism removed from our practice of Christianity---I feel like I have stumbled upon a whole other universe of experience.
The basic, foundational beliefs are the same (essentially). But the practice of this faith is entirely different.
The Lutherans seem to have retained a general adherance to the Catholic Mass, but with an added emphasis on Biblical exposition. However, this Biblical exposition is still far less than what I am accustomed to in the Calvary Chapel churches or other non-denoms.
What I appreciate about the Lutheran approach to Christianity, is the understanding that tangible symbols are important to an invisible spirituality. As humans, we need and crave tangibility. The adherance to a religious calendar reminds us to focus and renew certain aspects of our spiritual life.
Ash Wednesday is a solemn and reflective ocassion. In order to truly appreciate and celebrate the joy that is Easter, we must come to an understanding of the gravity of our sin.
What I have been missing in the non-denoms and other evangelical churches is the importance of Communion (also called Eucharist, the Lord's Supper). The Calvary Chapel we attended for 4 years held Communion once a month on a Wednesday night! It was like Communion was downgraded to an optional practice, tucked away on some random mid-week night. As a result, I went for a year without partaking of Communion.
In the particular Lutheran church I have been visiting, Communion is every single Sunday. I love that.
Honestly, I do have some issues with denominations. Why don't folks bring their Bibles to church? Why are infants baptised before they even have the choice of choosing Christ? Why are all the "lessons" preached from a topical perspective instead of a systematic, expositional approach to the whole of Scripture?
And of course, why must the pastor wear special robes?
Why is it that once you begin on a spiritual journey, you find yourself grappling with an endless stream of questions?