Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A busy Christmastide...

Obviously, the Gottesdienst Online editors have been as busy as the rest of you during this run up to the Yule. But here's a couple of quick items:

* Don't forget to join in the all the Gottesdienst and Sabre of Boldness festivities in Fort Wayne next month.

* Don't forget that St. John's Day replaces the First Sunday after Christmas on Dec. 27.

* If you have a New Year's Eve service, consider using the propers for Jan 1, Name and Circumcision of our Lord. The traditional readings are wonderful with a one verse Gospel lesson.

* And finally, we bring you a Protestant miracle, courtesy of my wife's kitchen:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Advent Podcasts

Since no one has posted here for awhile, I'll throw this out: to listen to any number of 25 minute airings of "St. Paul's on the Air," a radio program discussing the particulars of the Sunday Gospels and church year, the most recent being the one for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, click here and then click on any of the Sundays listed.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Out of the Barn

The sleigh is loaded down, the reindeer are harnessed, and the bags of goodies are on their way: Gottesdienst is out of the barn, and coming to a mailbox near you. Ho, ho ho!

Unless, of course, you have not subscribed. To correct that error, click here, and Santa will be glad to drop by your house too.

Here's a recommendation: St. Nicholas' Day is December 6, so in honor of that, and as a treat to yourself (or a friend), as we suggested, click here.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Gottesdienst for Christmas

Count me as one who is not so quick to pile on the merchants for 'commercializing' Christmas and ruining the holy season for the rest of us. Listen, they're just doing their best to make an honest living, and everyone knows December can be make it or break it for some. So they advertise at the time of season when we are most likely to go out and buy stuff to put under the tree. Nothing wrong with that. And if the stores pipe in Christmas music, who am I to complain about occasionally hearing the blessed name of Jesus in the marketplace?

In fact, we at Gottesdienst are ourselves merchants, as it turns out. So herewith, we unabashedly advertise to all you Gottesdiensters out shopping about for gifts in Christmasland, saying:

Hark! Behold! Gottesdienst for Christmas!

Here's a great Christmas gift you don't even have to wrap: a two-year gift subscription to Gottesdienst. Just click here, scroll down and fill in the info we'll need (there's a place to fill in gift subscription information), and we'll send your recipient a letter advising of the great gift you're sending.

Do it now, and check another name off your shopping list!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Indelible Character?

In the Roman Catholic world, character indelibilis is the special grace which attaches itself to the ordination of a priest which is irrevocable. This does not mean that an ordained priest cannot be removed from office for cause; what it does mean is that such a man can never again be considered a layman. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

"The sacrament of Holy Orders . . . confers an indelible spiritual character and cannot be repeated or conferred temporarily.

"It is true that someone validly ordained can, for grave reasons, be discharged from the obligations and functions linked to ordination, or can be forbidden to exercise them; but he cannot become a layman again in the strict sense, because the character imprinted by ordination is for ever. The vocation and mission received on the day of his ordination mark him permanently.

"Since it is ultimately Christ who acts and effects salvation through the ordained minister, the unworthiness of the latter does not prevent Christ from acting. St. Augustine states this forcefully:

"As for the proud minister, he is to be ranked with the devil. Christ's gift is not thereby profaned: what flows through him keeps its purity, and what passes through him remains dear and reaches the fertile earth. . . . The spiritual power of the sacrament is indeed comparable to light: those to be enlightened receive it in its purity, and if it should pass through defiled beings, it is not itself defiled." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, s.v. The Sacrament of Holy Orders, Par. 182-4)

The Lutheran (especially Luther's own) response to this was to point out that the ministry is a ministry of the word and Sacraments, which themselves confer grace for salvation, to be received through faith. Moreover the 'grace' of ordination cannot be allowed to obscure or supplant the grace of salvation. So Luther disagreed with the indelible character, at least as it was being bandied about in his day, and could say that a deposed priest was no priest at all(WA 6, 408, 22ff.; 567, 18-19).

Wolfhart Pannenberg has pointed out that if the idea is understood somewhat differently, we do not need to reject it altogether. If we see it "in terms of the thought of promise and sending that constantly govern the ordained and claim them for Christ's service, we no longer need to oppose [indelible character] on the Lutheran side, since this point of view finds expression in the Lutheran churches, too. Here there is no repetition of ordination." (Systematic Theology [Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1998], 398.

I think Pannenberg's sentiments are right, although perhaps it isn't that we "no longer" need to oppose it, but simply that there is a proper way to understand it. After all, St. Paul tells Timothy not to neglect the gift that is in him by the laying on of hands (I Timothy 4:14), and the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29).

So, acknowledging Luther's concern that ordination cannot be allowed to supplant the grace of God given to an individual for salvation, we ought not be too quick to scuttle the permanence of ordination. Set aside for a moment the negatives (e.g. what about the rogue or wicked priest?), the positive truth is that someone who is ordained into service as a minister of the Gospel is indeed supposed to see himself as ordained for life. He may not view this calling as an ordinary job.

If you want to be, say, a schoolteacher or pharmacist, and after a number of years shrug and say you'd like to embark on a different career, that's entirely up to you. We cannot quite say the same for a clergyman. And in fact the shepherd who knows this will be less inclined to turn tail and run when he sees the wolf; especially if he remembers the attendant promises given to him for perseverance.

While it is true that there remain valid reasons for removing a man from the office, or even that the man himself might rightly see fit to step down, on the other hand there are many reasons that are not valid. Fear of persecution is not a valid reason.

Nor, for that matter, is the attainment of the age of 65. It is true that the 'retired' minister sometimes does plenty of preaching, and there is a place for retired preachers in the economy of the churches, so I do think that there's a salutary way to take 'retirement' in the church; but I don't think one can simply look at that magical age as an opportunity to go find a Florida beach and take in the rays for the rest of your life, just because you want to.

Seminarians ought to think twice before receiving their Holy Orders, because in a way it's rather like getting married. After all, you do take a vow to preach. And the Apostle says "woe unto me if I preach not the Gospel." Presumably his saying of this was not in any way related to his age.

So, then, is there a proper way to understand the indelible character? I think so.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Stained Glass Voice

You can't fake a great voice - you can, I suppose, try to find an old fashioned elocution teacher and work on the one you've got. But in general, you've got it or you don't.

So why do so many pastors, of every persuasion, attempt the Stained Glass Voice? In the handshake line they sound just fine - but once that invocation hits it's all Gaaawwwd and jee-ZUHS, etc.

I think the problem is that they know they should be chanting the liturgy - at least I notice this problem more among those who eschew chant. The words of Christian worship are special words. They call for a special presentation. Just talking in your normal voice for these words just seems...too plain. But those who miss out on the Church's method for meeting this need for reverence are left with the Preacher's Voice Syndrome to fill the gap. Seems to me that most guys who chant are then more free to just use their normal voices in sermons - and it comes off better.

The American Evangelicals (including those in Lutheranism) have their own version of the Stained Glass Voice - but it's not the old school Billy Graham-D. James Kennedy vibe - nor the David-Niven-in-The-Bishop's-Wife thing (which is what I wish I had been born with) - but something much more terrible: Rob Bell.

Does anyone else find that sort of elocution....phony? repulsive? slimy? used car salesman? insurance agent cold call?

When I start to feel myself slipping into fakey-preacher voice I remember Rob Bell and try to repent.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Online Church

It was bound to happen - online churches. If your church devalues the sacrament (either in theology or frequency), eliminates liturgical response, and imitates pop culture music forms designed to entertain: why go to a "brick and mortar" church at all?

We've had this around for a while with the televangelists - but the interaction that the internet allows goes a long way in responding to the only set of objections available to American Evangelicals to counter the phenomenon.

How long before a Lutheran congregation heavily influenced by American Evangelicalism goes this route to reach the lost? There are already "satellite" sites that broadcast a sermon from one location to another....


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Nothing says: "We really don't believe this stuff" better than...

...carving a gargoyle of "Darth Vader" on the side of your "cathedral."

by Larry Beane

If the ones who claim to be Christians don't take their sacred spaces and their faith seriously, why should anyone else? Is it any wonder our churches are emptying in the west?

Of course, the way the North American Lutherans communicate their own unbelief in the sacred and transcendent is to butcher the divine worship service of the church from the reverence of the historic sacramental liturgy and turn it into vapid entertainment with rock music, clowns, dancing girls, skits, and other nonsense. And I think such frivolity equally communicates unbelief as the "National Cathedral's" display above.

Can you just imagine the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier wearing a Darth Vader mask while he marches back and forth? Are we likely to find a Mosque being decorated with Obi Wan and Chewbacca among the minarets? How about the Holocaust Museum having "Use the Force, Luke" carved in Hebrew letters on a memorial plaque? You know, just for laughs.

Well, I know one fictional character who is laughing at us right now. C.S. Lewis called him "Screwtape." And his real counterpart is mocking us for making his job easier.

The Gottesdienst Liturgical Calendar

The Gottesdienst liturgical calendar for 2010 has been posted at the Gottesdienst web site, and will also be an insert in the upcoming Christmas issue.

Check it out, and while you're at it, be sure you have a subscription, or at least toss us a donation to help keep the flame, er, ablaze . . .

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Gracious Movement

I recently read the following description of military decorum from a widely syndicated columnist:

"Think about this for a moment. Suppose that your boss at the lab or law firm or newsroom demanded that, when he entered the room, you leapt spasmodically to your feet, stood rigidly erect with your feet at a forty-five degree angle like a congenitally deformed duck, and stared straight ahead until he gave you permission to relax."

I'll leave criticism of military ceremony to those better versed - but this much is certain: the ceremony of the Church is not supposed to be like this. The movements of the celebrant in the liturgy are not supposed to communicate discipline, rigor, and obedience. Rather, they are to communicate a loving respect, awe, and joy.

Military and liturgical movement are sometimes confused because of certain characteristics they share: uniforms, reverence toward physical objects (ever seen a flag folded?) and men of rank, and artificiality. But these similarities should be generalizations forced upon us - they should not obviously come to mind when someone watches us celebrate.

What I mean is this - liturgical movement should be gracious, rounded, full (but not fulsome), and natural - not mechanical, robotic, rote, angular, sharp, and arbitrary. There is no longer any practical reason for the military to practice parade march with weapons - the tactic is dead and the practice is retained merely for show and the discipline it teaches. Genuflecting, though, is not arbitrary. It is natural. It flows from the nature of what is going on in the service. Therefore the action should be carried out in a natural, not a robotic way.

Liturgical movement is not from the parade ground but from the bedouin tent - the host and guest have roles to play, movements to make, statements that have to be said: and it's all as natural as can be even though it is scripted. The scripted nature of the encounter is the space in which true intimacy can thrive.

How to learn this gracious movement? About the only way is to be privileged to see someone do it right. You'll know it when you see it. The Rev. Dr. James Brauer at St. Louis' chapel always seemed a good example to me. The Rev. Fr. David Fielding of Granite City, IL is another man whose celebration of the Sacrament is a joy to experience.

Seminarians and pastors who wish to improve the felicity of their service at the Lord's Table need more than rubrical guides - they need living examples, they need to find a seasoned "natural" and learn by imitation.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Liturgical Etymology I

Ed. note: Along the lines of Fr. Eckardt's Why? booklet explaining the parts of the liturgy, the Gottesdienst Online editors will be posting, in serialized fashion, explanations of words related to Christian worship - especially those of obscure derivation.


Once the wafer or loaf has been consecrated in a celebration of the Lord's Supper it is referred to as the host (beforehand it is altar bread, or simply bread). This term can be confusing to modern ears - perhaps calling to mind the relationship between parasite and host: as if the bread "plays host" to the Body of Christ; as if it were infected with the Body of our Lord. Mh; gevnoito! Although Lutherans have historically dabbled in such crass and clumsy "consubstantiationism," surely we are better off to leave theorizing about how the Lord does his miracles to the angels (or to the man from Aquino).

In reality the latter usage (about host and parasite) derives from Latin hospes (guest-friend; Greek xevnoV), while the Ecclesiastical term derives from the Latin hostia, meaning victim or sacrifice.

Obviously, the development of host from hostia in the Latin speaking West is entangled with Medieval theories of the Mass as a sacrifice offered up by the priest. Nevertheless, the term has widespread use in Lutheran liturgical books down to the present day. Therefore, an evangelical understanding should be given to the term: what was once and for all sacrificed at Calvary is in reality upon the paten and in the mouths of all who receive this host. Indeed, an even stronger usage displayed in many Lutheran liturgical books (E.g. LSB p. 199) follows the example of the Small Catechism in simply referring to the host solely as the body of Christ.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Heart of the Matter

It seems simple enough in retrospect, but it was one of those light-bulb moments this past week, which has made something rather obvious to me now.

I had the opportunity to share a pleasant and productive conversation with an older colleague for a couple hours, which dealt generally with worship matters and managed to meander here and there. Personal conversations that actually take place in person have a way of doing that, and it's great. It means that one has the chance to discover things he wasn't even looking for. That was sure enough the case for me on this recent occasion.

I've insisted for years now that the so-called "worship wars" are missing the mark in the way they usually focus on differences in style or form. That misses the mark, not because style and form are unimportant or inconsequential, but because those outward practices express and embody something deeper and more fundamental. The differences in worship practice, including notable differences in style and form, derive from a different impetus and spirit; they are driven by a different engine, running on a different sort of fuel. So I'm always attempting to begin the conversation at that underlying point, in the hopes of running from the heart of the matter to the life of the body.

So, then, in trying to distinguish what I understand by the adjective, "liturgical," I had in mind two primary examples: Liturgical "worship" is founded and formed, structured and styled, guided and governed by (a) the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, to and from Holy Baptism, to and from the Holy Communion; and (b) the centrality of the Holy Communion as the beating heart of the Church's life. These two key poles are not simply checkpoints to be included in the course of what otherwise goes on, but they are actually the definitive givens of Christ, upon which everything else depends and hinges. Preaching may be biblically conservative, but if it isn't preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins, to and from the font, to and from the altar, then it isn't "liturgical." And that, I warrant, is unfortunate. Likewise, talking about the "Word and Sacrament," and referencing "Word and Sacrament ministry and missions," without the regular celebration of the Lord's Supper as the norm, is a slogan and a cliché, but it is not yet liturgical.

Anyway, those are the two points that I was aiming at in the course of conversation, when a slightly different (though related) second point emerged; which then proved quite enlightening.

My colleague mentioned such practices as the elevation of the Sacrament, and genuflecting, and in particular the use of a tabernacle, as examples of question and concern. I'm not a big fan of tabernacles, with due respect for my friend and colleague, Father Eckardt, but I do genuflect and elevate the Sacrament. I've had discussions of these several ceremonies often enough, and I would not have expected to plow any new ground on these points. But I wonder if those frequent conversations haven't been missing the real point at hand; a point which Father Eckardt has noted in the past.

Here is what made the discussion so significant: My colleague noted that these practices imply or suggest that the Body and Blood of Christ are actually present prior to and apart from the eating and drinking of the Sacrament. Yes, I know, the Gottesdienst Editors have had this discussion before. But this observation brought things precisely to a head. When I affirmed that, indeed, it is my belief, my teaching, and my confession that the Body and Blood of Christ are present with the speaking of the Verba Domini, there was then a clarity to our conversation that was both refreshing and helpful. I believe that was the case for both of us.

It seems to me that, when it comes right down to it, everything the Gottesdienst Editors contend for, and all of our objections to other sorts of practice, are aimed at reverence and respect for the Body and Blood of Christ. If "the Word comes to the element, and it is a Sacrament," and if the Sacrament "is the true Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ," then that is going to affect the way we act, the way we conduct ourselves, the way that we handle such sacred elements, before, during and after the distribution of the Holy Communion.

If that true heart of the matter is not realized or comprehended, then it is finally not possible to understand Gottesdienst; and by that I mean, not only the editors and their enterprises, but, more importantly, the Liturgy of the Divine Service. The Sacrament is the beating heart and center that unites us in our common confession and fellowship, and the very thing in which we are agreed even where and when we sometimes disagree amongst ourselves when it comes to the particulars of practice. We are bound together in the Body of Christ, by the Body of Christ; that is what enlivens us, nourishes us, and moves us to contend for whatever serves the worship of Christ in both soul and body.

Christ is not present in the Sacrament to be served by us, but to serve us Christians with His Body and His Blood. Nevertheless, wherever Christ is present, the Christian longs to serve Him in love, to wash His feet and dry them, to worship Him who is the Glory of God enfleshed and in Person. Our Lord would have His disciples eat His Body and drink His Blood, and the Ministry of the Gospel serves that holy purpose. But, again, the conduct of that Service cannot help but be affected by the very fact of the matter, that it is the Body and Blood of Christ that are being handled, given, received and consumed. When we object to irreverence and a lack of decorum, it is not because we are prudes, but because we fear, love and trust in Christ our God. When we contend for ceremonies that may seem extravagant, it is not ostentation, but for the worship of Christ in His Body with our bodies; not out of necessity, but out of fear, love and trust in Him.

It has probably been obvious to my fellow editors all along, but this observation has given me a clarity of understanding that I did not previously have. It gets to the heart of the matter, and, in doing so, it gets to the heart of the so-called "worship wars." There may be skirmishes over style, and battles over form, but the war is about the Body of Christ. Call it consecrationism vs. receptionism, but don't let any labels distract from what is really under discussion. Were we able to reach agreement in our confession of the Body of Christ, at His Word, than I believe that many of our differences in practice would be readily resolved in one way or another. But apart from that conversation and confession, no amount of uniformity in outward practice will yet amount to the inner unity of genuine fellowship.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Non sum dignus.

This is worth a thousand words of commentary - but I am not up to the task.

UPDATE: At the suggestion of our own Fr. Beane, this is now Gottesdienst Online's first caption contest. The winner, determined by the GO editors on or before St. Martin's Day will receive a Fabulous Prize. Tu dignus es?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Sermon as Love Song

At the Symposium on Catechesis this past June in Sussex, Wisconsin, the Rev. Dr. Richard Stuckwisch , Gotteseditor, made some observations about what he wanted in the sermons heard by his grown children who are now married and living in other states. I find this to often be the case: Stuckwisch speaks and I think it about it for months.

What I remember is that he said he wanted his children in parishes that enjoyed liturgical preaching. I asked him what that meant, what is "liturgical preaching?" He said something like: "Liturgical preaching is lectionary-based, tied closely to the church year, and aware of its surroundings in the liturgy. It consciously and deliberately leads to the Altar."

His emphasis was on preaching's connection to the Sacrament. But I think his answer could have been summed up with "aware of its surroundings." What surrounds the sermon is the liturgy and that upon which the liturgy centers on and to what it always leads is the Holy Communion. I am not claiming his emphasis was off, just suggesting that sometimes think of the liturgy, preaching, and the Sacrament as separate things. What Stuckwisch helped me see better, was that connection.

The Service God provides (hence the German Gottesdienst and the English "Divine Service") to His people is the ultimate reconciliation, His re-communion with them, His entrance into their hearts by way of their mouths, which cleanses their lips and enables them once more to sing His praise and thereby expose what is now, by grace, by the Holy Communion, in their hearts. For it is what comes out of a man that renders him unclean or cleanses him. If we were to be crass (and since when has the Gottesdienst Crowd ever shied away from being crass?) we might say that the Holy Communion is make-up sex.

What then is the sermon? The sermon is the pledge reconciliation, the refusal to let the sun go down on one's anger. The Law is needed, for the beloved needs to know her crimes and how she has endangered Love. She needs to repent. But the conclusion is foregone. The sermon never serves divorce papers. The crimes are repeated, the beloved is exposed, but this not in malice but for edification, that she would learn, that she would grow. And what does she learn? Perhaps she learns something of what her behavior should be, of what her love for the Lover should look like, but mainly she learns how great, steadfast, and compassionate is the Love of Him who loves here perfectly and without end.

The sermon plays a central role in the context of the liturgy. For it takes the Word of God, Law and Gospel, from Propers and Ordinaries, and applies them to the specifics of the case at hand, that the Bride might enter again into the Altar of the Bridal Chamber for the consummation.

That this role, preaching the Lover's words of hurt and of reconciliation to the Beloved in preparation for intimacy, would be played by a mere mortal, given over to some degree to his art and craft, is deeply humbling. So also it is mystical. The Lord works through His men, according to His promise. This is why only those called and ordained should preach. To have a layman preach is like sending your daughter to tell your wife that you'd like her to wear the negligee tonight. It isn't proper.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pope Finally Accepts AC VII

Or something like that. Recent news that the Vatican is opening a wide door to Anglicans dissatisfied with the crumbling of historic Christianity in that communion includes this paragraph:

Preserving Anglican traditions, such as mass rites, adds to the diversity of the Catholic Church, [CDF head Cardinal Levada] said.

"The unity of the church does not require a uniformity that ignores cultural diversity, as the history of Christianity shows," he said. "Moreover, the many diverse traditions present in the Catholic Church today are all rooted in the principle articulated by St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: 'There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism."

Compare AC VII.2-4: "And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike. As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Eph. 4:5-6."

At this point I think we Lutherans are supposed to insert the traditional mea culpa to the effect that "isn't it too bad that the Anglicans looked to Rome instead of to Wittenberg. . . " And there is some merit there. The Lutheran relationship with Anglicanism showed promise in the 16th century and there is much that we share.

However, the Anglicans were never coming our way. As today's news shows, what animates Anglicanism (at least in its High Church as opposed to Low, Broad, and Evangelical branches) is a doctrine of the ministry identical to Rome's: specifically, the theory that one can give only part of the Apostolic Office to some men (priests and deacons) while passing it on wholly to others (bishops). That's just not what the Treatise teaches - nor, if you ask me, what the Scriptures teach (and here AC Piepkorn's article really is a must read).

This is also one important reason why no such door is likely to be held open for dissastisfied Lutherans in the near-Anglican LWF communions. Lutheranism has always been more about Justification, Church, and Ministry - that is doctrine - while Anglicanism's confused political history has always meant that it was less so.

All the same - it is a shame what's become of Anglicanism. I can't blame these good folks for wanting out.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

STS Invitation

Today Gottesdienst sent out about 200 sample copies to members of the Society of the Holy Trinity (STS), something we've been meaning to do, and prodded to do, for about the past year. These folks appear to have a deep interest in the Lutheran liturgy, so we figured they really ought to be Gottesdiensters like us.

So if you are a member of the STS, you can expect your free copy to arrive sometime in the next two or three weeks (Standard mail often takes that long), with an invitation to subscribe.

Anyone else interested in becoming a Gottesdienster? Don't feel left out! Request your copy here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Because Less Is More


And since twenty is less than thirty-five, perhaps I can shamelessly attempt again to kickstart some discussion and debate of my theses on the Liturgy and adiaphora.

To that end, here are twenty theses that drive to the heart of my own wrestling with what is given and what is free in the Church's administration and reception of the Divine Liturgy (I've left the enumeration intact, in order to tease the reader into reading more, and for the sake of my own sanity in keeping track of things):

1. The Divine Liturgy, properly speaking (Apology XXIV.79–83), comprises the Ministry of the Gospel, which is the preaching and Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, the confession of Christ Jesus, the ongoing catechesis of His Word, and the faithful administration of His Body and His Blood to His disciples. This Divine Liturgy is not adiaphora (Leitourgia Divina adiaphora non est). This Divine Liturgy is the Holy Gospel, the Word and work of the Holy Triune God, which is fundamental and necessary to faith and life in Christ.

2. To be liturgical is not simply to "have" or "do" the Word and Sacrament; but to be liturgical is to be defined by these things of the Gospel, to be governed and guided by them, entirely under their sway. To be liturgical, therefore, is to be evangelical; and to be truly evangelical is to be liturgical.

3. The Divine Liturgy is where and how the Church lives with God in Christ, by grace through faith in the Gospel. The evangelical mission of the Church flows out of that liturgical life in Christ, with the purpose of bringing others into the Liturgy of the Gospel.

4. To hear and receive the Divine Liturgy in faith and with thanksgiving is the worship of the Holy Triune God in Spirit and in Truth. That godly Christian worship proceeds from the Altar and continues in daily prayer and catechesis throughout the week, within each Christian's proper vocations and stations in life; and it returns again to the Altar of Christ each Lord's Day.

6. Adiaphora simply are what they are: rites and ceremonies and other practices which are neither commanded nor forbidden by God. The teaching and confession of adiaphora goes hand-in-hand with the Gospel; that we are justified by grace through faith in Christ, apart from works of the Law.

8. Adiaphora are rightly used with pastoral care, and as a means of pastoral care. Pastors should exercise discretion and discernment in the use of adiaphora, but pastors should also discipline themselves in doing so, for the sake of faith and love.

10. All things are lawful, but not all things are meet, right and salutary (1 Corinthians 10:23). Even that which is free and clear can be measured and evaluated according to its service and support of the Word of God, and thus determined to be more or less helpful to faith and love.

13. The boundaries and parameters of freedom in worship are established and contoured, not only by explicit commands and prohibitions, but also implicitly by the constitutive rites and ceremonies of Holy Baptism, preaching and the Holy Communion.

14. The use of liturgical rubrics, rites and ceremonies is fundamental to the pastoral ministry.

Rubrics are instructions for the conduct of the Liturgy, mutually agreed upon within the fellowship of the Church. Rites are the words that are spoken in the administration of the Liturgy. Ceremonies are the bodily actions, movements and adornments of the Liturgy.

Rubrics are needed for an orderly conduct of corporate communal life. Rites belong to the fact that God does everything by His Word. Ceremonies belong to the fact that human life is lived in the body, occupying space and time.

15. It is not possible to administer and receive the means of grace without ceremonies. However, not all ceremonies are created equal. Some ceremonies are better, and some are worse than others; and some ceremonies have no place in the Church, even if they would otherwise be "free."

17. The measure of a ceremony’s worth and benefit requires more than the avoidance of overtly false doctrine. The best ceremonies are not only true (as opposed to false) but are positively helpful in confessing the Word of God, and they are beautiful in adorning His Liturgy. Whatever is true, lovely and of good repute, excellent and worthy of praise, dwell on those things (Philippians 4:8).

18. It is appropriate and salutary to adorn the Ministry of the Gospel with beauty, as a confession of faith in the Word and work of Christ, and as a way of catechesis in the hidden truth of the Gospel.

20. That which is harmful to faith and love is not free but forbidden. That which is irreverent or rude is likewise not free but forbidden. (Formula SD X.1, 7, 9)

28. The collective wisdom of the Church is usually wiser than the personal insights of an individual. Nevertheless, the nature and needs of pastoral care require the free exercise of pastoral discernment and discretion, just as the Church in each time and place is free with respect to human customs.

29. Frequent fluctuations and diversity in practice are unsettling to the people and easily distract from the Liturgy of Christ; they require a level of literacy, attention, energy and effort that tends to frustrate or make impossible the participation of many members in the Church’s worship of Christ.

30. Consistency and continuity of practice are beneficial to peace and rest in the Liturgy of Christ; they allow for and assist the ready participation of the entire congregation in the Church’s worship of the Holy Triune God.

31. The broad latitude of hymnody is necessarily constrained because of its affective power, and because of its vast importance and significance for the catechesis and confession of the Word. Hymns properly serve the freedom of faith in the Gospel when they are selected and used liturgically.

32. It is not an appropriate use of freedom when hymns (or songs), or any other practices, are used simply to fill up space and pass the time in worship, or when they are used to entertain emotions instead of edifying the people and glorifying God by the confession of His Word (Formula SD X.1, 7, 9).

33. The unity of a common confession of the faith is both embodied and substantiated by a unity of practice. Church fellowship does not depend upon a uniformity in adiaphora, but the fellowship of the Church gravitates toward a common and consistent usage of adiaphora wherever it is possible. And the beauty of it is, the Church is free to do so.

34. It is not a violation of faith or freedom when the fellowship of the Church mutually agrees, in love, to order and conduct its liturgical life according to common rubrics, rites and ceremonies.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Oktoberfest! This Weekend!

As I was saying (and it's not too late to register) . . .

The Fourteenth Annual Oktoberfest and Third Annual Liturgical Seminar will take place BEGINNING THIS SUNDAY at St. Paul’s Evangelical-Lutheran Church, Kewanee, Illinois.

October 11-13, 2009 (Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday)

Conference theme: Not a Matter of Indifferent Things

Log on at www.liturgyseminar.blogspot.com to register.

This year we are pleased to welcome as our guests the two men who have most recently joined the staff of Gottesdienst as our online editors.

Reverend Frs. Heath Curtis and Rick Stuckwisch will be joining us for a discussion of the Divine Liturgy of the Church, to provide their insights on the questions which arise in connection with the ongoing debates concerning why certain styles and elements may or may not be counted as permissible in worship, and what is at stake in the worship wars of the 21st century. Fr. Curtis is the pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, Edwardsville, Illinois, and Trinity Lutheran Church, Worden, Illinois, and Fr. Stuckwisch is pastor of Emmaus Lutheran Church, South Bend, Indiana.

Sunday afternoon at 5 p.m. is our Autumn Choral Vespers, followed by our annual bratwurst banquet (if you haven’t had our award-winning Sheboygan brats, it’s high time you did!).

On Monday morning, following Holy Mass at 9:30, the seminar runs until 3:15 p.m. the following questions are on the table for discussion by our guests:

“So what's negotiable and what isn't, in worship?"
“Nothing is an adiaphoron in a state of confession: meaning what, exactly?"
“Is Gottesdienst adiaphora? Of course not, but why not?"

Tuesday, October 13 (Liturgical Seminar)

On Tuesday, matters raised in the Monday discussions will be considered further in a roundtable liturgical seminar designed to seek uniformity in our worship practices. Informed Lutheran clergy are particularly invited to provide input and exchange of ideas, although all are invited to stay for the day.

REGISTRATION: $25 per person (students $20) $40 per couple — includes Sunday banquet and Monday continental and luncheon; no charge for children with parents. Register here.

Questions? Send an email.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tradition vs. Mission...

This is a typical false dichotomy in the contemporary LCMS. And in fact, the speaker (Rev. Dan Kimball, not a Lutheran pastor) was the keynote at a 2008 LCMS synodical youth ministry symposium.

Quick impression:

1) Having a "worship gathering" in a coffeeshop with a black ceiling is also a "tradition." The implication is that new traditions are "missional" and old traditions are not. But often these "hip" churches exclude entire demographic swaths of people.

2) Without using the term "adiaphoron," Kimball argues that not only is worship an adiaphoron, but so is the office of the ministry. He has pushed nearly everything into the realm of adiaphoron in the name of a pragmatic approach to mission. This is where the LCMS is headed with the current understanding of adiaphoron as "anything goes."

3) The church as "one, holy catholic, and apostolic" in Kimball's worldview is "fractured, worldly, individualistic, and ahistorical."

4) There is an anthropocentric emphasis on mission shown by Kimball's never mentioning the of the Holy Spirit nor even citing Holy Scripture (at least as I remember from watching the video once). There was certainly nothing Trinitarian or baptismal going on.

I'm not saying Kimball is not a Christian. But I am saying that his approach to worship, tradition, and soteriology are all completely antithetical to the Lutheran confession, and, to adopt his premises in a Lutheran context cannot be done with a quia subscription.

Tawk amongst yaselves...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pastors Need Pastors

Comments in a previous post started me thinking (again) about the matter of the spiritual needs of the pastor. Who feeds the shepherd?

Although the pastor benefits from the same Gospel he preaches, and receives the same sacrament he administers, thus receiving the full forgiveness of all sins, it's also imperative that the pastor have his own pastor. He needs another man to absolve him and to be his spiritual counselor. He needs this weapon against the devil and his flesh.

I was involved in a rather extensive debate, over at a private discussion board at CAT41, on the question of whether or not the pastor is personally absolved by the the words of corporate absolution which he speaks a la the TLH page 15 formula. That formula, you will recall, is not a mere declaration of grace, though it is arguably a conditional absolution, as Fr. Petersen has explained in a Gottesdienst article about a year or so ago. The pastor says, "Upon this your confession," which is at least by implication the condition, "I by virtue of my office . . . forgive you all your sins . . ."

The matter of whether that corporate absolution is conditional (I believe Fr. Petersen's argument is persuasive) is related to the question whether as such it is not a true absolution (I'm a little less convinced about this). It's a matter of semantics, but what stands out in the formula, whatever you want to call it, is the personal application of grace--personal not so much in terms of the recipient, but in terms of the one administering it: "I forgive you" is not the same thing as "God forgives you," although in both cases it is God's forgiveness. The personal pronoun provides that the man saying the words is doing the forgiving, exercising the keys of the kingdom of heaven. The use of this formula in the corporate setting is admittedly weak, and a host of questions about its propriety are warranted. I use it, if only because I use TLH.

But what I have insisted the formula does not allow, in any case, is for the pastor to suppose that by the formula "I forgive you" he is thereby forgiving also himself. The grammar of "I forgive you" does not allow it, period.

Hence, in order to receive the benefit of hearing the word of personal absolution, the pastor must seek out another pastor. And if the argument obtains that the corporate formula, for all its benefits, is nonetheless altogether weak, then the pastor must seek out another pastor in private.

The formula for private absolution, although the implication is clearly present that faith is necessary for one to benefit from it ("as you believe, so let it be done for you"), is itself without question an unconditional declaration: ". . . and I as a called and ordained servant of the word, forgive you your sins . . ." As such, it is to be coveted as a special and extraordinary means of grace.

In short, the pastor should know that if wants to avail himself of all the varied means that God provides for receiving mercy, he may not allow himself to think he is receiving absolution only because he is hearing the words of the formula which he himself speaks. He needs to go to a pastor to get this, just like everybody else.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Luther's Works Volume 69 and an Exegetical Bone to Pick with the Doctor

Pastors on the LCMS roster should have received a letter from CPH advertising the first in what will be 20 new volumes (vols. 56-75) of Luther in English: American Edition, vol. 69, Sermons on the Gospel of St. John, Chapters 17-20.

These new volumes are under the general editorship of Christopher B. Brown - a classmate of mine who was ABD in Reformation studies at Harvard while he was working on his MDiv in St. Louis. Yeah, that kind of smart. He's now teaching at Boston U and no doubt keeping the separated brethren on their toes.

The managing editor will be familiar to many Gottesdienst readers as the editor of the Brotherhood Prayer Book: Benjamin T. G. Mayes. Doctor Mayes is also the editor for the Gerhard volumes coming out of CPH at a regular pace - and those are also well worth picking up. (By the bye, he'll be hosting another BPB Gregorian chant workshop at Emmaus in St. Louis on October 17. ) If you are a Lutheran theological bibliophile, do not visit Dr. Mayes' cubicle at CPH: you will immediately die of coveting.

More Gottesdienst connections. . . one of last year's Octoberfest presenters, Rev. Aaron M. Moldenhauer (SOB, 2008) translated some of the material for this volume as did I.

In short: rush out now in a buying frenzy. They've got a good deal going on subscriptions to all 20 volumes, be sure to check that out.

The volume has great introductions and wonderful notes - the editors really did their homework and were much too humble in the introduction to the volume. The work here is just superb. And as always, you will find wonderful gems from Luther like this, "Christ, in His Life, never did a good work in order to become righteous, and yet He did good works all the time." (AE 69.329). Isn't that a great way to preach the distinction between justification and sanctification?


This volume contains eleven of Luther's sermons (in one format or another: full text, notes, or outline) on the Quasimodogeniti Gospel (John 20:19-31) preached between 1522 and 1540. And this is the definitive proof that Luther's take on the ministry is, well,....gosh, maybe "Wisconsonite" is the best word:

"This is the highest work that a Christian is able to do: that through preaching I should bring [my neighbor] to the same [faith] to which [I have been brought]. He appoints each one to this office. [Hoc ad officium quemlibet instituit.]. . . It is the office of everyone to instruct his neighbor, etc. And this power is given not to the clergy alone (though [here it is] spoken to the apostles) but to all believers." (AE 69.336-37)

"[For] the Lord has committed a public office to called ministers (and to everyone privately)..." (AE 69.322)

" 'Those whose sins you remit, their sins are remitted. Those whoses sins you retain, their sins are retained.' This power is here given to all Christians." (AE 69.330)

A half dozen other quotations from these eleven sermons to the same effect could also be brought forward. And it sounds familiar, right? Haven't I read this somewhere before?

Pieper, vol. III, 442: “Luther points out, too, that the means of grace have the same nature, power, and effect, whether administered by common Christians or by ministers in their public office. He writes: 'We firmly maintain there is no other Word of God than the one all Christians are told to preach; there is no other Baptism than the one all Christians may administer; there is no other remembrance of the Lord's Supper than the one any Christian may celebrate; also there is no other sin than the one every Christian may bind or loose.'"

Or again: “Like all spiritual gifts the means of grace, including Baptism, are given by God directly to the believers, all Christians. The believers do not get them from the pastors, but vice versa. Pastors administer Baptism in their public office as the called servants of the believers.” (Pieper, III, p. 279)

So why not just have every Christian take turns? That's a matter of Law: there are objective commands not to do that: “A congregation would be acting contrary to God's ordinance if it appointed the public ministers by lot, or according to the alphabet. . . and in defense of such action claimed that all Christians are spiritual priests. . . . No, Scripture on the contrary warns 1 Tim. 5:22: “Lay hands suddenly on no man.” (Pieper, III, p. 441)

So why the office of the ministry? For the sake of good order...er, more than that, right? To do it publicly, but privately everyone else is still exercising the ministry, which is nothing other than the rights of the spiritual priesthood – which is totally different than the ministry, mind you, and the latter is not derived from the former – well, that is, it does receive its powers from the former, and not vice versa...where was I? Well, I can never keep it straight. I confess: it confuses me. Luther, Walther, Pieper: they all seem to try to take back with the left what the right hand has given.

And here, I think, in AE vol. 69 with Luther's Quasimodogeniti sermons we see why: it's an exegetical issue. When Luther sees the apostles in the texts where the ministry is conferred on them by Christ (especially John 20 and Matthew 28) he sees the apostles as representatives of all Christians individually and not the clergy as a group or office. What is given to the apostles, is given individually and personally to all believers.

Heaven knows I've got more to learn from than teach to these great men, but still: I've never been able to buy into that. And it seems to me that the Missourians have always been selective with that exegesis. For example, when it comes to keeping women out of the public ministry (not out of the ministry, I suppose, for all Christians have that already as their individual and personal charge?), the apostles suddenly represent the clergy. So also in the LW and LSB Ordination Rites, John 20 and Matthew 28 are introduced as the texts concerning the institution of the office of the ministry.

Who are you? Who? Who? Who? Who?

(I really wanna know.)

But I think that in these Holy Week and post-Resurrection happenings the apostles represent the clergy, or better: the office of the ministry. What is given to them, is given to Christ's called ministers. It is the faithful women in the Gospel, especially Mary at the foot of the cross and Mary Magdalene at the tomb, who represent the Church and every Christian. Makes sense, doesn't it? The Church is the Bride – and as CS Lewis said in his amazing essay, “Priestesses in the Church?”: we are all feminine in our relation to God the Father.

The Lord and His Bride.

(But not in that weird DaVinci Code kind of way...See the propers for her day if you don't believe me.)

I've got no problem with saying that all spiritual power, the Word and the Sacraments, every grace and honor, reside in the Church as the original possessor thereof. She is the Bride of Christ – all that is her Lord's is hers, including the Holy Ministry, for She and her Lord are one flesh. But it's another thing altogether to say that therefore every single individual Christian possesses the authority individually to preach, teach, and conduct the sacraments privately (but not publically - what on earth does that mean anyway?). That, I think, is an error born from this exegetical mistake of taking the apostles to be the representatives of all individual Christians.

So...ad fontes. What do you think about that exegetical point about the apostles on the one hand and the Marys on the other? I'm not interested in seeing a bunch of quotes from Walther and Luther in the comments and those so inclined to prove that I am not Waltherian, early Missourian, or a follower of Luther's personal doctrine on the topic can save their time: Confiteor. Indeed, let's even set the Confessions aside for a moment – after 400 years of arguing over the topic, from Osiander vs. Luther to Grabau vs. Walther to "Carl Vehse" vs. Petersen, it's clear that both sides think that the Confessions support their side and we won't solve that here.

But how about a very narrow discussion of the Bible texts – what do you think of my contention that in the Holy Week, Resurrection, and Ascension narratives the apostles represent the clergy and the faithful women, especially the BVM and the Magdalene at the tomb represent the whole Church?

UPDATE: Also consider the contradiction to Luther that the Wittenberg faculty presents in 1674.

An Laici casu necessitatis possint absolvere, quemadmodum baptizare possunt?

Are laymen able to absolve in a case of necessity as they are able to baptize?

Praesuppono, quaeri tantum de absolutione, an ea in casu necessitatis, a Laicis fieri debeat et possit: non vero quaestionem eam de subsequente Sacramenti Sanctae Eucharistiae exhibitione, hanc enim per Laicos nullo modo fieri posse (licet baptismus ab illis in casu necessitatis possit administrari, nec administratus debeat iterari) intelligi debere, nostri Theologi, uti notum est, passim demonstrant.

I presuppose that the question is put only concerning absolution, whether it ought and is able to be performed by laymen in a case of necessity: this question is certainly not to be understood concerning the performance of the following sacrament, the Holy Eucharist, for our theologians, as is known, demonstrate time and again that this is in no way able to be performed by laymen (of course, baptism is able to be administered by them in a case of necessity, nor should the minister perform it again).


The Discussion Format

The discussion format will provide an added appeal at this year's Oktoberfest in Kewanee, Illinois.

Last January Fr. Stuckwisch and I sat comfortably up front to discuss--what was it?--something about the future of the Missouri Synod, at Fr. Petersen's place in Ft. Wayne. It was, I think, the first instance of something new: the exclusive use of the discussion format. Fr. Petersen asked us questions about the topic, and we responded, and discussed. Questions were then invited from those present as well. This was a theological conference of sorts, but neither of us presented a formal paper. Rather, we spoke extemporaneously, and conversed with Fr. Petersen.

It was my own idea, which I had taken from what I saw on a National Review cruise last year. There were several speakers, big name people, but not one presented a paper. All were interviewed or involved in casual discussions on stage. The nearby picture is one I took of John O'Sullivan, Mona Charon, and Darcy Olsen in one such setting on the cruise. I found the format--to say nothing of the subject matter--to be very attractive, because it was so easy to listen to. I was so impressed--with the format, that is--that I even made a point of telling Jay Nordlinger so.

We've all been to theological conferences in which excellent papers are presented. And yet, even when the very best papers are presented--say, by David Scaer, or William Weinrich, who never disappoint--it's a standard rule that you must not ever say that your mind wandered, or that you had to struggle to stay with the speaker. (oops, I just broke the rule, didn't I)

Think about it: aren't the most memorable parts of such papers most often the asides, the offhand remarks, the non-scripted parts?

Speaking of Dr. Scaer, for instance: he will disagree with me about this, I know, because I've heard him say he thinks his writing comes off better than his classroom teaching, but I find his teaching--no prepared paper--nevertheless the places where he truly shines.

I remember back in the stone age of the Symposia, when speakers would give their papers in Sihler Auditorium, and as a sem student I'd sit there listening, after a late night of partying, and find myself struggling to stay awake. No matter what the paper was about, sometimes I know I missed out on some great material, for this very reason.

It was the format, I now conclude, that contributed most heavily to my zoning out.

So after the NR cruise, I got to thinking, and Fr. Petersen and I talked it over, and agreed to give it a try, at his place. I think it worked.

Then last spring I was up at Fr. Bender's place, his CCA shindig, and after having talked this over with him, partook in another such discussion. Then it was Petersen and I, with Bender as moderator, simply discussing, extemporare. And I think that worked too.

I'm beginning to think it is a more fit vehicle for theology than the prepared paper.

So, naturally, I determined this would also be the format for Oktoberfest this year. Our speakers will have no prepared manuscripts. Their preparation will be of the subject matter at hand (how the liturgy is Not a matter of Indifferent Things; details here). Frs. Stuckwisch, Beane, and Curtis will discuss questions which I will have prepared for them; and questions will be entertained from the people as well.

I am already convinced that this format is way better. Waaaay better.

It's coming up, October 11-13. Register here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I Guess It's Not Just the Lutherans

Egad, there's a part of me that wants to find solace in seeing that even in the Church of Rome there is liturgical abuse and chicanery going on (not to say sacrilege), but there's another part that simply recoils, while my skin crawls. This is really creepy. I know these bobble head larger than life puppets are going to give me nightmares tonight. (HT: Trent Sebits)

Of Stoles and Symbols

I recently attended a graveside service for a family member of a parishioner. It took place at a national cemetery and a US Army chaplain officiated. In my first call out of seminary I served under a man who was a National Guard chaplain and was always amazed at the faithful service and Word he brought to men under arms and in harm's way (he served in Balad for over a year). I gained a great appreciation for just how hard that job is and how much pressure there is in that occupation to buckle under (his stories about the higher ups "encouraging" the chaplains to keep prayers "ecumenical," and therefore devoid of Trinitarian formulae, are really something).

Even with that knowledge I was taken aback by the chaplain's vestments at this graveside service. Specifically: black stole with gold chi-rho on the right shoulder, gold cross on the left, and at the end of each side of the stole, the US Army eagle.

I understand that chaplains will appear in uniform - they are, after all, members of the armed forces. But shouldn't their clerical vestments - symbols not of government, but of godly service - be free of the symbols of the state's military apparatus? If I were a hospital chaplain, I don't think I'd want the SSM Corporate logo on my stole.

I Googled around a bit and found several iterations of this practice - especially specific units' symbols emblazoned on chaplain's stoles and tippets, as you can see above and below. I found one chaplain's blog that mentioned that the stole I saw at the graveside service was standard issue - a gift from the Army. I bet they give out stoles with stars of David and crescent moons instead of crosses, too - with the Army eagle on the bottom, of course. Do these state symbols on a symbol of clerical authority have a meaning? I think so. And I'm not very comfortable with the message they send.

What say those who have served or are serving as chaplains? Any talk amongst yourselves about this sort of thing? Have I misinterpreted this practice?


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cultural Symbols Mean Things

So there I am sitting in Saint Louis University hospital's third floor surgical waiting room with a parishioner's family. You know the score: big surgery, long wait, annoying TV.

Said TV is always hard to ignore. Others round about are laughing at it, which causes one to look up from one's reading to see what was so funny. It was some sitcom from the Disney Network. A basic teen sitcom. Here is what I learned.

* Teenagers should have boyfriends and girlfriends.
* These boyfriends and girlfriends make out a lot.
* Women and girls of all ages wear very tight shirts. Some have long sleeves, some short, some plunging necklines, some plunging backlines. Such things are accidents, but the substance of the proper shirt according to this show is: tight.
* Men and boys, on the other hand, are fully and comfortably clothed.

The show was obviously meant to be disarming and cute. It was what our culture thinks of as safe and nice. It was supposed to put parents' minds at ease. Clean cut. Disney channel.

So that's our culture's version of tame and nice and disarming and cute. Women are to dress so that men can stare at their breasts with a minimum of fabric interference. A 13 year-old should have exclusive relationships with a member of the opposite sex and they should express affection for each other by kissing. Indeed, a kiss is met by that disembodied applause that some genius in mind-control invented back in the 1940's.

The symbol of the torso hugging shirt that leaves nothing to the imagination is ubiquitous in our culture. If a woman doesn't wear one, she's a prude or just down right odd (not unpretty or unshapely: women of less than idealized form are still required to paint on their blouses so as to be more easily judged). To not wear one is to opt out of the culture. To wear one is to join up.

Contemporary Worship advocates tell us that we must communicate with the culture, be relevant, etc. They encourage us to use the culture's symbols so that we might spread the Word. But do the symbols mean nothing on their own? Do they not, at a minimum, at least call to mind the rest of the culture's norms and implicitly approve them? Can you display a bunch of your congregation's young women on a stage dressed like the gals in TV shows and magazine covers and then feign surprise when all of the culture's hang ups about sex and the sexes steamroll into the Church?

Super Rockin', Super Hot Bands!!

Some LCMS Comparisons

Homer nods.

Advertise your coffee shop!!

Or church!

And now for something completely different. . .

O Cecilia, they're breakin' your heart....


Friday, September 18, 2009

Gottesdienst: Pro-mission, anti-devil.

Don't let this happen to your church. Support Gottesdienst.

Subscribers to Gottesdienst have just received, or will shortly be receiving, the annual support drive letter (loving referred to as The Beg-A-Thon.) Why does the journal solicit donations apart from subscription rates? Well, do you think a fancy blog like this comes cheap?

Yes, actually, it does. We keep all our overhead low. The only pay Fr. Beane needs is for all of us to say how much we love New Orleans. (Words of Civic Affirmation are Fr. Beane's Love Language.) As has been amply proven on the Lutheran blogosphere, Fr. Petersen doesn't even need to eat: he lives off of girlish limeades from Red Robin and his own sense of self-satisfaction at having a set of rose paraments. Indeed, all our editors are strictly volunteers, high quality and word-count notwithstanding.

And still we keep the subscription rates below cost. Thus, the journal has always been dependent on generous donations above and beyond subscription fees.

Thus, the Rev. Fr. Editor-in-chief writes in the Beg-A-Thon letter (mishnah in red),

We'd like to think there's a trend. At least it's rumored, and often verified, that people are beginning to grow weary of the entertainment-driven mentality that has for almost a generation gained a foothold in places of worship once regarded as holy. We hear stories of people who yearn for traditional worship as for a long-lost treasure, and, more often, we hear lamentations of Christians who cannot find a decent place to worship where they live.

Too many of the churches still aren't catching on. Too bad they aren't reading Gottesdienst.

Big time! Ask us about our adopt-a-church program where we send unsolicited copies of Gottesdienst to a church of your choice!

All of which means that we need to keep at it: informing, educating, encouraging, explaining, and pushing the liturgy of the Church. We need your help, again.

Liturgy pushers: the first hit is free. After that, you'll pay absurdly low subscription fees.

We couldn't have gotten this far without the help of generous donors in the past, and we need to rely on your generosity just as much now as we every have. As many of you have depended on us for seventeen years to provide you with the very best in material promoting dignified, evangelical liturgy and worship, we must also depend on you to help us again, as you are able, to keep the mission moving.

See, friend, it's about mission!

The devil isn't burning churches; [oh really?] he's been turning them into dance halls, or concert halls, or coffee houses, and deceiving the people into thinking it still counts as worship. But we think maybe the tide is turning, and people are beginning to realize how empty this kind of 'church' really is. And so the time is ripe for Gottesdienst to step into the void, and do our part to help turn things around, foster evangelical preaching and worship, and seek to restore the boundary between the sacred and the profane. Reformation can mean many things; we'd like to think it means a return to right worship. We know that the church needs it now.”

Gottesdienst: Pro-mission, anti-devil.

Contribute here. Stop this.

PS: Visitors to next week's Symposium at Concordia Seminary – St. Louis will notice that all the faculty will be wearing matching green-and-gold striped ties. If you would like to contribute to a special fund for all the editors of Gottesdienst to have matching maniples, please send donations (prime numbers only, please) via PayPal to pastorcurtis AT gmail DOT com.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

oh, darn...

by Larry Beane

Look what I'm going to have to miss. I'll be going here instead.

So, instead of going to Minneapolis for a hip and exciting "progressive" conference put on by 21 women clerics with such exciting topics as (all presented in über-hip lower case letters - even when the names "God" and "Jesus" are used...):
  • treating women jesus-style
  • the boundary-breaking god of hope and promise
  • jesus' body is hot again
  • praying in color - doodling redefined
  • missional, emergent, monastic, methodist, newday
  • coming out of all closets
  • HUMBITIOUS [an exception to the all lowercase rule...] - women & ambition, power, humility
  • doubt is the new faith
... I will be forced to miss out, instead spending time with all-male "blackshirt" Lutheran clergy in Downtown Metropolitan Kewanee for bratwurst, beer, and a discussion of Lutheran liturgy!

Can you just imagine?

The topics for discussion will have nothing to do with women, the hotness of jesus' [sic] body, coming out of the closet, nor anything to do with orificia (regardless of what some people say about "The Gottesdienst Crowd!(tm))." And I do believe the plan will be to make full use of the uppercase letters - especially when it comes to the initial letter of the divine names (how "establishment" and "reactionary" can you get?). The theme is: "Not a Matter of Indifferent Things" and the questions under discussion are:
  • So what's negotiable and what isn't, in worship?
  • Nothing is an adiaphoron in a state of confession: meaning what, exactly?
  • Is Gottesdienst adiaphora? Of course not, but why not?
So, the choice is yours, dear readers. I'm afraid I'm locked in. Oh the indignity! ;-)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Esse and Bene Esse of Christian Unity

"Nor is it necessary that human traditions, rites, or ceremonies instituted by men should be alike everywhere." So says AC VII - and we all say Amen. Uniformity in the ceremonies of the Mass that are neither commanded nor forbidden by God is certainly not necessary for the true unity of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

And there is more to confess here. Consider a statement in that form "X is not necessary for Y." Why are such statements made? For example, these two statements in that form are both true:

A) Saying "I love you" each day to your spouse is not necessary to Christian marriage.
B) Eating a green apple each day is not necessary to Christian marriage.

Both are true, and yet B is almost certainly a useless statement than never needs to be made precisely because eating a green apple has next to nothing to do with marriage, while the communication of love certainly has a lot to do with it. In fact, daily communication of love is so supportive of Christian marriage that someone might be tempted to think that it is the essence of Christian marriage. Hence the need for statement A.

So the need for this confession in AC VII - unity in ceremonies is not necessary for the true unity of the catholic Church, but it is so supportive of that unity that Christians might be tempted to mistake the support for the essence.

Thus, the first generations of Lutheran both confessed AC VII and also insisted on a great degree of uniformity in rite and ceremony, as evidenced by the old Church Orders. Why? Because while not of the esse of the Church, a unity in rite and ceremony is of the bene esse of the Church and very supportive of the esse. That is, worshiping in like manner supports believing in like manner, avoids scandal and division based on church shopping, etc., etc.

There was much good discussion below concerning what level of unity in our outward ceremony would best support both harmony in the Church and Christian freedom.

This discussion will continue at Octoberfest in Kewanee (Have you registered yet? Did you know this is the best party in the Missouri Synod? Will Fr. Fritz ask what the hymn Hotel California means again this year?). In thinking through my response to the questions that the Rev. Editor posed, I'm leaning toward a twofold response. I think there is a basic unity in form of worship that we should insist upon - while yet leaving room for local custom.

In speaking with some members of The Gottesdienst Crowd, I think there is a basic level of unity such that that if we had it, nobody in TGC would complain much at all. Gottesdiesnt would still publish and still advocate the rites and ceremonies we believe best confess our doctrine to the gathered believers and the world at large - but we really wouldn't have much to complain about if everyone in our fellowship:

* Used only rites (the words and order) from one of our books: TLH, LW, LSB, HS98 (or corresponding books, like CW, for other fellowships).

* Used only these books for congregational hymns.

* Utilized music in the tradition of the Lutheran Reformation and the Western Church catholic (= no American Evangelical, soft-rock, culture-capitulating praise bands)

* Vested in a minimum of alb and stole, or cassock-surplice-stole

* Practiced a ceremony that avoids "the Augsburg Confession XXIVfrivolity and offense" and disorder (FC SD X).

* Read from one of the Lectionaries in one of our hymnals.

That list provides a good deal of unity - enough to where visitors from sister parishes would not feel like they walked into another denomination when they come into the sanctuary - while leaving ample room for local custom. And, yes, leaving room for improvement in confessing our doctrine. For example, under conditions of such unity Gottesdienst would still advocate:

* Weekly Communion

* Chalice Only

* Chanting of the Services

* The Common Service

* A Reverent Ceremony consciously informed by historic Lutheran practice and evangelical-catholic piety (genuflecting, traditional use of altar boys, crucifers, Deacons, etc. I have been told those outside TGC call this "chancel prancing.")

* Full Traditional Vestments

* TheHistoric Epistles and Gospels + LSB's 1-Yr. OT selections