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, 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. 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 ├╝ber-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


Monday, September 14, 2009

Always something more

to; lalh'san dia; tw'n Profhtw'n

I'm sure I'm late to the game in noticing this one – but just yesterday while confessing the Creed I realized what a bulwark of sola scriptura it is. In our confession of the Holy Spirit we say that he “spoke by the prophets” - not through a majority vote of bishops, or a supposed consensus of the faithful, or anything else. The Spirit speaks by the prophets. Best to listen to them.

This is another example of the depth of the church's liturgy. There is always something more to learn and see. Even if you've already noticed this treasure (which was new to me), there will be more treasures for you to mine.

How impoverished those Christians are who make up their own liturgies, creeds, and lectionaries! Just think of what they are missing. They spend their time only on what they recognize as important and so unwittingly neglect the whole counsel of God.

Which reminds me of anything thing about the liturgy. . . We are accustomed to point out how the liturgy kept the Church alive with the Word of the Gospel through the long "Babylonian Captivity" of the medieval period. Today I thank the Lord for the liturgy and lectionary for keeping the Church alive amongst us by guarding us against our great temptation: anti-nomianism. Last week's collect and yesterday's epistle lesson were very good for that.

Trinity XIII Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, give unto us the increase of faith, hope, and charity, and as we do obtain that which You promise, make us to love that which You command; through Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.

Trinity XIIII Epistle

Galatians 5:16-24

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Serious Proposal

Two years ago our district's pastoral conference dealt with worship. We had an excellent panel of pastors representing all sides of the divisions among us. At the end of it, putting on my best churchmanly behavior I asked if the panelists would each consider the following proposal. Use whatever instrumentation, whatever songs, whatever state of unvestedness, whatever PowerPoint slides you prefer in your congregation's worship: but for the actual words, the order of the service, use one of the services as printed in LSB, TLH, or LW.

I think this would be a great step toward unity in worship among us. Given the rhetoric from the advocates of contemporary worship, I also thought that this would be an acceptable middle road for them. After all, they would still have all the accoutrements they claim necessary to reaching out in today's world.

But, oddly enough, the chief proponent of contemporary worship on the panel reacted negatively. It seems that there really is more to it than the externalities: he wanted control over the words, too. He wanted the opportunity to tell his congregation what to say each week and in what order to say it.

Well, his reaction aside, I still think the proposal is a good one. I think men of good will who have an honest disagreement with TGC (The Gottesdienst Crowd) would find this acceptable. And I think it would redound to the whole Synod's benefit. One small step, and all that.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Exceptional Indeed

What would we do without Acts 2? You can piece together a definition of the Church from other Scriptures, of course - but nowhere else is it all laid out so clearly and in such detail. The Church is the baptized people of God (who have been called to baptism through the preaching of the Word) now gathered around the apostles' teaching and fellowship, the Lord's Supper, and the liturgy.

An attack on any of those things - preaching, baptism, apostolic teaching, apostolic fellowship, the Lord's Supper, or the prayers - is an attack at the heart of who we are as the Church. In the Missouri Synod the chief attack comes at the apostles' fellowship - that is, at the Ministry. Our Synod has endorsed communities of the baptized where there is no apostolic fellowship - but how can you have anything else on the list without that? How could you do without any one item in that list? Can the Church just be a cabal of ministers to the exclusion of all the baptized? Well then, how can the Church be a cabal of the baptized to the exclusion of those who stand in the apostolic office?

All that came to mind as I read in the President's Leadership News (who is paying for this by the way?) that the Synod is "exceptionally united in what we believe, teach, and confess." I wrote this letter to the editor of the Reporter, with which the President's Leadership News was delivered. The editor responded and said that he won't print it because the PLN has no editorial relationship with the Reporter. Right: it just rides on the same mailing permit and costs. . .

Dear Editor,

I would like to humbly take exception to Pres. Kieschnick's comments
included in the latest Reporter that the Synod is "exceptionally
united in what we believe, teach, and confess." For twenty years now
the Missouri Synod has been deeply divided over our confessional
subscription to Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession - which states
that no one should publicly preach or administer the Sacraments unless
he has a "regular, public call" (rite vocatus) - that is, unless he is
a pastor, a man called to the Office of the Ministry. In 1989, the
Synod in Convention introduced a resolution (1989 Resolution 3-05B)
that allowed for laymen to preach and conduct the sacraments without
receiving a valid call and being placed into this Office ("lay

That the Synod is deeply divided on this topic is shown in that 1)
both seminary systematics faculties issued a joint statement in July
2007 against the Synod's current understanding and practice saying,
"[T]he Treatise [on the Power and Primacy of the Pope] does not
imagine churches without ordained ministers of some kind, even in
emergency situations or when no one else will call and ordain men for
the office. As confessors of the same doctrine, neither should we."
and 2) The Northern, Central, and Southern Illinois districts all
passed resolutions in 2009 memorializing the 2010 Synod in Convention
to retract this violation of our confessions.

I hope and pray that the next Synod Convention will have the courage
to follow the guidance of our seminary faculties and undo what was
done in 1989. That would be a great step toward making Pres.
Kieschnick's headline true.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Worship and Spiritual Care Workshop

For those within a few hours of the Indianapolis area, please take note of the annual Worship Workshop next month, hosted by the Indiana District Worship & Spiritual Care Committee at Advent Lutheran Church in Zionsville, Indiana (a northwest suburb of Indy). It will take place on Saturday the 19th of September, beginning with Matins at 9:30 a.m. and concluding around 3:00 p.m. with a hymn festival on the Nicene Creed. Information on the workshop and the registration form are available from the Indiana District Website here.

Pastor Rick Stuckwisch will be giving the plenary presentation on the Freedom and Fundamentals of Faith in Worship. The goal will be to address the criteria by which adiaphorous rites and ceremonies are received, evaluated, selected and practiced in the service and support of the Word of God, in faith and love.

Also at the workshop, Dr. Paul Grime will be leading sectionals on the Church Year and on the criteria for the selection of choral music. Kantor Kevin Hildebrand will do a sectional on the criteria for the selection of organ music. Pastor David Koeneman will speak on Communion practice. Another sectional will address parish prayer life. And Mrs. Lois Prahlow will do a sectional presentation on child-friendly ideas for visually adorning the church's worship.

The modest cost of the workshop ($25) includes lunch in the middle of the day. Again, more information and the registration form are avaible as a pdf from the Indiana District website. one and all are cordially invited and welcome to join us. Mail the registration by Holy Cross Day (14 September); or else, just show up on the 19th.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Melanchthon's Dustbuster

by Larry Beane

In going through some of my old folders with articles in them the other day, I happened upon John R. Stephenson's 1995 LOGIA piece entitled "Reflections on the Appropriate Vessels for Consecrating and Distributing the Precious Blood of Christ" (LOGIA, Epiphany 1995).

Any day is a good day to reread Dr. Stephenson, and so I did.

Though the topic under consideration was mainly the propriety of the use of individualist shooters for the reception of Holy Communion, the essay quickly moved into a discussion of the infiltration of Reformed theology into Lutheran churches - especially insofar as how these Reformed doctrinal incursions have affected Lutheran eucharistic practice.

Stephenson reminds us that:
"[S]ecretly during Luther's lifetime and openly after his death, [Melanchthon] departed most radically from the Reformer's conception of the real presence. In his regrettably yet unpublished ThD dissertation [Which has since become available through Concordia Theological Seminary Press +LB], Edward F. Peters tells how eight years after Luther's demise Melanchthon coined the term artolatreia (bread worship) in disparagement of the eucharistic adoration practiced by the Reformer and his Gnesio-Lutheran followers. This sacrilegious term of ridicule was employed first of all in a letter to John Calvin, being repeated in a communication with Henry Bullinger, who had succeeded Zwingli in Zurich.... First privately and after 1546 publicly, Melanchthon denied the efficacy of the consecration reducing the sacramental usus or actio to nothing more than the sumptio" (p. 12).
Melanchthon's deviation from the Lutheran understanding of the consecration and the real presence resulted in further Melanchthonian mockery of the Gnesio-Lutherans.

"[T]he following information [is] offered by Chemnitz, Kirchner, and Selneccer in their exhaustive Histori des Sacramentstreits, where these doctors of the church point out with pain that an attack Melanchthon launched ostensibly on the Gnesio-Lutherans Joachim Moerlin and Erasmus Sarcerius was in fact none too subtly directed at blessed Martin Luther himself. The three confessors stoutly maintain that reverent treatment of spilled consecrated wine occurs within the parameters of the Nihil Rule:

.... Philip takes Dr. Moelin and Sacerius to task with the words: 'Moerlin at Braunschweig has said, "You mustn't mumble incoherently but rather say precisely what the priest has in his hand." Sarcerius will have it that particles of hosts that have fallen to the ground should be carefully recovered, with the surrounding earth being shaved and burned, etc.'"

Melanchthon's mockery of the Gnesio-Lutherans for wishing to be very clear in their confession about what the consecrated elements truly are (doctrine), as well as how even the particles of these consecrated elements are to be treated (practice) is being repeated today.

I could not help but think of this blogpost that pointed to similar mockery of the real presence in our own day and age and in our own synod (including the suggestion that the particles of hosts that have fallen to the ground be sucked up into a dustbuster. Just as in the sixteenth century, there is a modern-day gainsaying of both the doctrine and the practice of those who believe the Lord is physically and substantially present from the time of the consecration until the elements have been consumed, along with the resulting practice of fastidiousness about the reliquiae. The suggestion that "particles of hosts that have fallen to the ground should be carefully recovered" as being something to be a source of mockery does indeed come right from the mouth of Melanchthon in the tragically Reformed view of the Holy Sacrament that he seemed to develop.

Had there been dustbusters in the 16th century, Melanchthon would no doubt have used that invention as part of his mockery as well.

Here (per Stephenson's translation of the original German, also published in the article) is how the Gnesio-Lutherans saw Melanchthon's mockery, also from the Histori des Sacramentstreits:
"Many good pious folks were also disturbed by these words of Philip, for they take aim at none other than Dr. Luther, who (as we heard above, in the year 1533) directed these words to the Frankfurt Council: 'It is not in order here to slosh the broth around in one's mouth and mumble incoherently, but to spit out the broth and be done with incoherent speech and say forthrightly what the bread and wine in the sacrament are.'

Thus Sacerius merely wants to say that this Sacrament is to be treated with all reverence and that one should not act frivolously with the external signs to which the word of Christ has been added, but should distinguish [between them and ordinary elements] as Luther and Pomeranus did in Wittenberg. When a little drop [of wine] from the consecrated chalice spilled on the altar they went up with all reverence and saw to it that [the spilled wine] should not be trodden underfoot."
Dr. Stephenson's article is a must-read in its entirety. The Epiphany 1995 issue of LOGIA is available at no charge as a PDF download, and can be ordered here.

This Guy Gets It

Tim Hawkins has people laughing about all kinds of things (HT: Fr. Beane). Word is he's a Christian comedian and therefore part of a (thankfully) growing breed of comedians who have found great success by forgoing the tired old shticks laced with foul language and sex (cf., for another instance of this trend, the refreshingly clean and outrageously funny Brian Regan).

Anyhow, here's a priceless bit about praise songs. Did he know that his humor has uncovered part of what's wrong with them? They already sound like commercials . . .