Saturday, August 13, 2011

Civil Observances and Sunday

This year September 11th falls on a Sunday, and that on the 10th anniversary of the September 11th. This date has become a de facto civil observance and is used, each year, by the purveyors of various political perspectives for their own ends. And everybody wants God on their side, so this or that preacher/priest/shaman/rabbi/Christian Science Practitioner is always pulled in by this or that group for their prayer service/sit in/protest/remembrance walk, whatever.

What of local congregations and this day? Lutheran churches, especially of the Midwestern, conservative bent, will face the same sort of temptations that come along every time July 4th falls on a Sunday: patriotic jingoism and the the drafting of God Almighty into the service of the political aims of the United States. (Around July 4, a pastor in a nearby parish is famous for festooning the sanctuary in red, white, and blue and singing various patriotic songs.)

So I'm rather pleased to see that the Synod President has issued some very responsible suggestions. This is exactly the kind of leadership that a Church's chief pastor should give. If the suggestions are followed, the result will be a responsible ecclesiastical observance of a national tragedy that chiefly prays for peace, forgiveness, and healing and avoids politics.

As for me and my house, this day will be observed in much the same way we observe other national (and cultural - Mother's Day, Father's Day, etc.) days: the lectionary will not be displaced and the day will be acknowledged in some way in the sermon and in the prayers. But for those congregations which have their own reasons (chiefly geographical, I suppose) for a more profound observance, these resources demonstrate the proper flexibility of the Church's liturgy to encompass the pain, anger, and hatred of men and redirect it into the vein of godly prayer.



  1. Amen, Pastor Curtis.

    I have found that the vast majority in the congregations really don't want the service to be hijacked by civil observances anyway.

    But they do want the observances acknowledged, and I applaud the synod for providing appropriate ways of doing so - though even here care must be taken not to go overboard. Were one to use all the suggestions and options in the synod's document, I think it would be far too much.

    That said, some pastors allow unnecessary tension into the parish by deliberately ignoring these observances altogether, and foster disdain for the liturgy in otherwise supportive members by insisting that Lutheran liturgical worship has no place for this. We should guard against both extremes.

    And it really is so easy to accommodate the desire of the faithful to pray for all rulers in authority and give thanks for our First Article blessings God gives us through this land and nation. A nod in the sermon, a collect inserted early into the Prayer of the Church, and a hymn is all you need. On July 4, we put a couple of patriotic hymns in AFTER the Divine Service, reinforcing the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms as the cross is returned to its monstrance and the people face the flags in the back of the church. I'm not saying a patriotic or national hymn has to be done this way, but that's one option that allows the parishioners to express these godly sentiments w/o changing one thing in the Divine Service itself.

    Thanks again for drawing this to our attention. September 11 falls on a Sunday this year, and it is the tenth anniversary. So we all have to deal with this. We ignore it at our peril!

  2. The Prayer of the Church is precisely where these matters are best handled.

  3. Concordia Publishing Has a nice bulletin for the observance of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.



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