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.



  1. *chuckle*
    I'll have to ask my friends if they attended the chapel.

  2. Earth Day liturgy also struck CSL, although it was not this same one. It was composed by a grad student.

  3. And to think that the Major Rogation Day falls on April 25. What a great time to pray for blessings upon Creation. Maybe even sing the Song of the Three Young Men as a canticle. I'm sure one of the good Seward farmers would have let the college students "beat the bounds."

    But where would the creativity be in such a thing as that?

  4. As Dr. Reuning once said: "Poor God."

  5. >>>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<<<

    Sounds like something possibly uttered by a Midwestern Lutheran after he came to his senses about home-made liturgys.

  6. CUNE is a microcosm of the LCMS and silly things like this appear. Often chapel services use matins or two hymns, a short sermon and prayer. The liturgy for the Lord's Supper on Wednesday is always right out of the LSB. Fridays have "contemporary" worship. There is student-led "Evening Prayer" from LSB and unfortunately, "Praise".

    There are many good things at CUNE from a Lutheran and academic perspective. The music department is very good. The chair of the music department is an expert in the Lutheran liturgy. He wrote the book, "Worship Wars."

    Our theology department does very well in teaching basic doctrine, Hebrew and Greek.

    I can promise you that any student who wants to learn medieval and Reformation history from an honest, Lutheran perspective can do so at CUNE. The Crusades and modern Europe classes are pretty awesome also.

    I have no problem with you discussing this "liturgy", but just wanted to give an up-close perspective.

    I can promise you that if Lutherans stop supporting and sending their kids to CUNE that it will change for the worse.

  7. I liked this part: "O Lord, help us to use our technological inventiveness to undo the damage we have done to Your
    creation and to sustain Your gift of nature" ... so I googled that phrase and found the same prayer on a Roman Catholic webpage entitled, "Prayer Resources for Parishes." How technologically inventive of these Nebraska Lutherans to copy and paste prayers from the Catholics and Reformed!

  8. Mr. Flacius,

    I'm a Seward alumnus myself and can second what you said about the good points of my alma mater: Hebrew, Greek, theology and history classes.

    But let's be honest about the bad: evolution throughout the science curriculum, at least one woman's ordination fan in every department of the faculty, unLutheran worship, terrible teaching/practice on the doctrine of the ministry (why are non-pastors leading worship again?), etc.

    I owe much to Seward - more than I can repay, certainly, as I met my wife there. I enjoyed my time there. But the degree to which things have gotten worse in the decade since I graduated is very scary. The praise banders used to be a group of kids who got together in Janzow to jam: now they get 20% of the chapels, and the other 80% are at least half pastiche liturgies from who knows where (as they were in my day).

    Ten years on, now looking at things as a father who will need to send a kid off to school in another ten years, I'm very leery of the Concordias. I wonder if it wouldn't be better to look for a public university with an active Higher Things campus program.

    I sure learned plenty of Greek at WashU - and at least then the enemies would be clearly marked out. Which seems better than coming to find out that a Lutheran professor you really like turns out to believe in evolution and women's ordination. . .


  9. Sem. Eckardt,

    Big time. The best, though, is that nothing is attributed. I'm no fan of intellectual monopoly rights (copyright) in the Church (or much of elsewhere, but that's another topic). The point of the liturgy is that it belongs to all.

    But this gives the impression of being a new creation from the head of the "worship leader." If I print off a bunch of copies of Matins, I put "MATINS" at the top so people know what it is. Surely it's common courtesy to let folks know what we using for worship.

    But maybe the compiler (author is certainly not the word) of this liturgy was a bit embarrassed at his/his sources.


  10. "Evolution throughout the science curriculum" = I really cannot comment because I don't teach or take science courses. I will state that many of the science professors have started teaching here after you graduated.

    Women's ordination? I've never done a poll. If there are numerous advocates, they certainly aren't very vocal about it. Maybe, they know how I would respond to them. :)

    I think ordained pastors should be leading chapel...and they do more often that not, but certainly not always. I led chapel in the past (not-ordained) and decided not to do it anymore for that reason. However, I spoke on Reformation Day and Holy Cross Days (areas of historical expertise) when I did. You know that commissioned teachers and DCEs lead chapel throughout our Synod schools. Again...we are a microcosm.

    "unLutheran worship" describes about 50% of the congregations in our Synod. We have "LCMS" students who have never used a hymnal until they came to CUNE. They complain about how "traditional" our chapel is. Some of them only attend "Praise" or contemporary chapel of Fridays. As I said, it's a microcosm of the LCMS. 80% of the chapels are NOT "contemporary worship". I'd say that at least 50% of the LCMS congregations have "contemporary worship" more often than we are ahead of the game. And most liturgies are not goofy like the Earth Day stuff.

    Currently, 60-70% of our students are LCMS of which about half come from "contemporary or blended worship" congregations. If that overall percentage of LCMS students continues to shrink (as most think it will) what do you think will happen? Abandon your alma mater if you want. That's your business, but it is not a matter of inertia that it must get worse. It will happen because CUNE's alumni/ae let it happen.

    I can stand up in my classroom and make a clear presentation of the history of the Reformation from a Lutheran point of view. I can demonstrate in my class why Islam is a false religion and how Lutheran teaching is different than Roman Catholicism.

    That wouldn't happen at your kid's state university. State U professor would be quite different. I know them, I go to academic conferences with those professors..most are atheist, agnostics or liberal Christians. They delight in destroying "conservative" kids' religious beliefs. While you might not like everyone at CUNE, I promise there's no one like that here.

    If Lutherans abandon CUNE it will not get better. I can promise you that.

    End of rant...sorry for the length.

  11. While this is not a discussion about the Concordia University System... I went to CUC, and would hesitate in sending my daughter there. I want the place to be there for some reason, but I am not sure I want anyone I know to go there. A very convincing argument for women's ordination was taught in a few of my classes. Wanting to believe what my professors told me, I bought it. We shouldn't be naive for much longer about what is being taught at our schools. Why can't we at least encourage the schools to hire rostered LCMS faculty?

    I myself contributed to wacky chapel at RF. I have repented.

  12. Dr. Flacius,

    I'm really of two minds on the subject. You've laid out the best case for our Midwestern Concordias. Obviously, I and many others have, on balance, been well served.

    But the sad fact is that I and many others feel that that happened almost by luck. We fell in with the right crowd. But the wrong crowd (as KM notes) was also there for the finding.

    I think your comment about "microcosm of the LCMS" is spot on. That's the problem. The LCMS is at least three or four denominations living in the same house (the Confessionals, the old-school Liberals, the American Evangelicals...). Each one of those is represented at Seward, RF, and Mequon in one way or another. (I don't have any experience with any other Concordias either personally or through close friends.)

    So do I send my kids to a Concordia with stern advice to stick with the good crowd - or do I first look for a good church with an HT program next to a secular university and send them there with a stern warning to stick with the good crowd?

    I've got another decade to decide. But I am delighted that there is at least still a good crowd at Seward. Keep fighting the good fight Dr. Flacius.


  13. Dear Pastors (a minority report),

    While the liturgy is indeed a wonderful tool for our church, we all know the issue that it faces: a lack of specificity. The words that you say on Good Shepherd Sunday would be the very same that you say on Earth Day.

    I remember looking at bulletin of another church one day from Presentation of Augsburg Confession. The presentation actually fell on a Sunday--but you would not know that from anything in the worship that day--with the exception of the sermon. (this was from a Confessional church)

    Worship services are suppose to tell us something about God and His grace, and there are many different ways to talk about that. So don't hesitate to to focus your sheep on a particular aspect of God or His creation.

    I mean, for crying out loud, you didn't go to Sem for nothing. And by now you've been serving as a pastor for a bit. So start with focusing a confession. This is where mouthing the familiar words allows people to escape the bite of particularity. Give them a little Scripture, a little particular, and see how that goes.

    But note: whenever doing this, you'll have someone looking over your shoulder, tut, tutting at your efforts. So be strong, and of good courage, and go for it. Worst case scenario: it stinks. So what? Most everyone participating will have forgotten it the next day. Next time, you can try again--and maybe then it will connect with your congregation. And they will see God and His love and His grace in an entirely new way.

    That's my call. You are free to listen to others on this. That is what makes our Synod so strong--the diversity within our ranks.


  14. Pr. Louderback,

    Your call can only be heeded by those who view our Lutheran Confessions as you do, namely as "a good friend you catch up with from time to time." For those of us who actually take serious the ordination vow we made to perform all our duties in accord with our Confessions, not only can we not heed your call, but we must vehemently reject, and speak out against, it.

    That you see the diversity within our ranks as that which makes our Synod strong is directly linked to how you view, and treat, our Confessions. And, try as you might (and I'll give you your props - you do try mightily!) - you simply cannot escape the accusation that you are not being faithful to the vows you made. Or, can you honestly say that you do perform all your duties in accord with them? Be honest, Mark. Your "Lutheranism" is one that is much broader than the Lutheranism confessed in our Confessions. Just admit it. It will make you feel better, I promise. Then, after admitting it, please share how it is a blessing to belong to a Synod which allows for its members to treat our Confessions however they please when that results in a variety of practices that are not only inconsistent, but often crassly contradictory.

    Thanks for giving me the freedom to listen to others. I'll continue to listen to our Lutheran forefathers (who are certainly "others" in relation to you), since, well, I promised to do so.

  15. Fr. Zimmerman,

    You state: "And to think that the Major Rogation Day falls on April 25." April 25 was Jubilate Sunday. By my calendar Rogate Sunday falls on May 9 this year. Would this not be the Major Rogation Day?

  16. It would be quite lovely if LCMS schools prioritized hiring LCMS professors. Then perhaps my husband and I would both have full-time jobs.

  17. Dcn. Muehlenbruch:

    From my limited reading, it appears that April 25 (usually coinciding with the Festival of St. Mark, unless it is transferred) is set as the Major Rogation, while the three days following Rogate Sunday (the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday prior to the Ascension of Our Lord) are the Minor Rogations.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia includes the following in its article on Rogation Days:

    The Rogation Days are the 25th of April, called Major, and the three days before the feast of the Ascension, called Minor. The Major Rogation, which has no connexion with the feast of St. Mark (fixed for this date much later) seems to be of very early date and to have been introduced to counteract the ancient Robigalia, on which the heathens held processions and supplications to their gods. St. Gregory the Great (d. 604) regulated the already existing custom. The Minor Rogations were introduced by St. Mamertus, Bishop of Vienne, and were afterwards ordered by the Fifth Council of Orléans, which was held in 511, and then approved by Leo III (795-816). This is asserted by St. Gregory of Tours in "Hist. Franc.", II, 34, by St. Avitus of Vienne in his "Hom. de Rogat." (P.L., LVIII, 563), by Ado of Vienne (P. L., CXXIII, 102), and by the Roman Martyrology. Sassi, in "Archiepiscopi Mediolanenses", ascribes their introduction at an earlier date to St. Lazarus. This is also held by the Bollandist Henschen in "Acta SS.", II, Feb., 522. The liturgical celebration now consists in the procession and the Rogation Mass. For 25 April the Roman Missal gives the rubric : "If the feast of St. Mark is transferred, the procession is not transferred. In the rare case of 25 April being Easter Sunday [1886, 1943], the procession is held not on Sunday but on the Tuesday following".

    Retrieved April 26, 2010 from New Advent:

  18. Fr. Zimmerman,

    I should have remembered this; because these two Rogation times are also referred to as the Greater and Lesser Litanies. I thank you for reminding me of this.

  19. Pr Messer,

    Your call can only be heeded by those who view our Lutheran Confessions as you do, namely as "a good friend you catch up with from time to time."

    You are using this quote out of context, and not for the purpose that I intended for it to be written. When I said this, I was responding to the fact that I certainly do not read the Confessions with the regularity that you do--and I indicated that this was to my shame.

    But, when I do read the confessions, I don't find in them the rejection of my position that so many claim is in there.

    You can continue to make the claim that our confessions are just focused on doing things a certain man made way -- but I rather see the emphasis that they make on the proclamation of the Gospel message. That is what I am focused and concerned about, just as Luther was as well.

    And, try as you might (and I'll give you your props - you do try mightily!) - you simply cannot escape the accusation that you are not being faithful to the vows you made. Or, can you honestly say that you do perform all your duties in accord with them? Be honest, Mark.

    I am amazed that people like you really honestly think that I am trying to worm out of what I have promised to hold to.

    The Confessions are clear on the goal and purpose of worship: it is to proclaim the Gospel of Christ. It is not intended to be a checkmark that one ticks off on their Confessional list.

    How can I convince you that I honestly do hold to what I say I do? Do you want me to sign again my Lutheran card?

    I should point out that in the same conversation that you quoted me from above, that the consensus held that my position was not out of bounds of the Confessional view.

    I mean, our own Concordia Publishing House puts out different services as well.

    And, I am firmly convinced that most of your own congregation holds to the same position as I do. If I had 15 minutes with them to breeze through my position, I'll bet a majority would say "Yeah, we wouldn't want to worship that way, but what you are doing is still Lutheran."

    So, your position is simply a minority claim. One that is not convincing to others.

    Let me put this another way: the Wisconsin Synod claims that its position on Church and Ministry is the correct Confessional position. So, just because someone holds to a minority opinion, does not mean that it is correct. Rather, they need to demonstrate and convince others that their position is true. You have not been able to do that.

    You may bludgeon away as you will and try to get me to admit that I am not Lutheran, not confessional, etc. But yes, it is a blessing to be in a Synod where people understand that Luther was not fighting Rome concerning His desire to have liturgical worship. No, he was consumed with proclaiming the Gospel message. That is what brought about the Reformation.

  20. Pr. Louderback,

    I don't understand how my noting that you view our Confessions as a good friend can be considered out of context. I just re-read what you wrote about this and it seems pretty clear that you wrote this not simply to note that you do not read the Confessions as regularly as I do, but rather to explain how you actually do view our Confessions, going on to offer commentary you deem supportive of your view. Based on that commentary, it is clear to me that our differences are not limited to how frequently we read our Confessions, but on how we interpret them and to what degree we allow them to guide us in the performance of our duties. E.g. When you read, "We do not abolish the Mass, etc.," you conclude that our Lutheran forebears didn't really mean that as a definitive principle of a Lutheran theology of worship, but that they were writing at a time of conflict and simply didn't want to push the envelope too far back then. You then go on to posit that all that our Confessions say about worship can be reduced to "proclaiming the Gospel," as if they were not at all concerned with how the Gospel needed to be proclaimed (and delivered) in the Divine Service. Even though our Confessions make a pretty big deal about "form," you argue that they didn't really mean it, and that all they said about it doesn't apply to us today.

    This is what happens when you view our Confessions as a good friend. You are free to chalk up what our Confessions say as mere advice, which you can choose to ignore or interpret in a contextual and reductionistic way that enables you to argue that you are being faithful to them by clinging to some basic principles you exude from them to suit your fancy.

    Try as you might, you simply cannot find justification in our Confessions for employing the practices of those whom our very Confessions condemn. Your only recourse is to argue that our Lutheran forebears did not mean what they wrote, which is exactly what you do.

    As for the consensus holding that your position was not out of bounds of the Confessional view in the referenced conversation, having just re-read that thread, I fail to see how you come to this conclusion. But, even were that true, what would it matter? You seem to have this weird fetish regarding winning and losing, which you think is determined by majority opinion.

    As for the majority of the people in the congregation I serve holding the same position as you do, you are dead wrong. They've been catechized. But, if it makes you feel better to think things like that, knock yourself out, dude. You know, whatever floats your boat, and all that.

    Lastly, you keep referring to my inability to convince you as some sort of proof that I must be wrong and you must be right. It's amusing, really, especially considering the indisputable fact that you are the one doing a "new thing," not me. I'd say the onus is on you, not me. No?

  21. I don't understand how my noting that you view our Confessions as a good friend can be considered out of context. I just re-read what you wrote about this and it seems pretty clear that you wrote this not simply to note that you do not read the Confessions as regularly as I do, but rather to explain how you actually do view our Confessions, going on to offer commentary you deem supportive of your view.

    I disagree with your interpretation of this. But here is the full quote and we'll let the words speak for themselves:

    But before I begin, let me say that your words certainly have shamed me. I don't read through the confessions every year (or really, through the entire Bible every two years) as you do. No reason for that. It is statements and thoughts like this that remind me that you and I both have something to learn from each other and can encourage one another with.

    Now, along those lines, I see the Confessions as a good friend. The kind you have where, you have not spoken in a bit, but when you do, you get caught right back where you were. I'm always impressed and amazed how the confessions do speak clearly about the faith that I hold to and the doctrine that brings comfort and pace.

    I understand that you have met those who throw away the confessions and those who scorn their use. But not me. I welcome it.

    Now, I do understand why my some of my brothers get frustrated with use of the confessions in our Synod--because they are used as a hammer.

  22. Ah, Mark, nice try, my friend. But, you stop quoting yourself too soon. It is in the remainder of your post that you offer commentary to support the way you view our Confessions. Here's just the first bit:

    First, I question this interpretation. Not that I disagree with you that the writers don't say that they are not doing a new thing in worship. But this is not a general statement about worship. This is written as a result of the work--the Confessions overall--being a work of conflict.

    To use an analogy, this is not the Book of Romans; this is the book of Galatians. There is a particular argument that they are making here, because they are being pressed to an issue. In response, they respond. And so this touches upon worship.

    So, for example, right in the Augsburg Confession, with the Section on Concerning the Mass (Aug 24) -- two points, first, my issue with the English word Mass, duly notes, move on; second, Roman Numerals are for Superbowls and watches -- we hear discussion about holding to the Mass--but we are reading this in terms of a conflict with the church.

    On the other hand, you pick up Luther talking about the third commandment, where he is just yakking on about worship and the importance of young people hearing the Word--and there just is no need to delve into "We do the Mass."

    So, once again, I see the general themes as more focused upon bringing the Word of God, the Gospel message of Christ, to people. That is the focus when they are just talking about worship. When they are talking in terms of their conflict with the Church, then yes, they point to the connection to the past. No doubt.

    For me right now, I just don't see the conflict anymore is one of "Are we the church?" or not. We have not convinced the RC fully of that in years. That battle is over. So, it is just not that important to me. The Gospel is still quite important.

    Another snippet from that post:

    I don't think that the reason form is important to them is the issue that we are speaking about today. What is important to them--proclamation of the Gospel--is what is important to us today.

  23. I should have included this snippet as well:

    The problem with this is the issue of land ownership (follow me, please). Do I own the land my house is on? Well, I have a deed...but what about before then--someone else owned the land, didn't they? Di I have a right to take it from them? If the Osage Indians came to me and said "Your house in on my land," is that true? Do I lose possession? But then, who owned it before them?

    Right now, I don't buy the "CoWo offends me argument." Sorry,but we are at the point where we are bringing musicians together to write CoWo. We have songs approved for worship. We use CoWo at our youth gatherings. This is where we are.

    I mean, I didn't introduce CoWo to the LCMS. I didn't push it. I wasn't in favor of it when I came out of Sem. But it is here right now--and you know, to say "Well, it offends me--therefore you need to stop" well, that doesn't make any sense.

    Just like someone saying "That land is mine" doesn't make sense to me now.

    By the way, this particular conversation was ended awaiting your response, which you promised was forthcoming. Not that I mind, since I doubt that there is any ground to be gained here . . . just sayin'.

  24. Tom,

    Once again, my initial objection was you using my comparison of the Confessions as an old friend and changing its meaning to say something else.

    My point in calling them an old friend was to say just as I did: that even though I do not read them as often as I ought--and I pointed out clearly my error in that--when I do read them I am strengthened and comforted by what I read.

    There is no doubt that I do not take every word of the Confessions to be compulsory. A quia subscription does not demand that. That is not merely my opinion of what quia is, but it is Walthers and my professors and others.

    Now, you are correct in saying that we began this discussion on another forum--on ALPB actually, for those interested here was my post:

    I understand that I am a guest on Gottesdienst blog. While I appreciate the freedom and openness that they give to allow me to post my dissents to their positions, I don't want to wear out my welcome. I would be glad to continue the discussion with you over on ALPB.

    I will simple reiterate my position though: specificity in liturgy is a good thing, because it draws people's attentions to the particularity of the Law and the Gospel's answer to that law.

    And one more thing: I will take you up on the challenge. I think that if I went into any congregation of any church remotely connected with Gottesdienst and spoke with them for 15 minutes, while they would not want to worship as I did, they would agree that my worship is Lutheran. Not all of them, but a majority.

    You may try and catechize as you will--but God's truth would be apparent and apprehended by lay people.

  25. Mark,

    Holding a quia subscription does not allow one to pick and choose which parts of our Confessions are relevant and which parts are irrelevant. I don't know if your view of our Confessions was held by some of your professors, but I know with all certainty that it was not held by Walther. You have shown time and time again that our Confessions are nothing but your little toy that you can play with as you wish. You live in your own "house," not in the "house of our fathers." But, whatever . . .

    As for continuing this conversation, let's not and say we did. It is nothing but an exercise in futility and I'm sure both of us have better things to do with our time (you need to be out there doing whatever it takes to reach the lost, and I need to be about the business of ignoring the lost so that I can tend to my flock in my "maintenance congregation").

    I do love the fact that you presume to know how the laypeople we Gottesdiensters serve would react to your "new-age Lutheranism," since it proves the point I have been trying to make for a long time, namely that we "confessionals" do not hold the patent on being brashly arrogant.

    In any event, you are just dead wrong about that. The people I serve would readily identify the worship you espouse as incompatible with our Lutheran theology of worship. But, dream your dreams if it makes you feel better . . .


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