Monday, January 31, 2011

Congratulations, Fr. Petersen

Our own departmental editor, Fr. David Petersen, was fêted by the loving people of Redeemer as well as the bishop of the English District this past Sunday on the occasion of a double anniversary: 15 years since receiving Holy Orders and 10 years as Pastor of Redeemer.

I mention it here not only because of Fr. Petersen's connection to the journal, but also because of one interesting liturgical reason and one point of familial pride. First, the latter point: my mom made all the vestments and paraments which were donated by a friend of Redeemer for this occasion. They are beautiful, if I don't say so myself. If you are (or your parish is) interested in such appointments, I can put you in touch with her.

But now the liturgical point - thanks to the example of the Rt. Rev. Obare at the installation of President Harrison, Fr. Petersen had the idea of reintroducing the full vesture of the bishop at Redeemer - so Bishop Stechholz carried not only his usual crozier but also wore the mitre. As the wide world of Confessional Lutheranism gets wider, we in the Missouri Synod are learning a lot from our brethren in societies that have not had to live through the same history we have. In Siberia and Kenya they wear the mitre and keep the traditional form of church governance as the Confessions say we desire. They don't have the US's sad history of virulent anti-catholicism and anti-clericalism. Now that we have more contact with our brothers around the world, it is hoped that we will not only teach and lead but also learn and follow.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Real Worship

By Larry Beane

I believe one of the reasons we have "worship wars" among American Christians is that it has been a long time since we have had physical warfare on our own soil.  9-11 was close, but even that was dominated not by the theology of the cross of Christ, but rather by a sense of the national therapy of Oprah. 

Consider this poignant picture above of the ruins of a bombed-out church in Germany, where amid all the chances and changes of this life, the one thing that people could hold onto is the liturgy of the Church, the Mass, the real physical communion with the real physical Lord.

Notice what you don't see: entertainment.  There is no gyrating chanteuse working the microphone like a Vegas performer, a spotlight shining on a grimacing drummer, a perfectly-coifed guitarist wearing the latest fashions, or a trendy prancing made-up motivational speaker with gelled-up hair and a plastic smile emoting in overly-dramatic hushed intonations.

Instead, we see a celebrant, deacon, subdeacon, and two servers, all reverently and historically vested, each stationed in his proper order, proclaiming by their very placement that no matter how unpredictable and desperate things may get in this war-torn existence, Jesus is here, week in and week out, in the midst of our pain and uncertainty.  And the Church is here, century in and century out, bearing the Good News by proclaiming Christ crucified, the eternal Word of the cross.  And even amid the rubble and missing walls and blown-out windows, the old stone edifice of the church building, even in its humiliated state, carries a reverent gravitas of which the latest and greatest multi-million-dollar "worship centers" are bereft.

And at the center of it all is the chancel.  There is no stage, big screens, lasers, or sound system paraphernalia, but rather a simple but elegant book containing the liturgy and the Word of God, dignified candles flickering with the soft glow of the flames reminiscent of the Day of Pentecost and silently confessing the Son as "light of light, very God of very God."  And of course, the Holy of Holies is the stone altar, anchored like the rock of St. Peter's confession amid the gravel of a desperate world, the marble slab upon which one finds the Cornerstone, the Christ Himself in the Holy Eucharist, the mystery of the Lord's Presence for the forgiveness of sins given by means of the simple creatures of bread and wine.

By contrast, "contemporary worship" is a sad and spiritually impoverished display of vulgar bourgeois suburban kitsch, a puerile frivolity that is more at home in a sterile strip mall or a vacuous night club than in the gritty real world inhabited by real people who suffer real pain and who need a real saving encounter with the real God.

That is why we need real worship.

Gottesdienst on Issues, Etc., at 4:15pm CST

Today in Daily Divine Service Book the observance is St. John Chrysostom - listen to me talk about this Doctor of the Church on Issues, Etc. today at 4:15 CST or listen later via podcast.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New DDSB Resources

The response to Daily Divine Service Book: A Lutheran Daily Missal has been overwhelming. In fact, the publisher notified me that DDSB received second place in their December sales contest. Not bad for a book aimed at an admittedly niche market: the liturgical Lutheran pastor. I am very gratified that the book is proving useful to so many of my colleagues in the ministry.

I am happy to announce two new resources related to the missal: Easter Vigil as a stand alone document and Rubrics and Prayers for Celebrant and Deacon.

DDSB: Rubrics and Prayers for Celebrant and Deacon

Several users of DDSB have mentioned how much they have benefited from the rubrics included with the Ordinary of the Common Service – and yet I had wished to include much more. Hampered by considerations of length, I included only the Ordinary with rubrics for the Celebrant and lay server. I had wanted also to include rubrics for an ordained clergyman serving as Deacon as well as vesting and preparation prayers.

All of that information as well as an appendix with the full ceremony of the Celebrant and Deacon from a 19th century Western resource is now available in DDSB: Rubrics and Prayers for Celebrant and Deacon. The complete contents of this 73pp book are:

  • Prayers of preparation for the Celebrant and his assistants

  • The vesting prayers

  • The Ordinary with Rubrics from DDSB

  • The Ordinary with Rubrics for Celebrant and Deacon

  • A Preface that includes instructions for adding a Sub-Deacon and certain roles of the Bishop where appropriate

  • An Appendix with the full traditional ceremony of the Deacon and Celebrant from Ceremonial according to the Roman Rite, A+D 1859

  • Charts illustrating the order of processions

I am offering this resource in paperback, an open flat coil-bound format, and as a downloadable file. I think that it will be most useful in the electronic format as this will allow pastors to print out the Ordinary with rubrics in a size suitable for use in a binder at the altar and in color (the cost of color printing is simply too prohibitive in the book formats – like DDSB, this supplementary volume includes the rubrics in gray rather than ruber in the paperback and coil-bound editions). However, some may find it useful to order the coil-bound edition for use on a missal stand or the paperback edition for desk reference.

DDSB: Easter Vigil

If your parish does not currently celebrate the Easter Vigil, make that your new year's resolution for 2011. To help you in this regard, I've pulled out the Easter Vigil section of DDSB as a stand alone ebook that you can size and print as you like. I'm also offering it as a saddle stitched booklet. As with all of DDSB, what I'm really doing is just making available to you the resources I myself have found lacking. I'm planning on buying several of the saddle stitched booklets to keep on hand for all of the assisting clergy and lay servers at our annual Vigil.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Liturgy Workshop at CSL Feb 3

A student group from Concordia Seminary - St. Louis (Opus Dei) has invited me to campus on February 3 from 6:00pm-9:00pm for an evening of instruction and conversation regarding the liturgy and ceremony of the traditional Lutheran Divine Service. Beer and snacks will be served after the presentation. If you know of seminarians, vicars, or pastors in the St. Louis area please pass on this information. Full information is below.


Liturgical Parish Life


Practical Workshop for Seminarians

Sponsored by

Opus Dei Student Organization

Thursday, February 3rd

Workshop: 6:00pm-9:00pm

Beer, Snacks, Conversation: 9:00pm-??

Loeber 2

Opus Dei has invited Rev. H. R. Curtis for an evening of practical instruction and conversation about living out the Lutheran liturgical heritage in a real flesh and blood congregation. Pastor Curtis is Online Editor for Gottesdienst: A Journal of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy and the editor of Daily Divine Service Book: A Lutheran Daily Missal, the only daily missal in English available in the Lutheran tradition.

Main Presentation:

The How and Why of the Traditional Ceremonies of the Lutheran Divine Service

Topics Covered:

Why ceremony? * What ceremonies are indicated by Ap. XXIV.1? * Why and when do we bow, genuflect, sit, stand, and make the sign of the cross? * Conducting the traditional ceremonies with LSB, TLH, or LW * The Common Service vs. the post-Vatican II services , etc.

Participation is free and is open to the entire campus community.

Pre-Registration is appreciated so that enough copies can be made: pastorcurtis at gmail dot com

Participants are encouraged to bring their copies of Daily Divine Service Book which can be purchased at – email pastorcurtis at gmail dot com for coupons and more details.

Also available at the workshop for $5:

Liturgical Parish Life Resource CD

A CD-ROM with scores (170+ MB) of practical pastoral resources for the first years of ministry including: Bible studies, marriage counseling program, complete liturgies, extensive bibliographies, important articles in contemporary theology, evangelism resources, etc.

Friday, January 21, 2011

IDE Pres. Brian Saunders Receives Sabre of Boldness

The Sabre of Boldness for 2011 has been awarded to Iowa District East President Brian Saunders, for his tireless efforts to in seeking to obtain calls for the 21 men from Concordia Theological Seminary who did not receive them at the April 28, 2010 call service. Pres. Saunders took more CTS candidates into his district than any other district, and has set a fine example for the other members of the Missouri Synod Council of Presidents in doing so.

The ceremony, which followed the Concordia Theological Seminary banquet, was held at the La Quinta Hotel in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Gottesdienst Sabre of Boldness columnist Chaplain (Colonel) Jonathan Shaw made introductory remarks to explain what the Sabre was, using several battle images of faith from the Psalter. He then introduced Gottesdienst chief editor Rev. Dr. Burnell Eckardt, who spoke further on the award and its meaning (see the text of his remarks below), and then announced the nominees and the winner, Pres. Saunders, who was present to receive the award. Pres. Saunders also spoke briefly to the crowd following his reception of the award.

There were seven other nominees: Pastor Rob Jarvis, of Minnesota, for his confessional convictions for which he has endured severe hardships, and following which he has come down with cancer; Bishop Roland Gustafsson and Auxiliary Bishop Matti Valsanen, both of the Mission Province in Sweden and Finland, for their strong confession in the face of the hostile Scandinavian Church and the hardships they have endured due to that confession; Rev. Jonathon Fisk, for his faithfulness in spite of parish hardships, and his boldness in his Internet confession of faith in his Worldview Everlasting videos; Rev. Ari Norro of Finland, for enduring “discrimination” penalties of the Finnish Supreme Court because he refused to acknowledge women as pastors; Rev. Olav Lyngmo of Norway, for his stance against homosexuality against the church body and a civil trial which ruled against him, resulting in personal hardships; Rev. Michael Grieve of Illinois, for his continued faithfulness in the face of perpetual grief from one of the congregations of his dual parish.

Here follows the text of Dr. Eckardt’s remarks:

“This is the sixteenth annual Sabre of Boldness ceremony. That means we have been at this since 1996, when some of the seminarians here were in fifth grade.

“It all started out rather like an illegitimate child: over drinks in a dimly lit hotel room at a Holiday Inn not far from here. It was conceived in a spur-of-the-moment bit of rather spontaneous and reckless thinking, as many of you are already aware; and for all intents and purposes nothing was really expected to amount from it, as is the case with all one-night . . . events. And the award itself is the child of the editors of Gottesdienst, a disreputable crowd by their own standards, to say nothing of the standards of the folks who perambulated the high places in St. Louis in those days. It bears remembering that the double-entendre of the S. O. B. award has always meant that its recipient, for all his boldness in the faith, is likely already to have gained for himself a kind of notoriety not generally sought after, placing him in the lower ranks, among the sons of . . . men.

“The Sabre of Boldness really should not have survived. It had too much going against it. Not only did its origin suggest trouble for it; there were calls for it to be set aside, even from among people we admire. Friendly fire, as it were. It has been, to borrow a phrase from Paul Simon, slandered, libeled, it’s heard words it never heard in the Bible.

But, to borrow another phrase, from blessed saint Paul, behold, it lives! It’s sixteen, going on seventeen! – to borrow yet another phrase, from Oscar Hammerstein.

“The list of recipients over the past fifteen years contains some pretty illustrious names, too. It includes a District President (Rev. Edwin Suelflow), a Lutheran Hour Speaker (Dr. Wallace Schulz), a renowned theologian (Dr. Ronald Feuerhahn), and Bishop Walter Obare of Kenya, to name just a few. The current bearer, The Right Reverend Dr. Paul Kofi Fynn, is president of the Lutheran Church of Ghana. So the award has people, as they say.

“Back in 2006, when we gave the Sabre to Bishop Obare, his reception of it was immediately hailed by members and friends of the Mission Province in Sweden, which he supports, and a Swedish press release declared that ‘The Sabre of Boldness is given annually to a Lutheran who has taken a stand for the Gospel in a courageous manner and thereby has encountered threats and persecution’; and then there’s this: ‘Gottesdienst is the journal of the Missouri Synod.’

“I’d have loved to be a fly on the wall at the IC in St. Louis, when they first got wind of that one. ‘What? Who?? How could Gottesdienst have replaced our prized Lutheran Witness and The Reporter all in one day? How has this happened? Who are these renegades, who appointed them to speak for us, and why are copies of this confessional rag showing up everywhere? Hey! You there! What are you doing spreading copies of Gottesdienst in this building? Hey! Come back here! Hey! Heyyyyy!’

“I’m also reminded of a lecture by the Professor Dr. Kurt Marquart, of blessed memory, back in 2005, in which he sought to explain what Gottesdienst means. The Gottesdienst eds were sitting together near the back of the room, and I remember seeing heads at once turning in our direction to get our reaction; which suggested to me that our journal has succeeded to some degree in debunking even Dr. Marquart’s definition, simply by virtue of its popularity. Why, Gottesdienst does not simply mean worship! It’s the name of this journal! Who cares what else it means!

“And of course it’s this journal which has produced the Sabre, which has produced fifteen recipients to date.

“But this award is not about us or about them, really. It’s about all the unsung heroes of the faith which are routinely missed, in the handing out of awards. There’s a little lapel pin we give to the recipient, because we don’t have the cash to hand out real sabers, and the pin has two crossed sabers: one for the recipient, and the other for all those heroes who go unmentioned, because we don’t know them. They confess the faith, they persist, they don’t back down, and for it they suffer. In some cases the suffering is quite physical, such as North Korea, China, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, and Sudan – places you should all add to your congregation’s Sunday prayer list – where people are brutalized and killed by angry mobs who cannot abide their Christian confession. In other cases, it’s more subtle, though no less real: the loss of livelihood or the threat of it, the loss of friends or status, or the loss of reputation, something the catechism tells us is one of the worst things you can lose. They get the sniffed-at treatment, the turned up noses, the complaints that they are evil, malignant, or insufferable, all because they would not compromise the faith they knew to be right, in the face of sometimes tremendous pressures from without and within. They’re people like Moses, with enemies like the sons of Korah, who rise against them and say, “You take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: why then do you lift up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?” And like Moses, they humbly suffer such abuse, and perhaps wish they could be somewhere else, or do something else, but they know that they cannot be unfaithful to their Lord. And they’re all over the place, indeed all over the world, and they silently suffer for their faith. And we salute them all tonight.

“That’s what the Sabre is about, really. But we do like to choose one bearer, to carry it, as it were, each year, on behalf of them all.”

Bearers of the Sabre

2011 The Reverend Dr. Brian Saunders
2010 The Right Reverend Dr. Paul Kofi Fynn
2009 The Reverend Juhana Pohjola
2008 The Reverend Aaron Moldenhauer
2007 The Reverend Dr. Ronald Feuerhahn
2006 Bishop Walter Obare
2005 The Reverend Edward Balfour
2004 The Reverend Charles M. Henrickson
2003 The Reverend Dr. Wallace Schulz
2002 The Reverend Erich Fickel
2001 The Reverend Dr. John C. Wohlrabe
2000 The Reverend Peter M. Berg
1999 The Reverend Gary V. Gehlbach
1998 The Reverend Dr. Edwin S. Suelflow
1997 The Reverend Jonathan G. Lange
1996 The Reverend Peter C. Bender

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Like Piepkorn?

I have persuaded Dr. Phil Secker of the Author Carl Piepkorn Center for Evangelical Catholicity to allow Gottesdienst to help him prepare the next volume of Piepkorn's collected works. Many of the works to be included were published in small journals or CSL student newspapers - yet they are gems that deserve a larger readership.

Many hands make like work - these essays need to be typed up into .doc format and this requires skills beyond the sort of work that can be hired out to a run of the mill typist or OCR program as much of the information in the footnotes is in German, Latin, and Greek. I'm hoping that many of our readers can volunteer to type up just one or two of these essays. If you need a primer on typing in Greek, I can help you out with that - it is very easy with a font that I can send you.

If you are interested in being a part of this important scholarship for 21st century Lutheranism, please send me an email with Piepkorn in the subject to pastorcurtis AT gmail DOT com.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

If you're in Fort Wayne...

...stop by the Gottesdienst booth and pick up a free copy of the print journal. You can also pick up a copy of Dr. Eckardt's new book. Daily Divine Service Book is available in the book store, and oth books are also on sale via the publisher,, through Thursday with the coupon code NEWREADS. This will get you 20% off your order.


Friday, January 14, 2011

See you in Fort Wayne

Most of the Gottesdienst editors will be heading to Fort Wayne in a few days for the Symposia series. If you are getting there for the first half of the week, don't forget Fr. Petersen's one day free conference at Redeemer on Monday. If you are going to be there for the second half, don't miss the Sabre of Boldness Ceremony at the La Quinta after the banquet on Thursday. Right in the middle of the week, on Wednesday morning, you can catch my paper and Dr. Eckardt's paper in the same room (Loehe-4, see below).

And all week long you can pick up copies of Daily Divine Service Book and The New Testament in His Blood at the Gottesdienst booth. Or order online with the coupon code TREASURE for 20% through Monday.



Sectional Abracts

Sectional E: Loehe 4, Wednesday, Jan 19

7:45 AM “Right Hand or Left: In What Kingdom Does Matrimony Properly Reside?”
Rev. H. R. Curtis, Trinity and Zion Lutheran Churches, Worden and Carpenter, IL
Recent debates in Western society over the definition of marriage and the ensuing political battles should cause Lutheranism to reexamine their classical understanding of marriage as being under the State's purview (Melanchthon, Luther's Marriage Booklet, and American dogmaticians). This paper argues that the Biblical texts (Gen. 1-2, I Cor. 7, Eph. 5) call for a change in our understanding. Marriage is a matter of natural law and thus has a special relationship to both Church and State. The paper culminates with specific suggestions for the contemporary American Church in dealing with matrimony vis a vis the State.

8:15 AM “The Our Father and the Friend at Midnight: An Argument from the Third
Gospel for a Nuclear Canon”
Rev. Dr. Burnell F. Eckardt, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Kewanee, IL, Gottesdienst Editor-
Immediately following the words of the Our Father in St. Luke 11 is the parable of the friend at midnight, which contains a curious reference to three loaves and another reference to the element of the friend’s friend for whom the loaves are required. The story concludes with Jesus’ familiar promise, “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Taken together, these ingredients and context provide justification for understanding the Our Father as a prayer of consecration.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"The 'Contemporary' Choir: The Future is Now" or "For the Love of All That is Sacred, Make It Stop!"

This is why Gottesdienst is needed now more than ever...

Baptism Fail

The ladies who run our Sunday School deserve nothing but my most hearty thanks. Our kids always come home knowing the Bible story and they have fun to boot. The ladies always go above and beyond the CPH lessons (which are really quite good - and the music CD's they come home with quarterly are also good) downloading activity sheets and artwork from the internet - but even Homer nods, and I got a chuckle out of the activity sheet the kids brought home this week.

Creation & Worship

My Alma Mater, Concordia - St. Louis, seems to go through theological vogues. For quite a long while it was Two Kinds of Righteousness. One could step on to campus and find people saying "2KR" without a trace of irony as if Christians had always been using such an abbreviation for all of time, as if anyone who hadn't been attending class there in the previous five years would have any idea what they were speaking about, as if Luther himself defended SBGATFA all the time when he debated Eck.

The latest theological framework to be en vogue at CSL is this business about Creation. I'm finally catching up on reading through the Summer 2010 issue of Concordia Journal which includes a succinct manifesto on the topic of "Caring for God's Groaning Earth" from the faculty member who seems to be driving force behind the latest vogue: Dr. Charles P. Arand, the Chairman of the Systematics Department.

I had the pleasure of taking several classes from Dr. Arand during my time at St. Louis. He is a very learned man and a capable teacher. His name will live on for decades, if not centuries, for the work he did in helping the Kolb-Wengert edition of the Book of Concord to become a reality. He is especially well versed in the Apology and the theology of Melanchthon. As the chair of the department, Dr. Arand deserves special thanks for the 2007 statement against lay ministry issues by the systematics faculties of both seminaries.

As I said, the essay is succinct and will not take you long to read, and I encourage you to do so. Here I want to simply mention one thing I have found oddly missing in Dr. Arand's discussions of Creation and then reflect a bit on what Dr. Arand had to say about worship and creation.

First, the odd omission - in speaking of Creation I have yet to read Dr. Arand contend with, well, creation. It would seem to me that a uniquely Christian understanding of how we relate to Creation ought to include quite a lot of reflection on our belief that God created the world ex nihilo in six days. Surely, given this teaching, our way of caring for God's creation will differ from those who either believe the world is an accident or those Christians who reject a literal understanding of Genesis. I would very much like to hear Dr. Arand reflect on those differences.

Second, Dr. Arand says this about worship,

Where does creation find expression within the worship life of the church and its liturgy? Consider the church year. Where does creation receive attention? Currently, the first half of our church year rightly focuses on the life of Jesus. The second half of the church year focuses on the life of the church. These correlate with the second and third articles of the creed. But where does the first article of the creed (God's ongoing activity in creation) find a place within the church year? After all, without it we cannot properly grasp Scripture's account of redemption in Christ. We wouldn't have to call it "Earth Sunday." We could call it "Creation Sunday" or have a "Season of Creation." For that matter, how do our worship practices and rituals express our connection to creation as well as our care of creation? After all, practices often embody our values and our visions about what it means to live a fully human life.

Where to begin? The creation story is read out in its entirety at least twice every year in a Lutheran congregation that follows the Historic Lectionary (Trinity XXI and Easter Vigil). The lectionary also includes Jesus' command to preach to all creation in Mark 16 at the Ascension of Our Lord. Paul speaks of the renewal of creation in Romans 8 on Epiphany 4. We could go on and on. Read a little Francis of Assisi - he did alright on these topics without "Creation Sunday." The propensity of would-be contemporary liturgists to smack a "Concordia Sunday" here and an "LWML Sunday" there shows a lack both of imagination and understanding of the richness of the traditional lectionary.

What rituals show our connection to creation? How about The Rituals: the sacraments. Water, bread, wine, and the hands and voice of a man created in God's image and sent out to be an icon of the Christ who became a part of our creation specifically by becoming a Man.

Especially in the Lord's Supper do we find more than enough fodder for a proper Christian reflection on our connection to Nature. (The following observation is not original to me - but for the life of me I cannot find the essay where I learned it. I am pretty sure it is CS Lewis - if someone can find it, I'll be much obliged.) Jesus takes bread and wine and says them into being his Body and Blood. He does not use wheat and grapes. That is, bread and wine are techne, technology, the superadded work of men to the works of nature. Nature, you see, is not enough. Nature, devoid of her Lord, mankind, and devoid of some Word from the Lord is a closed book. Taking a bath isn't enough - without the Word of God it is plain water and no Baptism. Wheat isn't enough - some man must first grind it, some woman knead it and bake it. Grapes aren't enough - the stompers must stomp and the vintner add his yeast and mix it all in the right way, and store it in the right way, and only then can it be used by Jesus for his Supper. And the Word of Absolution must be spoken into reality by the vocal chords of a Son of Adam bending the air around him into the vibrating messenger of grace.

There is nothing deficient in the Church's liturgy and lectionary - no topic the Church has left out - no need for innovations to cover supposed lacunae. Here you will find the whole counsel of God presented to the people of God year in and year out. All it requires of the preacher/celebrant is the humility to learn from it and the imagination to hear it clearly. These are both gained by reading at least as much Augustine, Chrysostom, Luther, and Chemnitz as Wendell Berry and Dave Bookless. And, hey, I like Wendell Berry.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

High Mass Without Communion?

by Larry Beane

A strange turn of phrase is found in today's devotional reading from To Live With Christ by Bo Giertz (translated from Swedish into English by Richard Wood and Bror Erickson:

"The Divine Service Jesus experienced in the synagogue was the basis for the Swedish high mass without communion" (page 103).

The word commonly translated as "High Mass" from Swedish is actually an amalgamation of "High Mass" and "God's Service" (German: Gottesdienst).  In Swedish the whole word is: Högmässogudstjänst.

But the idea of a "Mass without communion" is not only an oxymoron, it is also a concept as alien to the Lutheran Confessions as the "Non Communion Sunday" - a creature that ought to exist, like the unicorn, only in myth.  But the rarification of the Holy Sacrament among Lutherans is not limited to Americans and Germans, as it also infected the Nordic churches as well - in spite of their overall greater emphasis on the catholic tradition of Lutheran ceremony and rite.

Our own American version, of course, comes from The Lutheran Hymnal, page 5, a service known officially as "The Order of Morning Service Without Communion," but also bearing the affectionate unofficial moniker: "The Dry Mass."  

But how can it be a Mass when there is no Mass?

I can't read the words "High Mass without Communion" without calling to mind Uncle Remus's paradox: "How can there be a tale, when there ain't no tail?"

Monday, January 10, 2011

Lay Assitance in Communing the People and Something About Deacons

Father Beane's post on children's sermons and the CTS calendar spawned a conversation (world without end, Amen.) that went in several different directions - one of which dealt with lay assistance at distribution and what this had to do with AC XIV, modern Roman practice, modern Lutheran practice, and so forth.

I don't think there can be any argument over the fact that in the minds of those who wrote and originally subscribed to AC XIV it meant that only ordained ministers (whether priest or deacons - the Lutheran understanding of the latter seems rather fluid: see below) would be consecrating and distributing the Lord's Supper to the laity. Never had it been otherwise in the long history of the Church. Indeed, some of the first canons we have from early meetings of bishops deal with who communes whom: and never, ever, is it laity who is distributing the Lord's Supper.

So, anyone reading AC XIV in 1530 would know exactly what it meant: only clergy consecrate and distribute the Lord's Body and Blood. That is the original intent of the article - and I really don't think that this is a point that can be controverted. To try to find wiggle room in there for another practice ("it says administer - not distribute") is to be anachronistic. It's a bit like lawyers trying to argue for new Constitutional "rights" that are beyond the obvious original intent of the US Constitution.

If one does wish to controvert the point: we'll need historical evidence that laity ever distributed the Sacrament before the 16th century or in subsequent Lutheranism in the 16th century. That bit in the Confessions that Fr. Weedon is always so found of pointing out really is a good key to Confessional Hermeneutics: in doctrine and ceremonies nothing has been received on our part contrary to Scripture or the Church Catholic (Epilogue to AC XXVIII). It is simply a historical fact that at the very least, lay distribution of the Supper is a ceremony contrary to the usage of the Church Catholic up to 1530.

Therefore, I find it hard to view this practice as anything other than an abuse - and a widespread one, at that.

Why Lay Assistance at Distribution?

Why does the practice exist? In my experience, for two reasons. First, in most every place that the practice exists, it exists for the sake of time: a distribution by just the pastor would take too long. A big part of the problem here is the innovation of the individual cups which requires three passes by the pastor for each table.

Second, it exists to make the point that "there is nothing special about the pastor" or that the pastor is "only doing things in public that every Christian could do." I do not think that that is what everybody means by this practice - certainly not everybody does. But I have heard this sentiment more than once - so it is out there. Also - what else could be behind lay distribution existing in so many places with two, three, or more pastors?

What have the fruits of this practice been? For one thing, women distributing the supper. Because, after all, if this lay man can do it, why not this lay woman? I can recite the synodical reasoning about only men doing "specific functions" of the ministry - but that's kind of an odd reasoning, right? I mean, if it is distinctive to the function of the Office, why is any layman of either sex doing it? For another thing - didn't lay distribution pave the way "Word and Sacrament ministry" from a "lay minister"? If you stick him in an alb and he carries around a chalice and he's a layman and the Altar Book calls him an "Assisting Minister" - well, then, he's a lay minister!

The point about the length of time it takes to distribute is a fair one, as far as it goes. Yes, the people should be more pious - so should we clergy. Yes, we should be willing to walk 100 miles for confession - but you are better off making it a bit more convenient for the people.

Moving Away from Lay Distribution: One Congregation's Experience

In the parishes I serve, we moved away from the practice rather quickly in the following manner. First, I sat down with the "elders" - it's Dr. Al Collver, by the way, who did the leg work on digging up the roots of the misuse of that term among us in the January 2006 issue of Concordia Journal - and just showed them the rubrics from The Lutheran Liturgy about distribution. Your mileage may vary, of course, but my elders got it right away: ministers distribute the Lord's Supper. And it turns out that they had never been comfortable with the practice anyway. Didn't seem to them like it was their job, they said.

After that meeting, we went with the following practice by way of transition: the pastor took the Host, and then came back round to take the Chalice, and the lay elder would follow the pastor with the individual cups, simply carrying them for the pastor. But it was the pastor who would speak to each communicant, "Take, drink, the very Blood of Christ, shed for you."

The lay elders have since stopped doing even that - the catalyst for that was an elder not being able to be there one Sunday and behold: things went smoothly enough with just the pastor communing the people. But this practice is, I think, much less objectionable than what usually happens - namely, the layman bringing the Chalice and saying, "Take, drink,..." etc. - perhaps it will be of benefit to some of our readers.

What was the reaction of the parish to phasing out lay distribution? The elders were universally pleased and exactly one other grumpy old man told me that he was glad we were done with that because he always thought it inappropriate. Again, your mileage will no doubt vary.

But is there a better way still?

Deacons: What Are They? Where Can I Get Some?

Looking at our current practice of lay distribution from a slightly different angle, I think that what we have done is essentially turn certain members of our parish into "lay deacons." There has always been a need in the Church for assistance to parish pastors in their sacred duties - the sort of assistance that, in general, is unpaid or lowly paid, part-time, and yet clerical. This is the historical role of the deacons.

Deacons have a share in the Office of the Ministry - they are trained, called, examined, and ordained - but they are not the same thing, exactly, as presbyters. Where the NT uses the terms presbyter and episcopos interchangeably for the same office, there is an obvious distinction when it comes to deacons (Act 6; 1 Tim 3).

The first Lutheran ordination was of a deacon - Georg Rörer in 1525. It seems that the term in that time and place meant rather what we mean by "assistant pastor." But again, I'm frankly a little foggy on that point of history and would appreciate help. It's clear that the Lutheran confessions reject any essential, ius divinum distinction between priest and bishop - and that this fact is foundational to our self-understanding as Church instead of sect (again, see the seminal essay by Piepkorn). But what about deacons? What is their calling by divine right and what limits are put upon their service only by ius humanum? Are they in the one, unified Office of the Holy Ministry, but simply, and by human law, not called upon to perform all the duties thereof? Or do deacons exhibit a divinely instituted second office related to but distinct from the Office of the Ministry? Or do Lutherans believe in a two-fold office of the ministry (presyber/episcopos and deacon) like unto Rome's view of a three-fold office (episcopos, presbyter, deacon)?

The Biblical evidence, it seems to me, favors the last understanding. However, I have yet to see a good treatment of these questions from a Confessional Lutheran viewpoint - which does not mean it isn't out there, so if it is, please inform me.

All that is just to say this: distributing the Cup is the historical duty of the Deacon in those parishes large enough to need that sort of assistance for their Presbyter/Episcopos. The Deacon is a clergyman, he is ordained, he is not a layman, he receives communion from the Celebrant after the presbyters are communed, and then he distributes the Cup to the laity. He also does a lot more - very useful, godly work in the parish. I think we would do well to recapture their service.

But we need to understand more, I think. What exactly are deacons? If we understood that, we could provide guidelines for calling and ordaining men in local congregations as deacons where that sort of service is needed. And then the distribution would not only be timely and efficient, but also in accord with the historical meaning of our Confessions.


Gottesdienst Related Books on Lulu.Com - On Sale Through Jan. 20

While you are getting ready for Symposia week, don't neglect to pick up your copies of Daily Divine Service Book and The New Testament in His Blood via with the offer code NEWREADS for 20% off your order through Jan. 20th.

Both books will be on sale at the Symposia - DDSB in the seminary book store and The New Testament in His Blood at the Gottesdienst booth - but the discount is good for online orders only.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Help the Faithful Finns

As I wrote some time ago (here, here, and here), Father Norro of Finland - as well as a lay member of his parish - have incurred large legal fees in their civil trials brought against them by the Finnish State Church. For several weeks now I have been seeking a way to help allay their expenses, which seems the least that we, who enjoy greater freedom, can do. It seems that getting donations for such things to Finland can run into a maze of regulations. Previously I posted a way to do so through a bank wire transfer - but that is cumbersome to say the least.

Now, however, with the help of Fr. Tapani Simojoki, you can help these defenders of the Biblical faith. Father Simojoki is of Finnish extraction, but currently serves as pastor of Our Saviour in Fareham, UK. Father Simojoki will serve as custodian of funds which will be collected through is PayPal account, linked below. I know several of our readers know Fr. Simojoki either personally or through Facebook, Wittenberg Trail, etc. He is worthy of your trust in this regard.

Here's the PayPal to help out.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Poll: Color of the Epiphany Season

We're been a bit remiss with the polls lately what with the Christmas season - but now that Epiphany is upon us we're back at it.

The Sundays after Epiphany are rather a tertium quid. Are they "ordinary time" and thus green? Or are they echoes of Epiphany and thus white? The truth is that they are a bit of each - and so various schemes are used at this time of year from parish to parish. LSB calls for green for the Sundays after Epiphany and for Pre-Lent. If memory serves, Reed (or maybe it is Lang?) recommends white all through the season of Epiphany and then green for Pre-Lent. The older tradition is green for the Sundays after Epiphany and violet for Pre-Lent.

So what's the use in your parish - and has it recently changed from some other use?


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Epiphany Announcement

Here is a suitable form for the traditional Epiphany Announcement of the year's Calendar.

Epiphany Announcement, A+D 2011

After the Reading of the Gospel, the Pastor of the parish makes the following announcement.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

the glory of the Lord has shone upon us, and shall ever manifest itself among us until the day of His return. Through the rhythms and changes of time let us call to mind and live the mysteries of salvation.

The center of the whole liturgical year is the Paschal Triduum of the Lord, crucified, buried and risen, which will culminate in the solemn Vigil of Easter, during the holy night that will end with the dawn of the twenty-fourth day of April. Every Sunday, as in a weekly Easter, Christ's holy Church around the world makes present that great and saving deed by which Christ has forever conquered sin and death.

From Easter there comes forth and are reckoned all the days we keep holy: Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten spring, the ninth day of March; the Ascension of the Lord, the second day of June; and Pentecost, the twelfth day of June; the first Sunday of Advent, the twenty-seventh day of November.

Likewise in the feasts of Mary, of the apostles, of all the saints, and in the commemoration of the faithful departed, the pilgrim Church on earth proclaims the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord.

To Christ who was, who is, and who is to come, the Lord of time and history, be endless praise forever and ever!

C: Amen.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Boomer Mass Abroad

Gottesdienst subscriber and all around priest of the Augsburg Confession, Rev. Scott Adle writes:

They should have just named them "Boomer Masses" whenever that &(^% got started, then we would have a nice handle to dismiss all that crap by, now that the Boomers are old and on the way out. Here's those revolutionary boomers in Nicaragua:

On Sunday afternoons we went to la misa campesina,peasant mass, where Uriel Molina, a great priest of the revolution, talked about what God had revealed at Vatican II, the new directive Lucharemos o moriremos! “We will fight or we will die!” he told the Internacionalistas, because the place was always full of Internacionalistas, so many that buses had to bring them. They filled the church, sat on the floor, stood in the back, blocked the campesino murals. Some had to wait outside. There was hardly room for the Nicaraguans. A few Nicaraguans, the musicians, fit. They played their instruments on the side. Some Internacionalistas danced, marimba-style, in the aisle. Some took photos of the walls.

“Where are the Nicaraguans?” George said. “They’re missing all the fun.”

“Oh, they come in the morning,” the Internacionalistas said.

“Imagine,” said George, “what it must be like in the morning, when the Nicaraguans are here, if it’s like this now.”

One week George and I went to the Sunday-morning service. We woke very early and rode several linking buses across town. The church had Nicaraguans in it, but it was silent. No music, no shouting, just Molina at the front, murmuring Mass. “You should come at night,” a man leaned over a pew to tell us. “The Internacionalistas come at night.”

“Why do you come in the morning?”

“The Internacionalistas are asleep,” he said. “A church is not a place for dancing and making fun.”

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Calendar Trainwreck?

By Larry Beane

The 2011 calendar from Concordia Theological Seminary has just arrived.

Above is the picture for March.  The caption reads: "Rev. Steve Ahlersmeyer shares a children's message at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana."

Well, let me get this disclaimer out of the way up front: 1) I do not know Pr. Ahlersmeyer, and I have no reason to doubt his orthodoxy, integrity, and faithfulness as a pastor, 2) I have the utmost respect and affection for CTS, from which I graduated in 2004. CTS - Fort Wayne openly promotes liturgical worship, the use of the hymnals, eucharistic vestments, processions, bowing and the sign of the cross, the chalice, and even on occasion, incense - both in chapel services and classroom instruction.  CTS is blessed with an extraordinary faculty of world class scholars and a campus that is the envy of theological schools the world over, and is doing an exemplary job in its mission of training pastors, both from America and from abroad.


I don't understand why CTS would advocate for such a practice as a "children's message" - a ritual lacking not only in our hymnal and its resources, but also in the Lutheran liturgical tradition.  This is precisely the kind of liturgical innovation that our Symbols decry.  While many faithful pastors are stuck with such local customs and have to roll back such things gradually and with a lot of teaching - why would CTS even consider depicting a pastor sitting with his back turned to the altar which is only a few feet away, buttocks planted square in the chancel area, with a paper bag and what seems to be a puppet with which to entertain a child who has become the center of a kind of stage show?

Our professors painstakingly explained why the liturgy is not entertainment, why choirs are best located in the loft, why vestments hide the man, why liturgical innovation is a bad idea, why preaching is a sacred act, and why the altar ought to be treated with reverence - but for 31 days of the current year, CTS is asking its alumni, supporters, and members of LCMS congregations to put this picture up in a prominent location, at least partially, for the purpose of promoting the seminary.  A picture is indeed worth a thousand words.

I just don't get it.

Preaching to the Choir...

...or Why I Like GottesdienstCheck it out here.