From the 2010 Good Shepherd Institute, Ft. Wayne, Ind.
From the LCMS
What do the parts of the liturgy mean? This is a frequently asked question; maybe you have asked that question yourself. The following descriptions of worship and the parts of liturgy were first published in an article by the former Commission on Worship for the Reporter Insert entitled “Taking a Tour of Heaven.”
Worship is like no place else in this world.
But there is one place that it does resemble, and that is heaven
The story is told of how Christianity was introduced to Russia. More than 1,000 years ago Grand Duke Vladimir of Kiev was interested in selecting an appropriate religion for his new nation. His emissaries investigated the main religions of the day, including Roman Catholicism and Islam. But it was only after visiting the chief site of the Orthodox Church in Constantinople that they found what they were looking for. In their report to their duke, the emissaries noted that in Orthodox worship there was such solemn splendor that they had a hard time knowing whether they were in heaven or on earth.
Worship is like that: one foot in heaven with the other here on earth. What brings heaven into our earthly worship is not dependent on the elaborateness of the service or the sincerity of our devotion. Rather, it is because of the One who is present in our worship that we experience heaven on earth.
If worship is "heaven on earth," then it stands to reason that what we do and say in worship should in some sense give us a foretaste of that great feast to come. In the following tour of the Divine Service we will see how the ancient texts of the liturgy give us that glimpse of heaven and, more importantly, how they deliver to us, here and now, the eternal benefits of forgiveness, life, and salvation.
Recently I was party to a conversation between pastors regarding the ceremonies of Passiontide and Holy Week. One fellow said that he couldn't see the point in leaving out the Gloria Patri during Passiontide. That brought to mind this famous quotation from Chesterton's essay, "The Drift from Domesticity."
In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, "I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away." To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: "If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it."This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious.
One of the first principles of liturgical, churchly thinking is that our fathers in the faith deserve our honor and respect. The liturgy is, first and foremost, a gift, an inheritance, something handed down from our fathers. Let us not be ungrateful, snide, or know-it-all children.
Pr. Bryan Wolfmueller, pastor of Hope Lutheran Church, Aurora, Colo., and co-host of the program,Table Talk Radio, reviews the top three "praise songs" with Pr. Todd Wilken (mp3, 54:28, 21.8 MB, 2011-Apr-05)
See Pr. Wolfmueller's Criteria for Discerning the Usefulness of Praise Songs.
It's that time of year - between Palm Sunday and the first couple Sundays in May, most congregations will be bringing confirmands to the Lord's Table for the first time. Here is something you might find useful in preparing your candidates for confirmation and/or first communion.
Receiving Holy Communion
In the Sacrament of the Altar, our Lord Jesus Christ has given us a miraculous and precious gift: His own true Body and true Blood for the forgiveness of our sins. We wish to receive that gift in a manner that shows our faith in our Lord and in this gift from his hand.
The Bible says in I Corinthians that we should “examine ourselves” and “recognize the Body of the Lord” before we come to the Lord's Supper. Besides making a regular habit of taking advantage of God's gift of Individual Confession & Absolution, it is a good idea to review the Catechism's Christian Questions and Their Answers, which can be found right in the hymnal, p. 329. Do this right when you sit down in church each Sunday morning.
The Catechism also says that “fasting and other bodily preparation is fine outward training.” Fasting helps focus our minds on this special, miraculous food we receive in the Lord's Supper. A simple way to fast before the Lord's Supper is simply not to eat breakfast before church on Sunday morning. Use the time you would have used to eat breakfast in additional prayers for a right and worthy reception of the Lord's Supper.
Before you go up to Communion you can turn to the inside from cover of the hymnal to find prayers for “Before Communing” and for “Thanksgiving after Receiving the Sacrament.” In addition to these, you may want to memorize these traditional prayers to pray while at the Altar:
Prayer before receiving the Body: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof. But only say the word, and your servant shall be whole.” (Matthew 8:8)
Prayer before receiving the Blood: “What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me? I shall receive the chalice of salvation and call upon the Name of the Lord. I shall call upon the Name of the Lord which is worthy to be praised and so shall I be saved from my enemies.” (Ps. 116:12-13; Ps. 18:3)
And remember the simplest prayer of all: when the pastor says, “The Body of Christ” and “The Blood of Christ” respond by saying, “Amen.”
Dress and Demeanor
Receiving your Lord's Body and Blood is a holy, mysterious, and precious gift to you from God. Your dress and demeanor should reflect your thankfulness and respect for this gift. This is why people wear clothing that is modest and neat for church: it shows respect for this miraculous gift which Jesus gives us.
The motto of “creative worship” in Lutheran circles seems to be that “the community of God in every locality and every age has the authority to change such ceremonies according to circumstances” (FC Ep X, 4). Pastor Paul McCain wrote an excellent response to this motto in LOGIA Forum, titled “Resourcing the Resource,” LOGIA 3 (Epiphany 1994): 73–75. His wisdom continues to fall on deaf ears. It is time to revisit this issue to consider whether the Confessions permit absolute liberty in matters of ceremonies and worship.
The Lutheran Confessions set forth at least four criteria for worship. These are stated most succinctly in the Formula of Concord: “There has been a controversy . . . concerning ceremonies and church rites which are neither commanded nor forbidden in the Word of God but which have been introduced into the church with good intentions for the sake of good order and decorum or else to preserve Christian discipline” [German: guter Ordnung, Wohlstands, christlichen Zucht. Greek: eutaxin. Latin: ordinem, pium disciplinam. Eutaxin refers to 1 Corinthians 14:40] (FC SD X, 1). “Neither are useless and foolish spectacles, which serve neither good order, Christian discipline, nor evangelical decorum in the church, true adiaphora or things indifferent” [German: guter Ordnung christlicher Disziplin, evangelischer Wohlstand] (FC SD X, 7). “The community [Gemeine] of God in every place and at every time has the right, authority, and power to change, to reduce, or increase ceremonies according to its circumstances, as long as it does so without frivolity and offense but in an orderly and appropriate way, as at any time may seem to be most profitable, beneficial, and salutary for good order, Christian discipline, evangelical decorum, and the edification of the church [German: guter Ordnung, christlicher Disziplin und Zucht, evangelischen Wohlstand und zu Erbauung der Kirchen] (FC SD X, 9).
The last quotation makes crystal clear that confessional Lutheran worship is free, as long as it is not frivolous or offensive, but orderly and appropriate, and also profitable for good order, Christian discipline, evangelical decorum, and the edification of the church.
A mission-minded church wants to remove all obstacles from the paths of unbelievers to the gospel. “People today are turned off by the traditional worship. It is too cumbersome and difficult for them to learn.” With this rationale, numerous pastors and people have been quick to abandon or rewrite substantial portions of the liturgy. They are loathe to attempt standard Lutheran hymns, but quick to embrace songs of another tradition that seems to suit people’s fancy more easily.
What such well-intentioned folk fail to recognize, however, must not be overlooked. Even if they manage to make the liturgy and hymnody less of a stumbling block to “seekers” and “boomers,” they have not and they will not ever be able to remove an even greater obstacle: Jesus Christ himself, who is the stone of stumbling and the rock of offense” (Rom 9:33; 1 Pt 2:6–8). This offense becomes evident in the lives of those who hear Christ’s words, “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.”
Worship is a crucial point of self-denial. The Divine Service is and must be offensive to our sinful nature. Real danger exists when the worship service is turned into an opportunity for self-centeredness. Terrible peril looms where the divine service abandons the theology of the cross in favor of a theology of glory. If people insist on promoting their own desires in the form of the service and in the hymns, they only show that they are lovers of themselves, having a form of godliness, but denying its power (2 Tim 3:2–5).
Liturgy and hymns bring the cross to us. That is to say, they are the setting in which Christ gives himself—his merciful love and forgiveness—through his holy and gracious gifts: holy baptism, holy absolution, holy communion, and the Holy Scriptures. If an unfamiliar hymn tune should make us wince, we ought to attempt it with greater effort, saying, “Take that, you sinful nature!”
We ought to be very cautious of those who want to make worship fun, neat, and exciting if they are attempting to do so by turning the sanctuary into a theater with up-tempo tunes, cleverly-contrived double entendres, and flowery prayers. Such artificial means never amount to self-denial. They only appease the sinful nature. This is especially true for adults who behave in a childish manner, thinking that they serve children or high school students with all the panache of rock station disc jockies. Our children need to be taught from the earliest age what it means to deny themselves, take up the cross, and follow Christ.
Whether the realm is youth work or evangelism, whether in Sunday School or a new members’ class, it is not a crime to want to remove all barriers to faith and life in Christ. We must never forget, however, that the kind of faith and life that come in Christ are diametrically opposed and entirely undesirable to the sinful nature. What better place than our liturgy and hymnody to examine and to observe that this is so? If people cannot endure the heritage of Lutheran liturgy and hymns, which in every aspect center us in Christ, then they are not likely ever to endure the greater difficulty: denying themselves, taking up the cross, following Christ.
Logia 6, 3 – Office and Offices (Holy Trinity 1997), pp. 66-67
Solidly confessional Bible Study, for 24 solid hours: Friday, April 8 and Saturday, April 9, 2011.
1. Acts, Dr. Ken Schurb
2. Exodus, Dr. David Adams
3. Daniel, Dr. Andrew Steinmann
4. Revelation, Pr. Jonathan Fisk
5. Isaiah, Pr. Bryan Wolfmueller
6. Psalms, Dr. John Kleinig
7. John, Dr. Gregory Lockwood
8. Mark, Prof. David Lewis
9. Hebrews, Dr. Arthur Just
10. Genesis, Dr. John Saleska
11. Ephesians, Pr. William Weedon
12. 1 Corinthians, Dr. Peter Scaer
Intrepid Lutherans has Dr C.F.W. Walther's response to a question about using Methodist hymns in a Lutheran Sunday School in their article, "C.F.W. Walther: Filching from sectarian worship resources equals 'soul murder'". This was part of Dr Mark DeGarmeaux's presentation, "Sacramental Worship, Sacramental Preaching: Treasures of our Lutheran Church." (pdf, 10 pgs, 280 KB)
Here is that letter:
This morning I received your worthy letter, written on the 19th of the month. In your letter you ask for my opinion on whether it is advisable to introduce the singing of Methodist songs in a Lutheran Sunday School. May what follows serve as a helpful reply to your questions:
No, this is not advisable, rather very incorrect and pernicious.
Our church is so rich in hymns that you could justifiably state that if one were to introduce Methodist hymns in a Lutheran school this would be like carrying coals to Newcastle. The singing of such hymns would make the rich Lutheran Church into a beggar which is forced to beg from a miserable sect. Thirty or forty years ago a Lutheran preacher might well have been forgiven this. For at that time the Lutheran Church in our country was as poor as a beggar when it comes to song books for Lutheran children. A preacher scarcely knew where he might obtain such little hymn books. Now, however, since our church itself has everything it needs, it is unpardonable when a preacher of our church causes little ones to suffer the shame of eating a foreign bread.
A preacher of our church also has the holy duty to give souls entrusted to his care pure spiritual food, indeed, the very best which he can possibly obtain. In Methodist songs there is much which is false, and which contains spiritual poison for the soul. Therefore, it is soul-murder to set before children such poisonous food. If the preacher claims, that he allows only "correct" hymns to be sung, this does not excuse him. For, first of all, the true Lutheran spirit is found in none of them; second, our hymns are more powerful, more substantive, and more prosaic; third, those hymns which deal with the Holy Sacraments are completely in error; fourth, when these little sectarian hymnbooks come into the hands of our children, they openly read and sing false hymns.
A preacher who introduces Methodist hymns, let alone Methodist hymnals, raises the suspicion that he is no true Lutheran at heart, and that he believes one religion is as good as the other, and that he thus a unionistic-man, a mingler of religion and churches.
Through the introduction of Methodist hymn singing he also makes those children entrusted to his care of unionistic sentiment, and he himself leads them to leave the Lutheran Church and join the Methodists.
By the purchase of Methodist hymn books he subsidizes the false church and strengthens the Methodist fanatics in their horrible errors. For the Methodists will think, and quite correctly so, that if the Lutheran preachers did not regard our religion as good as, or indeed, even better than their own, they would not introduce Methodist hymn books in their Sunday schools, but rather would use Lutheran hymn books.
By introducing Methodist hymn books, the entire Lutheran congregation is given great offense, and the members of the same are lead to think that Methodists, the Albright people, and all such people have a better faith than we do.
This may be a sufficient answer regarding this dismal matter. May God keep you in the true and genuine Lutheran faith, and help you not to be misled from the same, either to the right or to the left.
Your unfamiliar, yet known friend, in the Lord Jesus Christ,
C. F. W. Walther
St. Louis, Missouri
January 23, 1883
Pr Christopher Esget explains his presentation on his blog, Esgetology:
Presentation to Rocky Mountain District on Traditional Lutheran Worship
Some time ago I gave a presentation to the Rocky Mountain District of the LCMS for their Theological Unity conference. I just discovered (thanks, Jennifer!) that a video of it was put on the internet. My given title was, “The Benefits of Traditional Liturgy.” My approach was more along the lines of (a) What the Bible says about “tradition”; (b) What the Lutheran Confessions say about “tradition”; and (c) How that applies to us.
[File is temporarily not available.]
Pr Heath Curtis, Trinity Lutheran Church, Worden, Illinois, and Zion Lutheran Church, Edwardsville, Illinois, and Gottesdienst Online discusses using the Liturgy at Home with Pr. Todd Wilken (mp3, 28:21, 11.4 MB, 2011-Feb-21)
Dr Ken Schurb discusses the Christian's Mission with Pr Todd Wilken
Part 1:mp3, 54:59, 22,1 MB, 2011-Jan-05)
Part 2:mp3, 54:28, 21.9 MB, 2011-Jan-12)
Part 3:mp3, 54:44, 22.0 MB, 2011-Jan-19)
(mp3, 52:54, 21.2 MB, 2011-Feb-02)
(mp3, 54:41, 22.0 MB, 2011-Feb-09)
(mp3, 54:29, 21.9 MB, 2011-Feb-16)
Part 7:mp3, 54:29, 21.9 MB, 2011-Feb-22)
(mp3, 54:59, 22.1 MB, 2011-Mar-02)
(mp3, 55:35, 22.3 MB, 2011-Mar-09)
The above programs are based on Dr. Schurb's LifeLight study, The Christian's Mission, available from Concordia Publishing House.
Pr Heath Curtis writes about laymen assisting with communion distribution on Gottesdienst Online.
I don't think there can be any argument over the fact that in the minds of those who wrote and originally subscribed to AC XIV it meant that only ordained ministers (whether priest or deacons - the Lutheran understanding of the latter seems rather fluid: see below) would be consecrating and distributing the Lord's Supper to the laity. Never had it been otherwise in the long history of the Church. Indeed, some of the first canons we have from early meetings of bishops deal with who communes whom: and never, ever, is it laity who is distributing the Lord's Supper.
So, anyone reading AC XIV in 1530 would know exactly what it meant: only clergy consecrate and distribute the Lord's Body and Blood. That is the original intent of the article - and I really don't think that this is a point that can be controverted. To try to find wiggle room in there for another practice ("it says administer - not distribute") is to be anachronistic. It's a bit like lawyers trying to argue for new Constitutional "rights" that are beyond the obvious original intent of the US Constitution.
If one does wish to controvert the point: we'll need historical evidence that laity ever distributed the Sacrament before the 16th century or in subsequent Lutheranism in the 16th century. That bit in the Confessions that Fr. Weedon is always so found of pointing out really is a good key to Confessional Hermeneutics: in doctrine and ceremonies nothing has been received on our part contrary to Scripture or the Church Catholic (Epilogue to AC XXVIII). It is simply a historical fact that at the very least, lay distribution of the Supper is a ceremony contrary to the usage of the Church Catholic up to 1530.
Therefore, I find it hard to view this practice as anything other than an abuse - and a widespread one, at that.
Pr. William Weedon blogs about Lutherans bringing their own hymnals from home to church every service:
You know, it was truly one of the saddest ideas to ever catch on. Putting those hymnals in the church. Because before, the hymnals belonged to you personally and you didn't leave your hymnal behind at church - you took it to your home. There you prayed out of it and sang out of it during the week. Everyone had one by the time they were confirmed - they made hugely popular confirmation gifts. So the family could whip out the hymnals in the evening and sing together, or pray a psalm or offer the prayers. When we started leaving the hymnal in the nave, we started leaving church in the church instead of bringing church into the home. CPH is trying to fix the problem by suggesting that the hymnal belongs in every home. I think that's too weak. It doesn't belong in every home. They belong in every home. As many as the folks in the home, so let the number of the hymnals be (and maybe a couple extras for guests!); and let them not be dusty but let us learn again the art of our forefathers in the faith - finding in the hymnal, the Bible, and the Catechism the source for our daily prayers, singing and making a joyful noise to the Lord with all our heart.
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