Of all the Sunday morning services that I attended in my youth, the one I remember most was when I was in fifth grade.
Unlike many congregations, which have two seats on opposite sides of the chancel for acolytes, the congregation my father was serving at the time had the practice of requiring acolytes to sit next to each other in the front row. Like many other practices in life, this practice generally worked out just fine. Except for when the people involved sinned. And that's what I was doing that morning when, instead of listening to my father's sermon, I was joking around with my friend and co-acolyte, Michael.
I'm not sure what we were snickering about. But whatever the source of the laughter, it was loud enough to cause my father to stop in the middle of his sermon and tell me to be quiet because what he was saying was important. And while I certainly was terrified in that moment (I know it was a long time ago, but the good folks at St. Peter's might want to give that acolyte robe one more trip to the dry cleaners), the emotion I remember feeling most strongly was embarrassment.
But as embarrassing as this was for me, what I didn't realize until I had kids of my own was that this was even more embarrassing for my father. You see, no decent father ever wants to bring attention to the fact that his child is being terrible. And he especially doesn't want to bring attention to that when he's doing his job. But any decent electrician father in the world in the world would dive headfirst into that embarrassment if that's what it took to stop his daughter from sticking a fork in a light socket. Any loving chemist father would scream at the top of his lungs to stop his son from taking a sip of hydrochloric acid. And any pastor father worthy of either vocation would call out his kid from the pulpit if that's what it took to let the kid know that busting a gut over Jeffery Dahmer jokes during the Divine Service is not acceptable.
So while, at the time, I loved my father in spite of that moment, as I've grown older and grown in the faith, I've come to love my father even more because of that moment. Because that was a moment in which my father taught me that, more than anything else in the world, he wanted me to be a Christian. And if the only way he could smack some Christian piety into me was to embarrass himself in front of the entire congregation, then so be it. Because my soul was that important to him.
And so, if you want to be an awesome Lutheran father, that's how you do it, folks. And, in the offhand chance that you don't have a pulpit from which to yell at your rotten kids, here are a few other ways to increase your concordiaWEsomeness:
Dr. Burnell Eckardt, Jr., pastor of St. Paul's Lutheran, Kewanee, Ill., and editor-in-chief of Gottesdienst, a quarterly journal promoting the historic liturgy, discusses the Arminianism of "Contemporary" worship with Pr. Todd Wilken (mp3, 26:28, 10.6 MB, 2011-Jun-22)
A couple of weeks ago my junior high choir sang a Kyrie by 16th-century composer Leonhard Lechner for the Divine Service. They sang it AS the Kyrie, so the assembly stood for prayer as the choir sang this. It was sung as originally composed, in beautiful 3-part a cappella counterpoint, and so we experienced the music as it was intended and conceived by the composer. Judging from comments I received afterwards - including from a young mother who exclaimed how much her baby enjoyed the piece - I dare say it worked as well for us in 2011 Chicagoland as it did in 1560s Germany. My young choir enjoys singing it as well.
And yet many in the church today believe that both congregations and singers, especially young ones, can only connect with the most recent of musical constructs. If something historic is done, then it at least needs to be done in a "contemporary" way. Now I am all in favor of new interpretations of existing melodies. It is a time-honored church tradition after all, and one of the strongest arguments for using traditional hymn melodies is their objective strength, i.e. they are sturdy enough to "hold up" various styles and musical treatments.
But it struck me after the service that all this emphasis on "new", "fresh", and "contemporary" assumes that somehow singers and congregations today are different than those of previous generations. Somehow what has served the Gospel well for dozens of years and even dozens of generations can no longer "work" today. No reason is really ever given for this, it is just assumed that "that was then, this is now." But do we really have different chromosomes, brain cells, and hearts today? Has our technology or our culture really changed us that much? Or are we in 21st-century America just full of ourselves. I think it is the latter. The church suffers because of it. The proclamation of the Gospel suffers because of it.
I say this as a composer, an improvisor, and as a church musician who embraces the musical developments of our age: let us constantly learn from the great musicians who have gone before us, and have the humility to let their voices speak. They usually have much better things to say than we do.
Pastor Kevin Golden, Village Lutheran, Ladue, Mo. and Pastor Scott Klemsz, Lutheran Church of Our Savior, Salinas, Calif. discuss Matt. 28:16-20 with Pastor Todd Wilken. (mp3, 54:22, 21.8 MB, 2011-Jun-16)
HT: Pr Jeff Hemmer on his blog, Hemmersphere
“To neglect your church, your prayer, your Bible study, your devotions, is to tell God that you have no desire to grow, to become more and more His child, that you are satisfied with being a weak and shaky Christian, and that you have had as much as you want from Him. How perilously such a person is slipping away from God. Everything that is not in accord with God's will is given over to death and the power of darkness. But, my friends, if we cling to Christ and His Word, growing daily in the will of God, striving to bring our lives into harmony with that will, what strength is ours, what then can harm us? When we are given over to the will of God, nothing can destroy, no more than God and His will can be destroyed. The unshakeable strength of the will of God is in us, though the world turn upside down.” (Dr. Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons, p. 245.)
Some opportunities for growth (from Pr. Hemmer):
- If you attend church less frequently than you should, set a goal to attend every Sunday that you are healthy.
- If you do not currently attend Bible class (or Sunday school), set a goal to grow in the Word by studying it at Bible class.
- If you do not currently have family devotions every day, set a goal to begin using Treasury of Daily Prayer (with accompaniment) or Portals of Prayer for family prayer and devotions every day.
"Deviations from traditional, liturgical worship and ceremony
are deviations from the Lutheran confessions themselves"
The following audio is Pr. Larry Beane's discussion of the article with Pr. Todd Wilken on Issues, Etc.:
The article is from Dec 30, 2008, on the Gottesdienst web site:
In the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, we live in a liturgical climate of “anything goes.” One can indeed find traditional liturgy in our churches, but one can also find innovations that can hardly seem in any way congruent with our confessional writings, innovations such as: entertainment-based rock music, skits, comedy routines, free-form worship, odd movements and speaking in gibberish, lay “consecration” and “preaching,” infrequent and/or open communion, the setting aside of vestments, the use of props and gimmicks for preaching, polka services, dancing girls, and even services led by clowns in face make-up.
When the confessions are taken seriously, one is hard-pressed to find that any of these innovations are in any way compatible with Lutheranism. Indeed, it deems that by their very definition, such willful expressions of worship effectively remove these churches and pastors from our very fellowship.
In fact, in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, pastors (and lay members of the synod, such as school teachers and other lay offices created to assist the Office of the Holy Ministry) subscribe to the Lutheran confessions (i.e. the Book of Concord) in a “quia” manner, which is to say, in their entirety “because” they are in accordance with Holy Scripture. This is in opposition to the less stringent “quatenus” manner of subscription, which is to say that each statement in the confessions is accepted or rejected individually “insofar” as each is in accordance with Scripture – thus allowing for individual interpretation based on one’s opinion as to whether or not parts of the confessions pass Scriptural muster. Practically speaking, the latter is a clever way of not subscribing to the Book of Concord at all, as C.F.W. Walther pointed out, a Christian could even subscribe to the Koran in a “quatenus” manner.
Here are a few quotations from the Lutheran confessions concerning liturgical practice in “our churches” (that is to say, Lutheran churches, or churches “of the Augsburg Confession”):
“Our churches teach that those rites should be observed which can be observed without sin and which contribute to peace and good order in the church.” (AC XV)
“In our churches, Mass is celebrated every Sunday and on other festivals, when the sacrament is offered to those who wish for it after they have been examined and absolved. We keep traditional liturgical forms, such as the order of the lessons, prayers, vestments, etc.” (Ap XXIV:1)
“Our churches are falsely accused of abolishing the Mass. Actually, the Mass is retained among us and is celebrated with the greatest reverence. Almost all the customary ceremonies are also retained, except that German hymns are interspersed here and there among the parts sung in Latin…. The people are accustomed to receive the sacrament together… this likewise increases reverence and devotion of public worship, for none are admitted unless they are first heard and examined…. Such worship pleases God, and such use of the sacrament nourishes devotion to God. Accordingly, it does not appear that the Mass is observed with more devotion among our adversaries than among us.” (AC XXIV:1-9)
“After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ.” (AC XXIV:3)
“The holy Fathers… instituted traditions for the sake of good order and tranquility in the church.” (Ap XV:13)
“No one will create disorder by unnecessary innovation.” (LC I:85)
“It is taught among us that nobody should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments in the church without a regular call.” (AC XIV:1)
“Those ancient customs should be kept which can be kept without sin or without great disadvantage. This is what we teach.” (Ap XV:52)
“We gladly keep the old traditions set up in the church because they are useful and promote tranquility, and we interpret them in an evangelical way, excluding the opinion which holds that they justify…. We can truthfully claim that in our churches, the public liturgy is more decent than in theirs, and if you look at it correctly we are more faithful to the canons than our opponents are. In our circles…the children chant the Psalms in order to learn.” (Ap XV:38-40)
“Nothing has been received among us, in doctrine or in ceremonies, that is contrary to Scripture or to the church catholic.” (AC Conclusion 5)
“Many traditions are kept among us (such as the order of lessons in the Mass, holy days, etc.) which are profitable for maintaining good order in the church.” (AC XXVI:40)
“Of the same sort is the observance of Sunday, Easter, Pentecost, and similar festivals and rites.” (AC XXVIII:57)
“In our churches, on the other hand, all sermons deal with topics like these: penitence, the fear of God, faith in Christ, the righteousness of faith, comfort for the conscience through faith, the exercise of faith, prayer and our assurance that it is efficacious and is heard, the cross, respect for rulers and for all civil ordinances, the distinction between the kingdom of Christ (or the spiritual kingdom) and political affairs, marriage, the education and instruction of children, chastity, and all the works of love. From this description of the state of our churches it is evident that we diligently maintain church discipline, pious ceremonies, and the good customs of the church.” (Ap XV:43-44)
“In the morning, when you rise, make the sign of the cross” (SC VIII:1) and “In the evening, when you retire, make the sign of the cross.” (SC VIII:4)
“Thus has originated and continued among us the custom of saying grace and returning thanks at meals and saying other prayers for both morning and evening. From the same source came the custom of children who cross themselves when they see or hear something monstrous or fearful.” (LC I:73-74)
Regarding the change of ceremonies, “all frivolity and offenses are to be avoided.” (FC Ep X:5)
“We should not consider as matters of indifference … useless and foolish spectacles which serve neither good order, Christian discipline, nor evangelical decorum in the church.” (FC SD X:5-7)
“This is about the sum of our teaching. As can be seen, there is nothing here that departs from the Scriptures or the catholic church or the Church of Rome, in so far as the ancient church is known to us from its writers…. It can readily be judged that nothing contributes so much to the maintenance of dignity in public worship and the cultivation of reverence and devotion among the people as the proper observance of ceremonies in the churches.” (AC XXI Epilogue: 1-6)
It can be seen from these quotations that Lutheran worship services and piety are traditional by definition. Deviations from traditional, liturgical worship and ceremony are deviations from the Lutheran confessions themselves.
Those who wish to deviate from traditionalism must either: 1) Renounce their “quia” subscriptions (often by an appeal to “show me where that is in the Bible”), 2) Claim the confessions are no longer relevant, usually by way of a form of “gospel reductionism” and the emergency situation that people are dying without Jesus, 3) Argue that Christian liberty exempts them from such passages (usually by playing Formula of Concord X over and against these other passages instead of harmonizing it with them), or 4) Put forth the proposition that the Lutheran confessions are “descriptive” rather than “prescriptive.”
The latter approach implies that “prescriptive” confessions would be binding, whereas “descriptive” confessions are not binding – but are rather only a historic snapshot of what the church looked like in a specific time or place, but here and now, we are free to accept or reject parts of the Book of Concord we don’t find relevant today. Of course, if that is the case, one’s ordination vows are even weaker than a “quatenus” subscription.
So, are the confessions descriptive or prescriptive? I agree those who argue that they are descriptive, not prescriptive.
For these are confessions, statements of belief. And belief, that is, faith, cannot be prescribed. Prescription is a matter of coercion, it is of the realm of the law instead of the gospel. One can no more “prescribe” belief in the Lutheran confessions than one can “prescribe” belief in the Apostles’ Creed or the Koran. Rather, either one believes them or not. We Lutherans have no punitive legal recourse, no court of coercion. We simply draw a line around what “we believe, teach, and confess” – with the understanding that this describes what “we” uphold and practice. People who disagree are simply not part of the “we.”
Christians can (and do) worship God apart from traditional liturgy. They just aren’t “Augsburg Confession” Christians – which is to say, they aren’t Lutherans. We Lutherans – especially in Lutheran communions which pledge a “quia” subscription – yield to the veracity of the Lutheran confessions as expositions of Holy Scripture. When we say: “In our churches…” or “We believe, teach, and confess…”, we are saying that these are true statements. In short, we are saying these Lutheran confessions are “descriptive.” They “describe” what you will see “in our churches” – both in beliefs confessed and ceremonies and rites practiced.
Unfortunately, among the “contemporary worship” set who have scandalously laid aside ceremonies which taught the people about Christ and established evangelical decorum; among the pastors who have traded in their traditional vestments for trendy golf shirts; in those congregations that make use of skits, clowns, dancing girls, and other undignified and frivolous gimmicks which make a mockery of the above-sited passages; as well as in those congregations in which the Mass is willfully not celebrated every Sunday – these statements are not descriptive at all.
If our “descriptive” confessions do not “describe” what our churches believe, teach, confess – and indeed practice in ceremonies – then it is time for those congregations and pastors to reconsider their commitments to these confessions. The fact that we have evangelical liberty and the fact that our Book of Concord is descriptive and not prescriptive should not be interpreted as license to overlook it, or even regarding some matters, adopt an opposite confession – at least not while maintaining a subscription to these symbolical and confessional writings. With descriptive confessions, there can be no separation of style and substance. Either “what you see is what you get” – or the Book of Concord is a lie.
If the Book of Concord has ceased being an accurate description of doctrine and practice in a given congregation, either the pastor of that congregation should preach and teach in order to bring the congregation back into communion with those confessions, or pastor and parish should both openly renounce the Lutheran confessions and leave our fellowship. Integrity demands it. It is openly hypocritical to stand before the holy altar and pledge fealty to confessions that one feels he is free to ignore.
From the Witness, Mercy and Life Together blog:
LCMS Pres. Harrison speaks about the tornado damage in Joplin, Mo., reports on LCMS member safety and offers ways you can help.
Pr Eric Brown discusses Dr Martin Luther's comfort on prayer:
There is much angst, especially out here in the Bible Belt, over prayer. Prayer becomes a giant show, a harsh work, something that is difficult or embarassing. We need to "pray hard" - we need to be dilligent. Our prayers should be "ex corde" - from the heart, so if someone else writes them, they are no good.
And being hit by this, the Christian shrinks away, thinks how pitiful his ability to pray is, and is then put silent.
Contrast this with Luther - who yes, urges us to a diligent life and routine of prayer (remember your daily prayers from the catechism). But prayer is not difficult, it is not a show - even your constant prayer is not a burden. Why? Quoth Luther:
Wherever a Christian is, there the Holy Spirit is, Who does nothing else but pray constantly. For though a Christian is not moving his lips and speaking words, his heart nevertheless moves and beats (just like the pulse in his body) and always throbs with such sighs as these: Dear Father, may Thy name be hallowed; may Thy kingdom come; may Thy will be done by us and everyone. And the harder the blows of life or temptation and trouble press and beat upon him, the strong such sighs and prayers become, even vocally. Therefore you cannot find a Christian without prayer, just as you cannot find a living man without a pulse. The pulse never stands still; it is always throbbing and beating by itself, even though a man is sleeping or doing something else and, therefore, is not aware of it. (What Luther Says - 3487)
I love Luther. Whenever man goes and frets about what he is doing, if it is good enough, Luther like a thunderbolt flashes across the sky - it is about what God does! My prayer... not about me. It is the Holy Spirit at work in me, and while I might fail, He fails me never. My works... not about me - It is Christ who lives within me.
Luther is a man of comfort - he is a man of the Gospel.
Part 1 - Creation according to Genesis 1:
(mp3, 40:57, 16.5 MB, 2011-May-09)
Part 2 - Genesis One and the Book of Genesis:
(mp3, 40:25, 16.2 MB, 2011-May-18)
Part 3 - Creation and the New Testament:
(mp3, 40:30, 16.3 MB, 2011-May-25)
Part 4 - Creation and Science:
(mp3, 40:22, 16.2 MB, 2011-May-26)
Special Edition of Table Talk Radio's Table Scraps
Debate: Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?
Against: Dr. Robert M. Price, Coleman Theological Seminary
From the 2010 Good Shepherd Institute, Ft. Wayne, Ind.
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.
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