I've been struggling internally a bit with the conflicting demands of institutional life and the so-beyond-all-that-crap attraction of God. Jenell, in her inimitable way, has put her finger on it:
"Churches organize people, funds, help, and childcare, and it's great
when they do it well. But they also organize our identities,
encouraging us to perceive ourselves and to project a public self that
is (among other things) saved or damned, good or bad, or on the path or
straying." (Please do read the whole post).
I think the freedom of the Gospel as Luther understood it is about
exactly this giving up of the categories. We're always saints and
sinners, all the time, and it's wonderful when we can give up wasting all our energy on categorizing ourselves. This is, in theory, why Lutherans are not quite so wrapped up in the "good or bad" rhetoric, but we still find lots of ways to place ourselves in a theological universe that is more about who we are compared to others instead of an honest spiritual journey.
We need to be in community, and it seems like humans naturally do this "temporal social discourse" thing that, all too often, detracts from relating to the Great I AM. As a pastor I do try to be conscious of when I'm serving an institutional need and when I'm doing something vaguely more spiritual, but frankly, the constant shifting of gears is exhausting, and I'm pretty sure that most of the time the people I'm interacting with don't make those same mental shifts as we go along.
Tomorrow, I'll be at a large funeral, which is both a mammoth effort of social organization and a recognition that most of our self-identities are meaningless in the face of death. The deceased is free at last. The rest of us will muddle along.