Whenever I visit my home town of Hallock, MN (which isn’t often), I am reminded – a lot – of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon. Besides all of the small-town weirdness and the Lutheran culture, there’s something simple and nice and decent about it. I tend to forget this; living in a non-Lutheran culture, I forget just how civilized rural life can be among Minnesota Lutherans.
Yesterday I along with my Mom and sister were invited to the home of my high school science teacher, Phillip Peterson, and his wife, Marlys. Besides being my science teacher, Phillip was also one of my Sunday School teachers (in the Lutheran church, of course). Marlys and my mom graduated from high school together and have remained fairly close friends. So, knowing I was coming home for a quick visit, they called to invite us over for coffee.
I had forgotten how Lutherans do coffee. Similar to the British tradition of Tea, Minnesota Lutherans routinely stop whatever they are doing and have coffee along with something sweet – cookies, cake, whatever. We used to call it “lunch.” Dinner was the noon meal, supper was in the evening, and lunch was around three P.M.
We got to Peterson’s at 2:00 and were ushered into the family room, where we had a nice talk. After a while, Marlys went to make some coffee. After a few minutes we were invited to the dining room, where the table was set like something from HGTV. Upon each dish was a bowl containing 2 varieties of ice cream. There were cups for coffee, and glasses of ice water. There was a plate with 2 varieties of cookies, a plate of chocolate-iced rice krispy bars, and 2 bowls of chocolates. Just looking at the table caused my blood sugar to increase.
I had forgotten what Midwestern hospitality was like. We’ve become so relaxed, so comfortable in our post-cultural-revolution that we’ve not only lost any concept of formality, but we’ve lost our concept of hospitality.
It’s the same with church, and even our relationship with God. So many have lost formality, becoming so relaxed and casual that our sense of hospitality and respect for all that’s holy has been lost.
I really enjoyed my visit with the Petersons. I was reminded of a kinder, gentler time. I was also reminded that formality and intentionality may be rare, but it’s never out of style.