Pastor Randy Asburry of Hope Lutheran, St. Louis, Mo. and Pastor Mark Buetow of Bethel Lutheran, Du Quoin, Ill. discuss John 14:23-31 with Pastor Todd Wilken (mp3, 54:28, 21.9 MB, 2011-Jun-09)


"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.

Download Transcript

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Pastor Mark Nebel of St. John Lutheran, Red Bud, Ill., and Pastor Ernie Lassman of Messiah Lutheran, Seattle, Wash., discuss John 14:15-21 with Pastor Todd Wilken (mp3, 54:28, 21.9 MB, 2011-May-31)


Pr David Petersen, Redeemer Lutheran, Ft. Wayne, Ind., discusses John 16:5-15 with Pr. Todd Wilken. (mp3, 54:28, 21.9 MB, 2011-May-19)


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.

Dr. Joel HeckConcordia University Texas, Austin, Texas, discusses Genesis with Pr. Todd Wilken.

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)

See also: “In the Beginning God: Creation from God’s Perspective

In the Beginning, God by Dr Joel Heck






Special Edition of Table Talk Radio's Table Scraps

Debate: Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?

For: Dr. David Scaer, Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft Wayne, Ind.

Against: Dr. Robert M. Price, Coleman Theological Seminary

(mp3, 1h54m02s)

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.


Pr Bill CwirlaHoly Trinity Lutheran, Hacienda Heights, Calif. discusses the Priesthood of All Believers and the Office of the Holy Ministry with Pr. Todd Wilken. (mp3, 54:28, 21.8 MB, 2011-Apr-14)


Pr. Brent Kuhlman, Trinity Lutheran Church, Murdock, Neb., discusses God, the Great Gift Giver, with Pr Todd Wilken (mp3, 28:30, 11.4 MB, 2011-Apr-15)


Pr David Peterson, Redeemer Lutheran Church, Ft. Wayne, Ind., discusses Style as Substance with Pr. Todd Wilken (mp3, 26:29, 10.6 MB, 2011-Apr-12)


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.


Dr. Arthur JustConcordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, Ind., discusses the Didache (dih-dah-kay), the Teaching of the 12 Apostles, with Pr. Todd Wilken (mp3, 54:29, 21.9 MB, 2011-Apr-04)


Something for the Confirmands

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.

Spiritual Preparation

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.