Friday, April 30, 2010

Bring Church to Them

Just in time for the ordination season, Autom has a great deal on a travel Mass kit for shut-in calls. Chalice, paten, cruets, host box, crucifix, carrying case: $150. I have one similar to this - in fact, it appears the chalice was made by the same Polish outfit - and it ran me $270 six years ago. This is a great deal.

If your people can't come to church, bring church to them. The shut-ins will comment on the gold chalice. It inspires reverence in them and helps teach what the Sacrament is. If you are making due with a lesser kit for shut-in calls, time to trade up.


Don't go to the seminary

Three men from St. Louis and 21 from Fort Wayne are without calls. Ever since 2004 there have been "left-over" seminarians each year (with the possible exception of last year - but then look at the shortage this year: seems they beat the bushes extra hard last time). And these numbers do not count the number of calls that were finagled and are doomed from the start because the placement director is trying to put a square peg in a round hole. "You practice open communion, have women distribute the Supper, and make up your own liturgy each week? Would you like an assistant pastor?"

There is no clergy shortage. There will not be a clergy shortage. There is a clergy glut and will be for the foreseeable future.

* The LCMS has been on a downward demographic trend for thirty years for various reasons we don't need to argue about (among them: the decline of rural America and the Rust Belt, a failure to accept children as a blessing from God instead of as a commodity-liability to be limited to two or three, goofy non-Lutheran practices that have driven many away, insert your reason here ___________).

* Small congregations struggling in the sticks or the city are closing and the members are being absorbed by suburban and exurban parishes. This translates into fewer pastors needed.

* The Boomers are not going to retire. They will work part time as assistant pastors forever. When you hear about our huge need that is just around the corner because of retirement - go out and find a 60 year old pastor and ask him what he wants to do in five years.

* Small, rural congregations in NE, KS, the Northwest and elsewhere have been taught for over 20 years now that they don't need to pay a pastor. They can just get Bobby McFarmerguy to become a licensed lay deacon and get by for free.

* Large, hip congregations who model themselves on the Saddlebacks of the world are sick of having to retrain seminary graduates to fit their MO. This is the real push behind SMP. They are already hand picking men from their midst to form them into their assistant pastors and have them become so through SMP.

* Do you know how many men are on CRM status already? That is - how many men are eligible for calls but not serving a parish and looking for calls? I don't know either. It's so high that they won't tell anybody what the number is.

In short: we need fewer sole pastors and fewer assistance/associate pastors. Wish it weren't so. All those bullet points are bad and should not be true. But they are all true. They are not changing anytime soon.

Why do you keep hearing about a clergy shortage and the need to train more men? Because the seminaries want to both stay open. It is fun to work there. They are institutions and institutions don't like to die. They need tuition paying students to stay open. They need men to pick up and move there and keep it all going. So they have convinced themselves of the need. But it just isn't so.

[By the bye - this is why the deaconess program exists, too. It's certainly not because of a hue and cry from congregations for this service. It's just another revenue stream for the seminaries. ]

So don't go to the seminary. There is no guarantee you will get a call. You'll go into massive debt to pay some professor's salary and then just might find yourself unemployed (and if you were pre-sem and majored in theology: unemployable) and very unhappy.

If you read all this and are still not deterred, you still want to be a Lutheran pastor, you fulfill the Biblical mandates for what a pastor should be, you have the blessing of your own pastor, your wife is OK with all this, and you still want to pack up and move to St. Louis or Fort Wayne: then have a back up plan. If you are single and celibate, knock yourself out. You'll hurt no one but yourself, and that harm will amount to nothing more than a couple of interesting years before you head off to the next thing. But if God has given you a wife and children, your first call and duty is to be husband and father and provide for them. Make sure that you can earn a paycheck if you don't end up with a call or get kicked out of the seminary or your first call for being Lutheran.

And for the rest of us who are so blessed beyond what we could ever deserve so as to be actually preaching the Gospel and making our living therefrom as the Lord ordained: let us be thankful, let us not sit around daydreaming of a "better call," and let us be honest with young men on the cusp of this very important decision.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

A "Call" for help?

By Larry Beane

This is the opening procession of a recent Call Service at the chapel of the St. Louis Seminary.

Gads! The Plexiglas® cross is unusual enough, but what is the deal with the flag-wagging? Is this a solemn ecclesiastical service or is this a rehearsal for the next Olympic rhythmic gymnastics event?

What does this even mean?

I was looking very closely to see if the guys waving the banners were surreptitiously signaling for help. You can send Morse code signals by wagging a flag - one way for the dits, the other way for the dahs. It is no longer necessary to pass a Morse code test to get a ham radio license these days, but under the circs, I think every seminarian would do well to knows his dits from a dah in the ground. If it were me, I think I would take a page out of Admiral Jeremiah Denton's playbook and signal T-O-R-T-U-R-E in Morse with that banner, over and over, until somebody out there, anybody, for the love of God and all that is holy, put this service out of its "Missouri."

Then again, maybe a more appropriate signal for the liturgical flag-waver might be T-R-A-I-N-W-R-E-C-K.

I can't help but hear the haunting echo of two of my own seminary professors. One of them, when lecturing about liturgical novelty put it bluntly: "Gentlemen, don't do that crap." The other quote is more of a generalized observation about the overall state of worship in the Missouri Synod: "Poor God!"

Is there any possibility that whoever put this flag-waving exercise into a very serious liturgy of one of our two seminaries could himself (or herself) get a "divine call" to serve as the liturgist for Cirque du Soleil instead?

S-O-S! Not your grandfather's synod indeed.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dear Pastor: Please, do not write your own liturgies

You are just not smart enough to do it. You'll only embarrass yourself. Your own personal wisdom and experience are no substitute for the wisdom and experience of the whole Church.

You get the whole sermon to make up every week however you like. Go hog wild. You can even write the prayers of the church, if you like. Knock yourself out. But please, please: leave the liturgy (whether Matins, Responsive Prayer, Divine Service, Compline, etc.) alone. These are gifts given by generations of your fathers to you. Receive them with thanks and don't act like a stuck-up know it all. Keep the fourth commandment and pray as your fathers teach you.

Otherwise this will happen.: Earth Day Chapel. This comes from one of our universities. You can read the whole thing for yourself.

One line that stood out to me was "forgive our haste that tampers unawares." What the hell does that mean? says I. Doesn't sound like something a Midwestern Lutheran pastor would make up - too poetical-like. So I googled it. Sure enough - even the "creativity" of this liturgy was not creative. The litany was written by Brian Wren with a copyright held by Hope Publishing. It was highlighted in an article in Reformed Worship magazine a while back by the Minister for Social Witness and Worship for the Reformed Church in America.

Well, that's better than making up your own stuff, at least. Isn't there some line about this in Tolkien? One of the bad guys is spoken of as not quite all the way bad because at least he served a will other than his own (even though that will was evil).

Maybe this whole Earth Day liturgy was likewise copied and pasted from other places. Beats me - there are no footnotes so indicating and I really don't want to google it line by line. But I know this: the students at Concordia-NE would be better served by chapel services that follow Lutheran orders observing dates on the Lutheran liturgical calendar.


Friday, April 23, 2010

A First Step

We answer that it is lawful for bishops, or pastors, to make ordinances so that things will be done orderly in the church, but not to make satisfaction for sin. . . . It is proper that the churches keep such ordinances for the sake of love and tranquility, to avoid giving offense to another, so that all things be done in the churches in order, and without confusion. Augusburg Confession XXVIII.53-55

All things being done today in the Lutheran congregations of North America are not being done in order. Things are in a state of confusion.

To wit. If I am on vacation and I see a sign on a church bearing my jurisdiction's name – I may walk in and find that I have absolutely no idea what is going on. The service may be a serious of words never before strung together in Lutheran liturgical history, made up by the local pastor or his worship director sometime in the week previous. This gives offense. I, or my parishioners, will be completely out of sorts in such a parish. It will not be home. It says LCMS on the sign, but the service bears no connection to our worship.

It will do no good to insist that such a parish subscribes to the same doctrine as we do and therein lies our brotherhood. I am more than a mind that gives assent to doctrine. I live out that doctrine in my worship with my voice and actions. If there is a disconnection between the worship of two different congregations such that a man from one place simply recognizes nothing familiar in the other, how can we actually go through the act of sharing our common doctrine? To share common doctrine means to confess with one voice in the one body of the church. If I feel out of place, lost, confused, and befuddled when I encounter what goes on in Sunday morning, how can we rejoice together in our supposed doctrinal unity?

The state of our church body today in matters of worship is one of this sort of confusion, disorder, and giving of offense. Fortunately, our Confessions address such a situation and propose a solution: the bishops and pastors should make ordinances in the church so that, for the sake of love and tranquility, things might go along in peace.

But where to begin? How about this. When you get in this discussion with a brother pastor, district official, etc., and he insists on his Christian freedom to write his own liturgy every week and model the style thereof based on whatever is currently popular at this or that megachurch, read this section of the AC to him, point out the confusion and disorder he is causing and then ask him this much: when you have the Divine Service, will you just use one of the settings of the Divine Service from any one of our three hymnals for the actual words of the service? Use whatever hymns you like, whatever instrumentation, whatever ceremonies, sing it or speak it or make up your own musical setting: but for the actual words, will you just please pick from this list of 7 or so options? Will you do this for the sake of peace and unity and love and tranquility? Will you do this so that when my parishioners are on vacation and they visit your church they will not feel completely left out?

That would be a nice first step toward tranquility and order in the church. It would be a good ordinance for the bishops to put forward and for the pastors to accept.

If he says no. . . well, I wonder then if the reason isn't pride. It must be quite an ego trip to write up your own liturgy each week and then hear all the people speak those words you so lovingly crafted. I think this is the real appeal of creating liturgies – even when those who do the composing don't realize that this is the appeal.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Surge of Gottesdienst

This year we've been experiencing a sudden and pleasant spike in the number of our print subscribers. There are at least two reasons for this.

1) we got the Motley Magpie subscriber list, sent them complimentary copies (those that weren't already Gottesdiensters), and invited them to subscribe. Many of them, seeing that the Gottesdienst borg has assimilated the Motley Magpie (that is, the Magpie itself is now a regular feature in Gottesdienst) have done so.

2) I'm at my second conference in less than a week (the first was a district conference), and personally manning our display. Right now I'm sitting at the annual Congress on the Lutheran Confessions, in Bloomington, Minnesota, catching up with old friends and acquaintances. Many of them are saying, "Oh, right, I think my subscription lapsed," and so they're resubscribing.

There is certainly a kindred spirit at work here between Gottesdiensters and the kind of people who regularly attend this conference.

The surge of Gottesdienst has begun in earnest. Join it. Subscribe here.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Body Language

The idea behind ceremonies is that they speak for themselves. Or, as our Confessions put it, their purpose is to teach the people about Christ. The way the Celebrant uses his body in the Divine Service speaks volumes. Consider the infamous Black Rubric from the Book of Common Prayer:

Whereas it is ordained in this Office for the Administration of the Lord's Supper, that the Communicants should receive the same kneeling; (which order is well meant, for a signification of our humble and grateful acknowledgment of the benefits of Christ therein given to all worthy Receivers, and for the avoiding of such profanation and disorder in the holy Communion, as might otherwise ensue;) yet, lest the same kneeling should by any persons, either out of ignorance and infirmity, or out of malice and obstinacy, be misconstrued and depraved: It is hereby declared, That thereby no adoration is intended, or ought to be done, either unto the Sacramental Bread or Wine there bodily received, or unto any Corporal Presence of Christ's natural Flesh and Blood. For the Sacramental Bread and Wine remain still in their very natural substances, and therefore may not be adored; (for that were Idolatry, to be abhorred of all faithful Christians;) and the natural Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ are in Heaven, and not here; it being against the truth of Christ's natural Body to be at one time in more places than one.

The men who insisted on this explanation knew that ceremonies teach and speak for themselves. They thought they could undo the body language with verbal language - but that's a lost cause. A child who can't follow the arguments of the Real Absence or even understand the Verba can see with his eyes that Something Is Going On Here.

This is why kneeling before the Sacrament is a useful, helpful, and praiseworthy ceremony for Lutherans to recover in our day. It confesses that the Sacrament is the real, true, natural, glorified, risen Body and Blood of Christ - and it confesses it in a powerful, public, and unmistakable manner. The communicants kneeling to receive the Supper certainly confesses this - and the Celebrant should kneel, too, as soon as possible. This is the logic behind not waiting for the reception to kneel, but rather kneeling after each of our Lord's Words of Consecration. What Jesus says goes - when He has said it is his Body, it is. So that's the time to kneel. No need to wait for the receiving.

This confession of the reality-making power of our Lord's Word is especially needed in our midst as a confession against the faith-damaging doctrine of Receptionism.

And this is also why kneeling after each Consecration is sometimes opposed in American Lutheran congregations. Those who have been taught Receptionism recognize this kneeling as a denial of their doctrine - which it certainly is. This provides an excellent excuse for catechesis that is often sorely needed in Lutheran congregations.

And so here again is how a ceremony teaches and actually becomes much more than an adiaphoron. Since the ceremony makes a confession, it cannot be meaningless or neutral. And it cannot be neutered by explaining away a la The Black Rubric. To kneel before the Sacrament is to confess that This is the Body and Blood of Christ not only with the lips, but with the whole person.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Well, There's an Advertising Twist

Driving through Indiana yesterday we saw this sign, a cheery invitation for visitors to Cornerstone Church: New Pastor! Fresh Approach!

I wonder what kind of thinking runs through the minds of people who think an advertisement that their church has a new pastor with a fresh approach will bring new members. One could take this a number of ways, I suppose, but the most glaring, it seems to me, would be a serious caveat emptor, since another way to say "new pastor, fresh approach" is to say, We have such little regard for the ministry that we are letting the world know how unpopular, stale, and worn out our old pastor was. How can a church with such a disdain for the pastor be a welcoming place for anybody?

Now the question is, Who wrote this sign? The people? In which case I pity the poor new pastor and advise him to watch his backside. Or, perhaps, the new pastor himself, in which case I'd be inclined to quip that what goes around comes around.

In any case, this definitely qualifies as creepy.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Some quotes

Friend, colleague, and GC guy, Fr. Weedon has compiled a handy list of quotations from our Lutheran fathers concerning our liturgical heritage. Well worth printing off and sharing with a board of elders, etc.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Comic Relief

Behold the meeting of a bankrupt ecclesiology and the marketplace. It had to happen sooner or later. Barbie has entered the priesthood.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Poems: Jehovah Buried, Satan Dead and Seven Stanzas for Easter and Holy Sonnet X

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

These are not very original selections - but can you imagine Easter without them? These are all great poems and every one of them so different yet on the same subject. It's hard to choose which I like best - or even what my favorite line is.

Donne's poem is the marching song for harrowing hell - I'm sure it's what the patriarchs chanted as Christ led them triumphant out of Hades' realm.

The lyrical lilt of Cummings' "King Christ this world is all aleak/and lifepreservers there are none" is so great that I am forced to write my Easter sermon by its light.

But the best line of all the three, perhaps the best line in all of poetry is by Updike: "Spun on a definite loom." Heavens above and earth below: that is a great line!

It is the best line in all poetry. About this there can be no debate.

Happy Easter.

Jehovah buried, Satan dead
by e.e. cummings

Jehovah buried, Satan dead,
do fearers worship Much and Quick;
badness not being felt as bad,
itself thinks goodness what is meek;
obey says toc, submit says tic,
Eternity's a Five Year Plan:
if Joy with Pain shall hand in hock
who dares to call himself a man?

go dreamless knaves on Shadows fed,
your Harry's Tom, your Tom is Dick;
while Gadgets murder squawk and add,
the cult of Same is all the chic;
by instruments, both span and spic,
are justly measured Spic and Span:
to kiss the mike if Jew turn kike
who dares to call himself a man?

loudly for Truth have liars pled,
their heels for Freedom slaves will click;
where Boobs are holy, poets mad,
illustrious punks of Progress shriek;
when Souls are outlawed, Hearts are sick,
Hearts being sick, Minds nothing can:
if Hate's a game and Love's a fuck
who dares to call himself a man?

King Christ,this world is all aleak;
and lifepreservers there are none:
and waves which only He may walk
Who dares to call Himself a man.

Seven Stanzas for Easter
by John Updike

Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
Eleven apostles;
It was as His flesh; ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.

Holy Sonnet X
John Donne

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;

For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow

Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,

Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,

And soonest our best men with thee do go,

Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.

Thou'art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,

And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,

And poppy'or charms can make us sleep as well

And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally,

And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter Vigil Poem

One benefit of this Holy Week Poetry project has been learning new poets. Here is one from Gerard Manley Hopkins - a poet recommended to me by my wife. I love his use of language and form - and I love poems that are one, well-knit, tight idea.

If you put Chrysostom's Easter Homily - which I use every year at the Vigil - in a moonshine still and boiled it down for two days, this is what comes out:

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Easter Communion

Pure fasted faces draw unto this feast:
God comes all sweetness to your Lenten lips.
You striped in secret with breath-taking whips,
Those crooked rough-scored chequers may be pieced
To crosses meant for Jesus; you whom the East
With draught of thin and pursuant cold so nips
Breathe Easter now; you serged fellowships,
You vigil-keepers with low flames decreased,

God shall o'er-brim the measures you have spent
With oil of gladness, for sackcloth and frieze
And the ever-fretting shirt of punishment
Give myrrhy-threaded golden folds of ease.
Your scarce-sheathed bones are weary of being bent:
Lo, God shall strengthen all the feeble knees.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Traditional Ceremony by which You Live and Worship the Lord Your God

Maundy Thursday, A.D. 2010

To live is to worship the Lord your God; and to worship Him is life.

The Lord calls you to this life and worship, by serving you, by feeding you, and by caring for you in body and soul.

He does it by means of this sacred Tradition and this solemn Ceremony, whereby the Father hands over His Son, and the Son hands Himself over for you, and gives Himself to you as Food.

The life by which you live is in the Blood of this Lamb; as life is in the blood of man and beast. For the blood brings oxygen and nutrition to the body, and it cleanses the body of infection and death. So the Lamb is sacrificed for you, and His lifeblood is given for your life, that you not die. His flesh is given and His lifeblood is poured out for you, to feed you, to quench your thirst, and to cleanse you and forgive you of all that poisons you and kills you.

In this way, the beloved Son, who is the Lamb of God, worships the Father, and He loves you, by and with His Blood.

That is what makes His House your home, your place of peace and rest.

For here the Ceremony of His Supper is delivered to you, as He has ever handed it over to His disciples. By this means, He gives you Himself as your Food, your Meat and Drink indeed. He pours out His blood to cover you, to mark you, to shelter and protect you, here within His House.

Holy Baptism is the door of this House, by which you have entered, and wherein you have been signed by the Cross with the blood of the Lamb: upon the lintel and the door posts, your forehead and your breast, your head and your heart.

He has given these rites and ceremonies to be done for His remembrance — to be administered in His Name and stead by those whom He has called and sent — as signs for you of His great deliverance; and that the Lord your God would see this Blood of the Lamb, marking you and this house where you live, so that He would pass over you in mercy and no plague befall you or destroy you.

This Ceremony and Tradition of Christ, the Lamb, is the first and foremost of days and weeks and months and years, and truly the beginning of eternity for you. It is a memorial for you, for heart and mind, body and soul, which you celebrate as a Feast to the Lord your God forever.

It is also by this Meal of His Body and His Blood that you are all one household and family of God, and fellow members of one Body in Christ. Because you have one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of you all. And you have one Lamb, given for you, upon whom you Feast, and in whom you live. You eat His one Body and drink of His Cup, and so you are bound together in Him — bodied and blooded together — one Holy Communion in Christ Jesus.

To love your neighbor, then, is to love Christ in your neighbor. And you do so, as Christ loves you, because He also lives in you, in both body and soul.

You wash your neighbor’s feet; not only metaphorically, but sometimes for real. You tend his wounds, and you tenderly care for his needs and his feelings. You feed his body, cover his expenses, clothe his nakedness, and forgive his sins. You visit him in his affliction, in the house of bondage, and grieve and mourn with him in the cords of death and the grave. You comfort him with such love, and you give your neighbor life by your own blood, sweat and tears.

But, surely, if you examine yourself rightly, and if you examine this Body of Christ to which you belong; and if you consider even these neighbors here with you, who are your brothers and sisters in Christ, who are nearest and dearest to you, then you know that you have not loved as Christ has commanded you to love.

You have not let His love have its way with you, and so your love for others has failed. There are those whom you have hurt, and those whom you have failed to help. Your thoughts, words and deeds have been soiled with sin, marred by selfishness, lust and greed. In yourself there is nothing but this sin and death, from which you cannot set yourself free.

Yet, the Lord has called you out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, and has delivered you from sin and death. Not because you were more prosperous or stronger than all others; nor because you were more pious and faithful and sincere; nor because you were more Lutheran, more confessional and orthodox. It is not because you were more plain and simple, nor because you were more formal and elaborate.

But He has called you by the Gospel of forgiveness. He has passed over your sins in mercy, and He remembers them no more. He has spared you from death and the grave, and He has brought you into life. He has done so for His own Name’s sake, for the sake of His own divine and holy love in Christ Jesus, the Lamb who has been slain for you and your salvation.

He has named you with that Name, by calling you out of bondage and bringing you into His House of peace and rest, through the waters of Holy Baptism for the forgiveness of all your sin.

The Father has sacrificed the unblemished Lamb for you at Twilight, and He has marked your door with His Blood. He catechizes you here with His Word, and seats you here at His Table, and He washes your feet with the Absolution of Christ, so that you are clean by His grace.

Here the Father feeds you with the Lamb whom He has chosen from before the foundation of the world; as He fed even Judas and Peter and Thomas, and all the disciples, not because of their faithfulness, but by His own. For He is faithful. The Father loves the disciples of Jesus, whom He has called and chosen; and so does He love you, as Christ Jesus loves you, even to the end.

It is by this love of God for you in Christ, by the Body and Blood of the Lamb, that you live and worship the Lord your God in body and soul; and that you also love, as you are loved, forever.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Good Friday Poem: Quarles

Francis Quarles put out an amazing amount of poetry on sacred subjects in his Emblems, Divine and Moral. You can read the whole thing on Google Books. Each section includes a woodcut, a quotation from Scripture, a long poem (the emblem), one or two quotations from a church father on the theme, and then a short poem (the epigram) that sums it all up memorably. Here is Epigram 2 from the Third Book. I think I will hang my Good Friday homily on its skeleton.

Rebellious fool, what has thy folly done?
Controll'd thy God, and crucify'd his Son?
How sweetly has the Lord of life deceiv'd thee!
Thou shedd'st his blood, and that shed blood has
sav'd thee.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Notice from Fr. Petersen

This Spring sees exciting days for Gottesdienst (TM) and Gottesdienst
Online (TM). First off, we are pleased to announce a new book for
college-aged men women, written by Dr. Stuckwisch, available for free
on-line (but so far only for Linux Standard Base operating systems.)
Type "Lutheran Student Book" into any legal, standard browser and
follow the links. You're welcome. Gottesdienst (TM) and Gottesdienst
On-line (TM) will also expand production of the Lectionary Study
Binder bound by Fr. Fabrizius and add a new Lemon Sage Bisque mix to
compliment Father Hollyood's ever-popular Louisiana Spice Blend. But
we are most excited that we are adding a new award to supplement our
award in January. One sabre a year just isn't enough. The new award
will be called the Lutheran Sabre of Boldness and given to the person
who most represents the color maroon.

Book Review: Confessional Success

Review of Peter Davadsan's Confessional Success: If I did it, so can you!. Reredos & Ambo Press, 2010. 178 pages.

With his characteristic wit and wisdom, Fr. Davadsan lays out a clear path to success in the parish ministry for any aspiring Lutheran pastor. He has, of course, served for over a decade at one of the Synod's flagship congregations and his well-known personal successes are undoubtedly the best possible inducement to purchase this book.

What are the keys to success in parish ministry? Davadsan lays them out over the 178 pages of this monograph in several elegant bulleted lists. For example, in a chapter entitled, “Personal Characteristics to be Cultivated” we find this in the subheading of “Family Virtue.”

  • Be tall

  • Have an attractive wife

  • Have cute and well-behaved children

That short list, in and of itself, is worth more than a few credit hours in our practical theology departments! But Davadsan never leaves it at a mere list, he goes on to flesh out his points, to wit, “Your wife should be attractive, but not too attractive. A too attractive wife can often cause strife in the ladies' aid. If you are single keep this in mind as your search for a spouse. If you are married already and your wife is too attractive, gently explain to her, in your calling as husband and head of household, that she should dress a little more frumpily. Likewise, if your wife is not attractive enough there are various ways of accommodating this fact in parish ministry. . .In a similar vein, children should be cute, but not cloyingly so – see the chart on page 134.”

When it comes to the nuts and bolts of ministry, we find it hard to improve on the wisdom presented in chapter 5, “Meshing With Your Congregation.” It is a truism that not every pastor can serve in every parish. But Davadsan elucidates the truism into a system which can be followed.

When you receive a call and begin your deliberation process, keep in mind that the foundation of all Confessional Success is a parish that agrees with you in every particular. Of course, when you read that, you will probably despair of ever achieving Confessional Success! How can I ever find a parish that agrees with me in every particular? It is at this point that most (Confessionally Unsuccessful) pastors throw up their hands and just try to muddle through. What they neglect is something that I read once in Aquinas while preparing for my previous volume Philosophy and Poetry as Gateway to the Christian Faith Experience. Thomas says (I am paraphrasing, of course) that if the converse is not necessarily true, one can, nevertheless, extract veracity from the converse by the transposition of terms relative to the predicate of the thing-to-be-reified. Applying this to the case of parish ministry, when our goal (that is, our thing-to-be-reified) is aparish that agrees with you in every particular we can achieve this very simply by reifying the transposition: simply become a pastor who agrees with the parish in every particular and all will be well!”

With a cover price of only $13.13, Confessional Success is a worthy and affordable addition to the Lutheran pastor's library.

Visions of the Hammered Dulcimer and Its Heirs

The hammered dulcimer was a popular medieval instrument throughout much of the Holy Roman Empire. At first it was regarded as a kind of psalterium, but the difference was that the method of setting the strings into vibration was by the use of hammers, as opposed to plucking. Thus two distinct families of instruments arose, whose divergence depended upon tone quality resulting from the differing methods of string vibration. The hammered dulcimer eventually evolved into the pianoforte, and then the piano. But there is some evidence that it was also seen at the time it first appeared as a harbinger of the use of drums in worship.

John d’Avignon, mid-thirteenth century Schoolman who taught at Paris during the period of the introduction of the hammered dulcimer, provided Rome with this remarkable opinion and prediction, which received the Papal imprimatur by Alexander IV in 1257 and was thereupon officially catalogued by the Catholic Congregation of Divine Worship. The translation, which is out of print, is that of Sister Mary O’Priehs (New York: Fathers of the Church, 1934).

There is no question in my mind, Your Holiness, that the introduction of the hammered dulcimer into our worship settings will lead us to a blessed increase in holiness in the generations to come. Well-meaning Franciscans have been consistently opposing its use for worship, due no doubt to its novelty. But I must respectfully disagree, and urge you, Father, to do the same. The hammered dulcimer is as harmless as a dove, and hath as much beauty, for its musick. It reacheth the heart, and as such, doth the work of Him who like a dove entered the womb of the blessed Virgin herself.

And my meditations upon the possibilities for its future have brought me much joy, which I am compelled to share: I see visions of greater and more majestic pianofortes to come, beating out their musick with aplomb, to speak with even greater earnestness to the human heart. I envision also greater beatings with more forceful hammers, upon drums and cymbals of various sizes, all at once: hammers worked by the hands and by the feet, and all to enliven the heart at worship. I foresee drummers drumming upon them with great dexterity and speed, all to bring joy and the thrill of faith to the ears and hearts of the people at worship. I see dancers dancing to these beating drums, not in wantonness as the Franciscans might suppose, but forsooth with all their might before the LORD, as did King David himself. I dream of a day, Father, in which the shackles of stilted worship are removed from our weary limbs, and we are freed at last to sing a new song unto the LORD!

I beg your indulgence, and if my request is too forward for you, I shall recant anon. Only if thou wilt consider it, I shall be pleased to have known so. Do not resist the hammered dulcimer, Holy Father. It rocketh my soul.

Maundy Thursday Poem: Wan Chu's Wife in Bed

The Psalm for daily prayer on Maundy Thursday is 55: "For it is not an enemy who taunts me- then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me- then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend."

Wan Chu's Wife In Bed

by: Richard Jones

Wan Chu, my adoring husband,
has returned from another trip
selling trinkets in the provinces.
He pulls off his lavender shirt
as I lie naked in our bed,
waiting for him. He tells me
I am the only woman he'll ever love.
He may wander from one side of China
to the other, but his heart
will always stay with me.
His face glows in the lamplight
with the sincerity of a boy
when I lower the satin sheet
to let him see my breasts.
Outside, it begins to rain
on the cherry trees
he planted with our son,
and when he enters me with a sigh,
the storm begins in earnest,
shaking our little house.
Afterwards, I stroke his back
until he falls asleep.
I'd love to stay awake all night
listening to the rain,
but I should sleep, too.
Tomorrow Wan Chu will be
a hundred miles away
and I will be awake all night
in the arms of Wang Chen,
the tailor from Ming Pao,
the tiny village down the river.