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.]
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.
Rick at Light from Light blog has a good article, titled "The Divine Service and Begging."
He quotes from Dr John Kleinig in Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today:
Because our spiritual life and health depends on receiving from Christ, we exercise our faith by becoming beggars before God. And that’s not easy for us who fancy that we are producers of spiritual goods and owners of spiritual gifts. The place to begin learning to receive is our regular involvement in the Divine Service. The classical order for the Service of Word and Sacrament puts us and keeps us in the position of beggars before God. It invites us to join the company of holy beggars in four important places.
Pr Larry Peters on the rubrics in the liturgy:
Rubrics. A rubric is a word or section of text which is written or printed in red ink to highlight it. The term derives from the rubrica, meaning red ochre or red chalk, and originates in Medieval illuminated manuscripts from the 13th century or earlier. Rubrics are authoritative rules of conduct or procedure or glosses in the text (explanations or definitions of an obscure word in a text) or directions for the conduct of Christian church services (often printed in red in a prayer book).
If you look through the hymnal or missal, you find these red notes all over the place. They tell us such things as when to sit or stand or kneel... when to make the sign of the cross... when to sing a hymn... They tell the Pastor when to face the people and when to face the altar, among many other things. They direct the usages or practices of the Church (colors of the season, directions for preparing the elements for the Sacraments, and even what to do with what remains of the Eucharist (the reliquae). And I could go on and on...
Brother Weedon has been publishing some of the rubrics from Lutheran Service Book in his wonderful blog. I have been reading them and even posted a comment there. The whole thing reminded me that too often the Pastors and people only read the stuff in black and too often forget or even ignore what is printed in red. It is printed in red to get our attention. As so many have noted, we are to do the red and say the black. It is hardly complicated but, unfortunately for our Church, it is a simple thing too often overlooked at the expense of faithful doctrine and practice.
I venture to say that you have not read the book if you have not read the rubrics. If you do not know the rubrics, you do not know the liturgy. They go hand in hand -- the words which we say and the directions that tell us how and what to do. They are not incidental because our practice is formed by our faith and our practice reflects what it is we truly believe. So, for example, if our practice is sloppy or slovenly, then we are in essence telling people that what we are doing is not important. Lord knows that there are already too many messages about the stuff of worship telling our people that this stuff is not important. Pastors do not need to [be] encouraging them or adding to these hints that how we do things is of little consequence.
The sad truth is that we did not pay much attention to the rubrics back when the hymnal was dated 1941 and the directions were in black italic and we do not pay much more attention to them today, even with the nice, deep red color to draw our attention to them. It is to our poverty that we ignore the red. Those who ignore the red seem prone to rewording the black.
We have a perfectly good way to introduce the lessons but so often the person reading (lay or ordained) seems determined to make up something new. One of the worst habits formed from ignoring the red is the idea that we should greet the people with a hearty good morning before we plow into the Word of God. It makes me wonder what goes through our heads sometimes. Reading the lessons means reading the Word of God so that the attention is on the Word and not the reader -- so why draw attention to who you are by hollaring out a "Goober says hey" before the reading? Better to borrow from the Orthodox if we must ad lib: "Wisdom! Attend!" But the easiest thing of all would simply be to pay attention to the rubrics.
The rubrics are put there not because some anal retentive type insists upon uniformity -- some German attribute of lock step precision drilling. They were put there because it is not enough to care about doctrine in the abstract. We care about it in the specific and concrete of the liturgy -- what we do and how we do it. Some folks think I am terribly persnickety. Really I am not. I know some folks who really get into the nitty gritty of rubrical conformity and precision. I am not one of them. But I care about what we do and how we do it -- I care because it reflects upon the Word and Sacraments of God. We hold that good practice is an extension of faithful doctrine. It is really that simple.
It is not that the rubric police will show up and cart you off if you ignore the red while making up your own black. It is not that heaven will fall to the ground and the work of God's kingdom will crash to a halt because you skipped a liturgical direction printed in red. It is not that the means of grace will be rendered impotent because you forgot a bow or turned the wrong way. Nobody is saying this. I am not saying this. But if what we are doing as representatives (ikons) of the Lord is important, if we believe that God actually works through His Word and Sacraments, then a little care about how we do what we do and what we do is not only good, it is salutary and beneficial. And, believe you me, people notice.
People learn through seeing how we do what we do as well as what we do. I once watched a waitress pick up a knife off the floor, wipe it on her apron, and place it back on the table. Now I am a firm practitioner of the five second rule when it comes to things dropped. But it is a little unseemly when you catch somebody practicing the home rule in public. So Pastors remember that you are not at home, you are in public. People are watching. Read those lines printed in red. See what they say and try to follow them. Read them often enough so that you know them as well as you know to say "In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit." The better you know them, the easier they are to follow. These things printed in red are really pretty good stuff. They actually make sense the more you do them. So give it a shot, won't you?!
Pr Larry Beane at Gottesdienst Online has a good article on the worship "wars":
I believe one of the reasons we have "worship wars" among American Christians is that it has been a long time since we have had physical warfare on our own soil. 9-11 was close, but even that was dominated not by the theology of the cross of Christ, but rather by a sense of the national therapy of Oprah.
Consider this poignant picture above of the ruins of a bombed-out church in Germany, where amid all the chances and changes of this life, the one thing that people could hold onto is the liturgy of the Church, the Mass, the real physical communion with the real physical Lord.
Notice what you don't see: entertainment. There is no gyrating chanteuse working the microphone like a Vegas performer, a spotlight shining on a grimacing drummer, a perfectly-coifed guitarist wearing the latest fashions, or a trendy prancing made-up motivational speaker with gelled-up hair and a plastic smile emoting in overly-dramatic hushed intonations.
Instead, we see a celebrant, deacon, subdeacon, and two servers, all reverently and historically vested, each stationed in his proper order, proclaiming by their very placement that no matter how unpredictable and desperate things may get in this war-torn existence, Jesus is here, week in and week out, in the midst of our pain and uncertainty. And the Church is here, century in and century out, bearing the Good News by proclaiming Christ crucified, the eternal Word of the cross. And even amid the rubble and missing walls and blown-out windows, the old stone edifice of the church building, even in its humiliated state, carries a reverent gravitas of which the latest and greatest multi-million-dollar "worship centers" are bereft.
And at the center of it all is the chancel. There is no stage, big screens, lasers, or sound system paraphernalia, but rather a simple but elegant book containing the liturgy and the Word of God, dignified candles flickering with the soft glow of the flames reminiscent of the Day of Pentecost and silently confessing the Son as "light of light, very God of very God." And of course, the Holy of Holies is the stone altar, anchored like the rock of St. Peter's confession amid the gravel of a desperate world, the marble slab upon which one finds the Cornerstone, the Christ Himself in the Holy Eucharist, the mystery of the Lord's Presence for the forgiveness of sins given by means of the simple creatures of bread and wine.
By contrast, "contemporary worship" is a sad and spiritually impoverished display of vulgar bourgeois suburban kitsch, a puerile frivolity that is more at home in a sterile strip mall or a vacuous night club than in the gritty real world inhabited by real people who suffer real pain and who need a real saving encounter with the real God. (emphasis added)
That is why we need real worship.
Pr. Brian Kachelmeier of Redeemer Lutheran, Los Alamos, New Mexico, discusses Contemporary Worship in the Old Testament with Pr. Todd Wilken (mp3, 26:30, 10.6 MB, 2010-Dec-15)
Contemporary Worship in the Old Testament Scriptures by Pr Brian Kachelmeier (pdf, 22 pgs, 391 KB)
Dr. John Oberdeck, Concordia University, Wisconsin, and author of "Eutychus Youth: Applied Theology for Youth Ministry in the 21st Century", discusses Eutychus and Youth Ministry with Pr. Todd Wilken
Part 1: The Need for Theology (mp3, 28:27, 11.4 MB, 2010-Dec-06)
Part 2: A Theological Framework for Youth Ministry (mp3, 32:08, 12.9 MB, 2010-Dec-13)
Part 3: Observing the Youth in the Church (mp3, 26:29, 10.6 MB, 2010-Dec-20)
Will the host of the radio program Issues Etc again defeat the Iron Preacher? Pr. Todd Wilken challenges Pastor Wolfmueller in a match of Iron Preacher, judged by Dr. Carl Fickenscher of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Then Pastor Wilken will spend the rest of the time talking about the proper distinction between Law and Gospel. (mp3, 16.4 MB, 47m57s, 2010-Nov-23)
Pr. Bryan Wolfmueller, pastor of Hope Lutheran Church, Aurora, Colo., and co-host of the program,Table Talk Radio, discusses The Christian View of the Conscience with Pr. Todd Wilken (mp3, 26:30, 10.6 MB, 2010-Nov-22)
See also Pr. Wolfmueller's article on Conscience Training (pdf, 3 pgs, 51 KB)
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