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 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...