Saturday, March 31, 2012

Another religious freedom case

A mother has been charged with criminal contempt of court for having her kids baptized without the consent of her ex-husband. The court ordered that there be court mediation if the parents could not agree on the religious upbringing of the kids; mom wanted them baptized (she's Methodist), dad didn't (he's Presbyterian).

I hope this case goes through the appellate system and is overturned. It is a long standing rule in Western Christianity that the consent of only one parent is required for the baptism (see the Code of Canon Law sec. 868.1). I can't see it as a good thing for our ministries if courts start forbidding baptisms until we get the consent of Presbyterians, Baptists, or Atheists.


Friday, March 30, 2012

Free Bible Study from CSL

A while back I was puzzling over CSL charging $50 for Bible Studies from profs - I just got this email today from SemPress advertising what sounds like a great product for free download or $10 if you want it shipped to you on DVD. Good for CSL. This is a solid product for parishes that use video Bible Studies from time to time, good publicity for the Sem, and keeps the profs more directly connected to parish reality.


From: <>
Date: Fri, Mar 30, 2012 at 11:01 AM
Subject: New ‘In The Word’ Bible Study Series Available

“In the Word” Bible Studies from Concordia Seminary are unique, complete electronic Bible studies-in-a-box. All the materials are downloadable – the Student study sheets, the Leader Guides, and the video presentations.

The newest series, “Reaching the Summit and Holding On to Hope: 1 Corinthians 15 and the Resurrection,” is presented in five video vignettes. The first four videos feature discussion of the text of 1 Corinthians by Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs and Dr. Jeffrey Kloha in a casual setting. In the video for the last session, Dr. Gibbs and Rev. Gary Ellul discuss implications for hope in Christ as it applies to challenging questions of life and death. The Leader Guides and Student Handouts were written by Pastor Ellul. The flexible format allows the facilitator to complete this study in one session, or up to five.

“The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most important event that has ever occurred — this is the day that changed everything,” commented Dr. Jeffrey Kloha. “This study works through 1 Corinthians 15 to help understand the present and future hope that we have because Jesus rose.”

Bible study groups that begin the study on April 15 (Second Sunday of Easter) will have the opportunity to post questions and comments on Concordia Seminary’s faculty Facebook page, Dr. Gibbs and Dr. Kloha will interact with the questions and comment on the Sunday and Monday following each session. “Like” us on Facebook and join in the study.

You can preview the videos on, or download them for free via iTunesU. The full package is also available on DVD for a $10 handling fee. Please visit for ordering information or call314-505-7117.

The Reproaches

Here are the Reproaches sung (right click to open in a new tab so that you can read and listen at the same time) by Rev. Douglas Punke of Zion Lutheran Church in Ft. Wayne and then Sem. Matthew Jeffords, now pastor of Incarnate Word Lutheran Church in Florence, SC. The Reproaches were sung at Redeemer on Good Friday, 2005. The tune is the Gregorian tune from the Liber Usualis. The English translation was provided by the St. Andrew Daily Missal.

Rev. Jeffords wasn't miked so he is a bit tough to hear, but Rev. Punke comes through very nicely.

Historically, the Reproaches weren't used in their entirety the way we do here at Redeemer. The Reproaches follow the procession and unveiling of the cross. They were sung while the people came forward to adore the cross similar to the way we might use distribution hymns. But here, at Redeemer, only the celebrant, deacon, and subdeacon adore in that way, with a kiss and prostration, while the people simply sit or kneel, in adoration, and all of the Reproaches are sung. Certainly we could cut some, but why? They are moving and appropriate and we are in no rush.

Here is the text:


Pastor: O My people, what have I done unto thee, or wherein have I wearied thee? Testify against Me. Because I brought thee forth from the land of Egypt: thou hast prepared a Cross for thy Saviour.

Cantor I: Agios o Theos.
Cantor II: Holy God.
Cantor I: Agios ischyros.
Cantor II: Holy mighty.
Cantor I: Agios athanatos, eleison imas.
Cantor II: Holy and immortal, have mercy upon us.

Pastor: Because I led thee through the desert forty years, and fed thee with manna, and brought thee into a land exceeding good: thou hast prepared a Cross for thy Saviour.

Cantor I: Agios o Theos.
Cantor II: Holy God.
Cantor I: Agios ischyros.
Cantor II: Holy mighty.
Cantor I: Agios athanatos, eleison imas.
Cantor II: Holy and immortal, have mercy upon us.

Pastor: What more could I have done unto thee that I have not done? I indeed did plant thee, O My vineyard, with exceeding fair fruit: and thou art become very bitter unto Me: for vinegar, mingled with gall, thou gavest Me when thirsty: and hast pierced with a spear the side of thy Saviour.

Cantor I: Agios o Theos.
Cantor II: Holy God.
Cantor I: Agios ischyros.
Cantor II: Holy mighty.
Cantor I: Agios athanatos, eleison imas.
Cantor II: Holy and immortal, have mercy upon us.


Pastor: I did scourge Egypt with her first-born for thy sake: and thou hast scourged Me and delivered Me up.

Cantor I: O My people, what have I done unto thee, or wherein have I wearied thee? Testify against Me.

Pastor: I led thee forth out of Egypt, drowning Pharaoh in the Red Sea: and thou hast delivered Me up unto the chief priests.

Cantor I: O my people, what have I done unto thee, or wherein have I wearied thee? Testify against Me.

Pastor: I did open the sea before thee: and thou hast opened My side with a spear.

Cantor I: O my people, what have I done unto thee, or wherein have I wearied thee? Testify against me.

Pastor: I did go before thee in the pillar of cloud: and thou hast led Me unto the judgment-hall of Pilate.

Cantor I: O My people, what have I done unto thee, or wherein have I wearied thee? Testify against Me.

Pastor: I did feed thee with manna in the desert: and thou hast stricken Me with blows and scourges.

Cantor I: O My people, what have I done unto thee, or wherein have I wearied thee? Testify against Me.

Pastor: I did give thee to drink the water of life from the Rock: and thou hast given Me to drink but gall and vinegar.

Cantor I: O My people, what have I done unto thee, or wherein have I wearied thee? Testify against Me.

Pastor: I did smite the kings of the Canaanites for thy sake: and thou hast smitten My head with a reed.

Cantor I: O My people, what have I done unto thee, or wherein have I wearied thee? Testify against Me.

Pastor: I did give thee a royal sceptre: and thou hast given unto My head a crown of thorns.

Cantor I: O My people, what have I done unto thee, or wherein have I wearied thee? Testify against Me.

Pastor: I did raise thee on high with great power: and thou hast hanged Me upon the gibbet of the Cross.

Cantor I: O My people, what have I done unto thee, or wherein have I wearied thee? Testify against Me.


Pastor: We venerate Thy Cross, O Lord: and praise and glorify Thy holy Resurrection: for by virtue of the Cross joy has come to the whole world. God be merciful unto us and bless us.

Cantor I: And shew us the light of His countenance, and be merciful unto us.

Pastor: We venerate Thy Cross, O Lord: and praise and glorify Thy holy Resurrection: for by virtue of the Cross joy has come to the whole world.

Cantor I: Faithful Cross, above all other, one and only noble Tree: none in foliage, none in blossom, none in fruit thy peer may be. Sweetest wood, and sweetest iron, sweetest weight is hung on thee.

Here, again, is the link to the audio:

Palm Sunday Gospel

For years I didn't know that the Palm Sunday Gospel reading is not the triumphal entry Gospel.  That Gospel is supposed to be read before the opening procession, from the back (or even outside, wherever the procession begins), as part of an opening ritual.  For some, the opening includes the blessing of the palms; for others, at least an opening Palm Sunday Collect and the triumphal entry Gospel.

Then the procession with palms comes.  In our parish, all the members proceed with palms, reverence, and return to their seats, during the singing of "All Glory, Laud, and Honor" (the traditional Palm Sunday processional hymn).

This allows for the Passion according the St. Matthew to be read at the place appointed for the Gospel.

Now that Passion is rather long: two entire chapters, 26 and 27.  So here is an acceptable way to break it up.  I say acceptable, because on the one hand there has long been a tradition of having several appointed readers, and on the other hand, even J. S. Bach's Passions are wont to intersperse hymns.

We pass out a little booklet to every congregant.  There are three speaking roles.  The subdeacon (or some other suitable, trained man) reads the narrator's part, from the lectern.  The celebrant reads all of Christ's parts, from the pulpit.  And the parts of all the others in the Gospel (the crowd, Pilate, Peter, Judas, etc.) are read by the congregation.

At several points during the reading, an appropriate hymn stanza is sung.  Offhand I recall some of the stanzas from "O Sacred Head," "Jesus, Grant that Balm and Healing," and, one I particularly like, which was employed in Bach's St. John Passion, very near the end, the third stanza of "Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart."  That one is particularly moving,  at that juncture.

In similar fashion the Gospel of St. Luke will be read at Wednesday Mass, and the Gospel of St. John on Good Friday.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Adoration in Preaching during Holy Week

I heard a speaker once describe C.S. Lewis' take on the old poets writing about the virtues. Lewis said the poets weren't writing poems to teach us about virtues but were writing poems simply to adore the virtues. They were enchanted by the virtues.

Along the lines of adoration, consider Billy Collins' frustration in teaching poetry to college freshmen:

Introduction to Poetry
Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.
I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

Poetry 180

We preachers sometimes work too hard in our attempt to figure out "what it means," when we should just be singing. If I ever had a better reaction to isagogics than "watersking across the surface, waving at the author's name on the shore," I've forgotten it. I am afraid I've done my share of torturing texts.

What we ought to do, I think, particularly in Holy Week, is hold the words of Holy Scripture, the account of Our Lord's last days in His humiliation, "up to the light like a color slide or press an ear against its hive." "Drop a mouse into" the Word "and watch him probe his way out, or walk inside" the prophet's or apostle's "room and feel the walls for a light switch."

Or just relax. Bask in the beauty and joy of God's Word showing God's Love in the death and resurrection of the Son. Stop "interpreting." Start adoring, singing, praising. Remember, O dusty man, a week from this Sunday our out-loud Hallelujahs return. Jesus betrayed, bloody, hated, tortured, and dead, lives. Jesus lives.

Jesus lives. And Jesus gives Himself alive to His friends. Thus I now type, what the fast keeps me from saying or singing for a time, what my heart whispers all Lent-long, what faith sings and which refuses to be ever fully silenced, "Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!" Jesus died. Yes, Jesus died and died for me, but Jesus lives. Hallelujah.

Let the mouse probe his way around that for a while.

Reminder: CSL Presentation tonight

It's not too late to contact any students you may know at Concordia Seminary-St. Louis and encourage them to come to the Opus Dei meeting this evening in the undercroft of the chapel at 7:00pm. We're planning to cover worship in the Confessions and a very hands on look at the ceremonies of the traditional Lutheran Mass.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

You Dassn't Do That

From the current issue -- Calling all readers:  Become our eyes and ears!  Send us something goofy, outrageous, or just out-of-place that you’ve recently seen in church.  Give us the details of where and when you saw it, but we promise we won’t put anything in the journal except the Synod and District in which the offense was spotted, and we won’t even list your name.  Maybe, if people get the idea that we have eyes everywhere, they’ll start thinking they ought to behave themselves.  Wouldn’t that be grand!  To send a folly online, go to, click Contact Us, and select You Dassn’t Do That from the dropdown list.  Or you could drop us a line via email

I expect Holy Week might be a reservoir for shenanigans across the land, so be on the lookout . . .

Attn: Indianapolis area readers

Father Seth Mierow passes this along for Gottesdienst readers in the Indianapolis area.

And you folks in Indianapolis: it's just a short drive to Chicago for the May 1st Gottesdienst Conference at St. Paul in Brookfield. 


Rev Dr Al Collver and Fr Joshua Gale will present at the Premiere Diakonia Conference in
Indianapolis on Sunday, 15 April, 2012 at 3p. Each will present concerning confessional
Lutheran mercy. Fr. Collver will speak to the exegetical foundation of the Church’s life of
mercy. Fr. Gale will show how Lutheran doctrine and practice coincide in mercy endeavors in
the tough city streets of inner-city Philadelphia. The conference is FREE and open to clergy and
lay alike. It is scheduled to last 3 hours, but both presenters have confirmed they will remain for
as long as necessary to answer questions. The venue is Lutheran High School of Indianapolis,
5555 S. Arlington Ave 46237. Bulletin inserts can be found at the IN District website. Contact
Fr. Seth Mierow for more information:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Is Article 21 Still Relevant to Lutherans?

By Larry Beane

Everyone has noticed how hard it is to turn our thoughts to God when everything is going well with us.  We "have all we want" is a terrible saying when "all" does not include God.  We find God an interruption."  As St. Augustine says somewhere, "God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full - there's nowhere for Him to put it."  Or as a friend of mine said, "We regard God as an airman regards his parachute; it's there for emergencies but he hopes he'll never have to use it."  Now God, who has made us, knows what we are and that our happiness lies in Him.

~ C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Perhaps the reason why so many modern men and women are having difficulty integrating their lives, and thereby finding meaning and satisfying relationships, is because they are confused about the roles which their work, their play, and their worship are playing in their lives.

~ Gordon Dahl (quoted in Leisure, Play, and Reflections on Recreation by David L. Jewell)

I think a lot of people have a tough time figuring out where to "put" God in their lives, how to integrate faith with their work and leisure time.  We see this in the culture that surrounds us.

This newspaper article not only deals with liturgy - if only in passing - it invokes (in a certain sense) Article 21 of the Augsburg Confession (The Cult of the Saints).  I'm obviously being a little tongue-in-cheek here, but only a little.  In our culture, entertainment, rather than worship, is what drives architects and builders to fashion magnificent towering structures, and is also what impels people by the thousands to fill them.

When do cultural phenomena cross that thin line from just having a little good clean fun, having an innocent distraction from the worries of the workplace, to being rank idolatry?  The question is especially poignant when popular culture intersects with Christ in the Church's worship and in the hearts and minds of believers?  In this sense, does Article 21 still have something to say to us Lutherans - especially here in America?

Article 21 is indeed about something good (the veneration of the saints) being corrupted into something bad (the worship of the saints).  At its core, Article 21 is really a practical application of Commandment 1.  And for modern Lutherans, I wonder if we make a good connection with Article 21 any more, or do we see it just as a hammer with which to bash our Roman Catholic brethren over the heads.  For though we might not pray to the Blessed Virgin or ask St. Anthony to help us find our car keys, I think we Lutherans (being poor miserable sinners) also must be careful that we don't "drop the ball" when it comes to raising veneration of creatures and creaturely luxuries - and even innocent distractions - to the status of worship.

And this phenomenon is not just a New Orleans thing - though we in this particularly Roman Catholic region of America often make explicit use of Christian terminology applied to sports - sometimes even blasphemously.

At its heart, Article 21 is about (as Luther said somewhere) letting "God be God," and not crossing lines that should not be crossed.  There is indeed much by way of pastoral wisdom to ponder on this topic.

Special Events Raise Vigil Anticipation: including a Very Young First Communicant

One of the more successful ideas I have employed over the years is the scheduling of special events during the Great Vigil of Easter.  The idea isn't really my own: as early as the Fourth Century the catechumenate was presented for Baptism at the Vigil.  So I have sought to follow suit, employing the third of the four parts of the Vigil ceremony not only for Baptisms, but more notably, for confirmations.  It's kind of scary doing this at first, since people are more inclined to expect confirmations on a Sunday, whether it be Palm Sunday or some Sunday after Easter, and this forces them to come out for another service.  It might even be unmanageable in some parishes.  But in my case it worked pretty well, and people have grown accustomed to thinking of the Vigil as the Big Day for such things.  Admittedly my parish is small, which sometimes works in one's favor.

This year I have no confirmations, though I do have one (pre-confirmation) first communion.  In the past, first communions have taken place on  Maundy Thursday as a rule.  But this year it will be at the Vigil, and that works out just fine, in keeping with my desire to give people more reason for coming to the Vigil.

And this first communion will be a special occasion for me as well: it will be for the youngest communicant I have ever had.  Several years ago I began to commune this little four-year-old's big brother, at age five.  But she won't be five until summer.  A communicant this young is sometimes shy about answering catechetical questions in class, simple as they must be, but her answers ring true.

What do people get when they come up for communion?  "A chip," she says.   Hm, a chip?  What is that chip?  A potato chip?  "No."  A piece of bread? Her head nods.  And what is that piece of bread?  Silence.  What did Jesus say that it is?  Silence.  He said, This is ____.  She finishes: "My Body."   So is it Jesus' Body?  Head nods.  So, tell me, what did Jesus say?  Now she answers: "This is my Body."  Yes, and what's it for?  And so on.  This child knows the ten commandments, she knows how to say the Creed, and she knows that the Sacrament is Jesus' Body, for the forgiveness of sins.  And she knows it's something she wants.  Who am I to forbid this?  In our parish I abide by the rule that while confirmation remains at the conclusion of eighth grade, first communion will happen whenever the child is ready, whether early or not.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Holy Week Preaching

Holy week preaching is tough. There are two main difficulties: high expectations and well-mined, familiar texts. There is, depending on how you count, a single answer: Jesus.

High Expectations and Unholy Pressure

The people piously desire stirring preaching. This is the week that commemorates the most central and critical events of Our Lord’s life. The pastor has been wallowing in Lent for six weeks. He has been pointing and pointing and pointing to Good Friday and Easter. The Church gets decorated. There is a special breakfast and candy and music. This is the beating heart, to borrow Franzmann’s phrase, of all our hope. This is what the preacher is all about.

Those expectations, pious though they might be, rarely help the fallen sinner who is called to preach. They seem to us like a set up for disappointment. How can we stand and deliver on such a great occasion? How will the people not felt let down by a dry, boring sermon?

God is There Every Sunday

There are two immediate answers to this. The first, I think comes from Nagel, and I believe it, because I have never known anyone to preach the Law more precisely or painfully than Nagel, with the possible peers being Korby, and Marquart. Nagel says, “God is there every Sunday. You should be worried about disappointing Him and stop trying to impress the people who show up on Easter.” That is exactly right. When we worry about disappointing our hearers, we really are worried about what they think of us. Nagel’s condemnation is spot on. We need to get over it and remember that it is God who has called us. We preach for Him.

The People Expect to be Bored

But, that is hardly the end of Nagel, or the full answer. And here is the Petersen Law: the people’s high expectations and hopes for Easter aren’t about your sermon. In fact, they expect, as usual, to be bored. I know this is harsh, but I don’t mean it quite as badly as it sounds. Yes, the people expect to be bored. But they are okay with that. They still want you to preach. No, they don’t want to be bored, but neither do they really mind it. You see, they like you and they’re on your side. You don’t have to provide a spiritual mountaintop for them or change the way they look at the world or even teach them anything. You just have to tell them again what they already know and love: that Jesus died for them and Jesus lives. That is it. So calm down. Let the organist have the glory. He can blow their socks off. You just preach the simplest message you can manage.

Familiar Texts and Nothing New to Say

Still, that is only half the problem. The other problem is that the texts not only are the texts well-known so that it seems as though there is simply nothing new to say, but by Palm Sunday you have already said it and said it and said it again anyway. These are the go to texts and events. It is one thing to step up and preach about the miracle in Cana or the healing of the blind man on the road out of Jericho and tie it to the cross, it is another to tie the cross to the cross. I can’t imagine the preacher who arrives at Palm Sunday without hating the sound of his own voice. It is a long road.

The Love of the People

We underestimate and devalue the love of the people. We are sick of ourselves but they love us. Synodical types like to preach the harsh, impossible law of “love your people” to us. I think they really don’t know that “love” is a command and accuses. They think, somehow, that “love” is Gospel, I suppose, because it is good. Bu the Law of God is always good and upholds only what is holy. Of course, “love” is Gospel if it is switched around to the passive. “Love your people” is law. It does not create love. It creates sin in fallen men. But “your people love you even though you are a dirt bag and don’t deserve it,” is pure Gospel. We need that Gospel. We need it, desperately, and maybe, we need it even more during Holy Week than we do the rest of the year.

So here it is: Your people do love you. Maybe a few mistreat you. Maybe some have even slandered you. But they aren’t the majority. The people that come to the Services on Good Friday and Easter, including the people you haven’t seen since Christmas, they like you. They think you’re nice. They think you’re pious and good. They think you’re smart and know a lot about the Bible. They hardly come to Church at all, but they don’t realize it. They think they do. And even if you barely know them, they know you. You are their pastor and they love you. They really do. So, again, calm down. They like what you say even before you say it.

The Comfort of Familiar

It might be a hard on your ego and your secret desire to teach at the seminary, but consider what you expect from those you love. What do you want your mom to make for Christmas dinner? A new, experimental dish, or a turkey just like you remember it from your childhood? Do you expect your Grandpa to have new jokes? Or do you find comfort in everything being the same? The members aren’t your students looking to be instructed into the deepest mysteries of the faith. They are sheep coming to be fed and they like to be fed with their favorite foods. So, calm down, and keep it simple. Don’t try to be profound. Don’t try to save the world. Just preach the death and resurrection of Jesus. And they will love you for it.

Charting a Course

I hope that will take some pressure off. Still, the preacher does well to do some planning. Because even if the people love you and the task is simple, some art will be appreciated. I suggest that you chart the theme, at least, the titles of each of your Holy Week sermons. That will enable you to play them off one another and help so that you don’t feel that you have to get everything into each of them or that you’ve accidently gone and said everything in the first and have nothing left for the rest of the week. If you understand the how the sermons connect and progress, the chances of your hearers doing so also will increase.

Here, to that end, are my working titles/themes for Holy Week.

Palm Sunday – The Martyrs greet King Messiah, the Suffering Servant, with Palms
Maundy Thursday – The Supper is Bestowed on the Night of Failure and Betrayal
Good Friday – Good Friday, not Karfreitag, but better yet: Holy Friday
Easter Vigil – Kairpos: The History of the World and the War for Man Culminates in This
Easter – The Snow has Melted, the Day now Dawns: the World is a Garden.

A Freebie

One thing that has worked well for me when I have felt overwhelmed by Holy Week or Christmas or a big wedding, is to look to the Synodical Questions for an outline. Look at the questions “Why was it necessary for Jesus to be true Man?” or “Why was it necessary for Jesus to rise from the dead?” etc. Treating Easter Sunday and Christmas Even, in particular, as Catechism lessons makes quite a bit of sense and I’ve never had anyone complain, but then, why would they, they love me. :)

CSL Presentation

I'm scheduled to speak to the Opus Dei student group at Concordia Seminary - St. Louis this Thursday, March 29, at 7:00pm. This will be both a practical workshop on the ceremonies of Lutheran worship and a close look at what Ap. XXIV and FC SD X have to say about how Lutherans worship.

If you have field workers, former vicars, or parishioners at CSL, please encourage them to attend.  I think we will be meeting in the small sanctuary in the chapel undercroft.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Baptism and Chalice of Christ

For those pastors and congregations using the Three-Year Lectionary, the Holy Gospel appointed for this Sunday (Lent 5, Series B) is from the 10th chapter of St. Mark. It is a pivotal point in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The immediate context includes His Word concerning marriage and divorce; His encounter with the rich young man (John Mark); and His healing of blind Bartimaeus at Jericho. And at the center of this significant chapter, in this Sunday's Holy Gospel, is the Lord's clear forthtelling of His Cross and Passion, His response to the bold request of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, and His preaching of His sacrificial servanthood as the ransom for us all.

It is profoundly significant that our Lord describes His forthcoming Cross and Passion, the culmination of His earthly life, in terms of the Holy Sacraments: It is the Baptism with which He is baptized, and the Chalice which He drinks. Not only that, but the faith and life of His disciples is a matter of being baptized with His Baptism and of drinking His Chalice. It is by the sharing of these Sacraments of His Cross and Passion that His disciples live with Him in the glory of His Kingdom. Only, what is death for Him, and judgment and the wrath of God, is forgiveness and life and salvation for His disciples. Everything crescendos, for Him and for us, in Holy Baptism and the Holy Communion. St. Paul also says as much in his discussion of Holy Baptism in Romans 6, and in his discussion of the Holy Communion in 1 Corinthians 10 and 11.

Such sacramental emphases have served as an important key to my reading and preaching of the Gospel. Indeed, it has seemed obvious to me that the Church's faith and life are founded on the Sacrament of Holy Baptism and centered in the Sacrament of the Altar. For these are the very things that define our Lord's own life and ministry, even unto His death upon the Cross. Of course, the Sacraments would be nothing apart from His Cross and Resurrection, but, the fact is, they could not be more intimately united than they are with that great Victory of Christ, our Paschal Lamb who sets us free. We are baptized into His death, and we eat the Feast of His sacrifice — His body given, His blood poured out — proclaiming His death until He comes.

From time to time, I have wondered and worried whether this sacramental understanding of the Scriptures, and of the Christian faith and life, were simply my own perspective or idiosyncrasy. If so, that would not be a good thing; for true theology is not overly clever, unique or peculiar, but consistent with the teaching and confession of the Church catholic. There is always the danger that what seems very clear to one or another of us, may have more to do with our own imperfect perceptions than with the sure and certain Word of Christ. Thus, we do not stand alone in our reading and preaching of the Scriptures, but we abide within the House that our wise Lord Jesus Christ has built upon the Rock. Attempting to stand upon the Rock outside of that House will only get us swept away by the storms of life that rage against us.

With those concerns in mind, I have been encouraged, as well as edified, by my reading of the early church fathers. For there, too, I have found (or, rather, received) a beautifully consistent sacramental emphasis, over and over again, in one father after another, from the "Apostolic Fathers" to the great champions of the first three ecumenical councils (Nicaea, Constantinople, and Ephesus). Not systematic treatises on the doctrine of the Sacraments, but a decisively and distinctively sacramental view of faith and life. For the fathers, it is clear, Holy Baptism and the Holy Communion are not simply practiced as a given in the life of the Church; but, as such, they actually serve to shape and define the Christian's life in the world. Perhaps the following examples and broad summaries will illustrate what I mean.

For St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Polycarp of Smyrna (early second century), participation in the Sacrament of the Altar is a real participation in the fruits of Christ's Passion; which means the theology of the Cross. Eating and drinking the crucified body and shed blood of Christ, the Lord, conforms one's own body to bear the cross and to suffer for the sake of holy love. The culmination of the Christian life and discipleship, therefore, is expressed and experienced especially in martyrdom, as Ignatius anticipates for himself in writing his seven letters, and as Polycarp demonstrates in his own heroic martyrdom. And for those who are not put to death in this way, even so, their bodies are offered as a living sacrifice of love within their own proper vocations. Either way, the Christian who lives and dies by faith in Christ becomes a kind of holy wheat, ground into eucharistic bread, and fills up the chalice of suffering.

For St. Irenaeus of Lyons (late second century), the Sacrament of the Altar demonstrates and testifies to the goodness of God's Creation, since He gives to us the very Body and Blood of His incarnate Son by way of the created gifts of bread and wine. As such, participation in the Holy Communion is a sharing in the bodily reality of the Incarnation. This Sacrament transforms the Christian's mortal flesh and blood into the image and likeness of Christ, in preparation for and anticipation of the Resurrection of the body to the life everlasting. In the meantime, along with giving thanks (eucharistia) for God's good gifts of Creation, the Christian already lives by faith and love precisely in and with his body, within his vocations in the world, serving his neighbors according to their own bodily needs. This charity of the body is one of the key things that sets the orthodox Christians apart from the various gnostic sects.

Likewise, for St. Justin Martyr (mid-second century) and Tertullian of Carthage (early third century), the remarkable love of the Christians for one another and for their neighbors — the community and charity of the Church — is rooted in and inseparable from the gathering of the Christians for the Divine Service of the Word and Sacrament. It is in that liturgical context that alms are gathered; and as the deacons distribute the body and blood of Christ to the faithful in the congregation, so do they distribute the Church's charity to the poor and needy in the world.

Tertullian eloquently emphasizes that the soul is neither cleansed nor redeemed apart from the body. For the body is washed in the waters of Holy Baptism, and it is fed with the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus in the Sacrament of the Altar. Thus, the life of the Christian in the body is significant; it is in and with the body that faith and love are exercised.

For both Tertullian and Origen of Alexandria (also third century), the sacramental oath of Baptism defines the Christian life in contrast to the idolatry of the world and its temptations. For the renunciation of the devil, all his works and all his ways, and the confession of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, completely redefine the Christian's relationship to the entire world in which he lives. These rites and ceremonies of Holy Baptism testify to a clear distinction between faith and unbelief, between life and death. There simply is no middle ground between darkness and light, no place for any compromise on the part of a Christian. His participation in the Baptism and Cup of Christ necessarily rule out a participation in the demonic rites and ceremonies of the pagans.

By the same token, St. Cyprian of Carthage (mid-third century) warns that, for those who have renounced the faith by sacrificing to idols and participating in the altars of demons, it is not only wrong but dangerous and deadly to participate in the Holy Communion apart from repentance. There is a very tangible and practical seriousness about all of this, and therefore an equally serious practice of pastoral care for those who have fallen, that they may be healed and restored. And restoration to the Church means, specifically, restoration to the Holy Communion.

Cyprian understands that a common sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ constitutes the unity of His Church. It is, indeed, the Holy Communion of all His saints in His one Body, by their participation in these holy things of His Body and His Blood. Even the elements of the Sacrament signify this: As the bread is made from many grains of wheat, and the wine produced from many grapes, and these are gathered from hither and yon into one Meal of Christ, so are His disciples called and gathered from all nations into His one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

For St. Athanasius of Alexandria, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, the Cappadocian Fathers, and St. Cyril of Alexandria (in the fourth and fifth centuries), the Incarnation of the Son of God by the Word and Spirit of God — and especially His conception in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary — is foundational for the parallel mystery of His Holy Communion. Therein bread and wine, again by the Word and Spirit of God, become the selfsame body and blood of Christ that were conceived and born of St. Mary, in which He also suffered and died under Pontious Pilate. Likewise, the reception of this Body and Blood of the incarnate Lord Jesus Christ, crucified and risen for us men and our salvation, tranforms our mortal flesh and blood through communion with Him, and so also vivifies our bodies for life with Him, both here in time and hereafter in the Resurrection.

One of the Cappadocian Fathers, St. Basil the Great (mid-fourth century), beautifully explains that the Church's theology is confessed and practiced and manifested in her doxology. That very point is particularly obvious in Basil's eucharistic rite, which celebrates by way of thanksgiving his confession of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Specifically, the saving work of the Holy Trinity continuously culminates for us Christians in the Sacrament of the Altar, wherein the Holy Spirit reveals the incarnate Son of the Father to us, and whereby we are brought to the Father through Christ in the Spirit. Thus, where others theorize and speculate, Basil prays and praises and gives thanks, and he receives the Holy Communion.

It is not only implicit in Basil's eucharistic rite, but explicit in his great treatise On the Holy Spirit. There he persistently maintains that the foundation for all Christian prayer and doxology is the form and confession of Holy Baptism, as taught and given to us by Christ. That is to say, we are to pray in accordance with that great confession of the faith into which we have been baptized: in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Having brought us through the water by His Name, the Lord is our strength and our song, for He has become our salvation.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Do This

Here follows the summary conclusions from my recent post on the Blackbird's Blog, stemming from my presentation on "Consecrationism vs. Receptionism" at the Indiana District Church Workers' Conference in October 2011. Of course, you are welcome to read the entire post, but these three points are the bottom line.

To begin with, only as much bread and wine should be prepared upon the Altar for the consecration as may reasonably be expected to be necessary for the distribution. Exactness is difficult, if not impossible in some cases, but close approximation should not be hard: certainly not where regular pastoral care of the congregation is being exercised. In any event, deliberately preparing and consecrating far more bread and wine than will be needed for the distribution is irreverent and inexcusable. Better to estimate too low on occasion, and then to consecrate additional elements as needed, than deliberately to aim too high.

Following the Word of Christ Jesus, "This is My Body," and "This is My Blood," then, whatever a pastor's particular ceremonial may be, let his posture, movement, demeanor and conduct confess the truth of that Word! Please, dear brothers in Christ, do act like you believe it. Not only for the sake of a clear confession and consistent catechesis, but, above all, because it is true. Not as though the Lord would punish you for any frailties or mishaps, but because it is "truly meet, right, and salutary" that you should take care, and behave with dignity and decorum, as you handle and administer the holy Body and precious Blood of Christ.

The third specific thing that I do want my colleagues to do is really nothing more nor less than what our Lord Jesus Christ has given us Christians to do, namely, to eat and to drink His Body and His Blood. That seems so simple, and so obvious, and yet it isn't followed when it comes to the reliquae. Questions concerning what to do with the consecrated elements that remain at the conclusion of the distribution — which is to speak of the Body and Blood of Christ, as He Himself has declared, also concerning this bread and wine — are easily answered with the same Verba: "Take, eat." "Drink." Either immediately at the Altar, before concluding the Divine Service with the Post-Communion, or as soon after the Service as reasonable possible. For Luther and his followers in the 16th-century, the Sacrament extended from the consecration to the consumption of all the consecrated elements.

This practice, in harmony with our doctrine, rests solidly and simply on the Word of Jesus. So, yes, brothers, I do want you to do that. Because I want you to do what Jesus says. "Do whatever He tells you," the Blessed Virgin Mary also spoke to the servants of the feast. If care is taken in the quantities of bread and wine that are prepared for the consecration, it isn't difficult to consume whatever may remain. If, on any given occasion, more of the precious Blood of Christ remains than a pastor should consume by himself — since it is also wine, which is intoxicating — then he should enlist the assistance of other communicants (as the early Lutheran Church Orders also instruct).

This is that I want you to do. Not as a matter of ceremonial preference, but as a faithful and reverent administration of the Lord's Supper. Let's talk about ceremonies, too, as belonging to the catechesis and confession of the Sacrament. But do not suppose that I'm attempting to lay any weight upon your conscience concerning adiaphora. What God has left free, is free. But my real concern is with a more fundamental stewardship of this sacred Mystery of God.

The Ceremonies of Passiontide

Feel free to modify at will for use in your bulletins, etc.

The final stage in our symbolic journey toward Easter is Passiontide, which begins with
Judica, the 5th Sunday in Lent. The crosses are now covered, triptychs are closed, and even the Gloria
Patri disappears for a while.

A common question is “Why do we drape and cover the crosses as we get closer to Good Friday, as our attention upon the last hours and the sufferings of Our Lord increases?”

We do this because we don’t deserve to look upon the cross. We are not worthy of the Sacrifice. The cross is our greatest and most cherished symbol. So it is partially taken away from us for a short time, that we might better appreciate it when it returns.

The crosses are not taken away completely. They are not removed. They are covered. We can see outlines of the crosses, but their beauty and details are fuzzy. This symbolizes the reality that our grief prevents us from seeing clearly until the Good Friday liturgy and, of course, Easter. This also reminds us of Our Lord's actions in response to the violence of the people in the Judica Gospel, the Lord "Jesus hid Himself." That is why the crosses and statues are veiled during the Service after the reading of the Gospel.

The idea of removing the Gloria Patri is much the same. The Triune Name given at the Ascension is the fullest revelation of God’s Name given to men. To take away the Gloria Patri for two weeks is a bit jarring. It is particularly awkward to not sing it at the end of the Nunc Dimitis. Its short-term removal serves to draw attention to it.

All of this is that we would learn to mortify the flesh and to depend more and more upon the grace of God in Christ. For never, even in our most somber of ceremonies, is the Church in doubt about the end. Jesus died but is not dead. Jesus lives. Easter is coming. Our Hallelujahs, Gloria Patris, crosses, fatty foods, and the like shall all return, but even better than that, we shall have them forever in heaven when our own resurrections occur.

Passiontide extends through Holy Week and the Triduum (“three holy days”—which includes Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday). At the conclusion of the Maundy Thursday Service the Altar will be stripped, the Sanctuary decorations, such as the candelabra, will be removed. Even the main crucifix will be carried out, only to be carried back in during the reproaches on Good Friday. All that will be left in the Sanctuary are the immovable pieces of furniture, laid bare. On Good Friday and the Easter Vigil, while all is bare, the normal responses and introductions are removed from the readings.

The intensity builds from now until Holy Saturday when we finally arrive at the empty tomb but not at an empty Altar.

Spring and Summer Gottesdienst Events

First and foremost: Gottesdienst Chicago on May 1st. Click the link for full conference registration, schedule, and hotel information. We had a great turn out last year and want to make Gottesdienst Chicago just as regular and just as enjoyable as our fall Oktoberfest in Kewanee.

Our host, Fr. Ben Ball of St. Paul in Brookfield also informs me that Mrs. Ball is arranging events for wives and families. I am told, for example, that free tickets to the Brookfield Zoo are doable. If you are interested, please note this in your registration and include an email address for the Mrs.

And if you are from out West and Chicago seems like a long drive, please plan on coming to Gottesdiesnt West in Kearney, NE on July 25. Details are still being firmed up for this event, but the topic has been set: Lay Ministry and AC XIV.

The following are not Gottesdienst events, but feature Gottesdienst speakers. If you would like to arrange for Gottesdiesnt speakers at your event: here is more information.

March 29 - Fr. Curtis is scheduled to speak to the Opus Dei student group at Concordia Seminary - St. Louis

April 11 - Fr. Curtis was scheduled to be at the Luther Academy Free Conference to discuss Gerhard's view of the duties of ministers, due to circumstances beyond his control, Fr. Curtis' paper will be read by someone else.

May 5-6 - Fr. Beane speaking at Christ Lutheran Church - Hutchinson, Kansas at the annual Lectures on Lutheranism on the topic of the contemporary applications of the Augsburg Confession and also preaching at the Sunday Mass.

May 31 - Fr. Curtis speaking at an NID sponsored event at Bethany - Naperville on the topic of stewardship for the confessional Lutheran parish.

June 20-22 - Fr. Eckardt and Fr. Fabrizius speaking at the annual Concordia Catechetical Academy Symposium in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, sponsored by Peace Lutheran Church and Academy of Sussex, Wisconsin.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Concerning Pulpit Supply

Nothing brings home the division and chaos of the MO Synod's worship practices like filling in for someone else or having someone else fill in for you. Here are some things to consider, garnered from my own mistakes and troubles in this regard.

First, if you are looking for someone to fill in for you, put together a standard letter that explains in detail anything that might be remotely quirky about your parish. My letter includes the fact that we genuflect, elevate, wear the chasuble, chant everything (except the Preparation), consume all that is consecrated, etc. Do you do announcements before the service? Which general prayers do you use? Etc. If nothing else this is a good exercise for you to take inventory of the customs and ceremonies you follow - and perhaps rethink some of them.

Second, if someone is asking you to fill in - take nothing for granted. Ask questions. For example, the last time I stepped into a pitfall was when I did not discover the use of grape juice until I was preparing the altar at that other parish. I told the elder on duty that we weren't using that at the service that day. To say the least, a sticky situation best avoided. So ask: do you use only wine for the Supper? Do you use only wheaten bread for the Supper? Does the pastor commune everyone? What vestments are worn? About how long should the sermon be? etc. If you feel conscience bound not to do something that this parish does, you want to be able to decline the invitation beforehand. Since I know I feel conscience bound not to use grape juice, and since I know a lot of LCMS parishes do, I should have asked before agreeing to fill in.

It's been said before and it will be said again: you just can't make assumptions. These are the results of unbridled "diversity."

If you find a good fill-in: pay him well!


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Not a bad idea.

The Coptic Church has had an interesting history - and no less interesting in recent decades. In reading of Pope Shenouda III's recent death (our condolences to all the bereaved) I found out yet another interesting fact about the Copts: "His successor's name will be chosen by a blindfolded child from among three finalists chosen by community leaders -- a process that could take months." 

Not a bad idea at all. 


Thoughts on Lent 5

To keep the word of Jesus is to do what Abraham did. Abraham saw and rejoiced. The Jews didn't. Will we?

Abraham rejoiced to see His day and saw it (Genesis 22:14; Jubilees 16:20-30; 18:12-19). Abraham saw Jesus' day when He saw his son, his only son, whom he loves, raised from the dead on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22; Hebrews 11:13-19). For on that mountain, the mount of the Lord, He (that is Jesus, the Lamb of God) will be seen (Genesis 22:14 MT|LXX; John 1:29). He was seen by David in that very place when Mount Moriah was appointed the sight of Solomon's Temple (2 Chronicles 3:1). He was seen when the cloud of the Lord's glory filled the Sanctuary within Solomon's Temple (1 Kings 8:4-11). He was seen when the Son of man was lifted up, glorified on the cross, entering once for all into the Sanctuary made without hands to secure an eternal redemption with His own blood (Hebrews 9:11-15). 

The Jews didn't rejoice; they hated and sought to kill. They were slow to hear and keep the Word and quick to kill. They didn't see because they didn't hear and keep the Word which spoke of Him (John 5:35ff). They wouldn't live, they would see and taste death because they didn't taste and see that the Lord is good, that He keeps His promises, that He is faithful, and that His Word is both Spirit and life (John 6:53). 

And so on the Temple mount, the place of the obedience and rejoicing of Abraham and the sacrifice of his only son, Isaac; within the Feast of Tabernacles that affirms the worship of Israel's one God and commemorates the seeing and rejoicing of Abraham (Jubilees 16:20-30; 18:12-19), Jesus shows the seed of Abraham that they are not truly Abraham's seed. For they are disobedient--they do not keep His Word and they don't rejoice to see Him. They don't do what Abraham did. And what they do do proves them to be the seed of their Father the devil, a murderer, persecutor, and blasphemer.

Jesus is the new Temple not made with hands. He is the dwelling place of YHWH, the very glory of God, the Word and Name of God, the Love of God in the flesh. He will be torn down but after three days be raised back up. He savored the taste of death in our stead instead of quenching His thirst. He saw the birth of the church in His mother and the beloved disciple. He spoke His Word that made it all come to pass: it is finished.

"For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel" (Hebrews 12:18-22).

And thus the Father is worshipped in Spirit and Truth by receiving the poured-out and sprinkled blood of Jesus. For there we enter the Sanctuary of the Temple not made with hands, and we see and rejoice with angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven. That the Lamb who was slain lives and reigns forever. This is our hope, our strength, our comfort and our vindication as we live as fallen men in a fallen and broken world.  

And so back to the beginning: To keep the word of Jesus is to do what Abraham did. Abraham saw and rejoiced. The Jews didn't. Will we? Will we be the children of God born not of the will of the flesh nor of man but of God? Will we hear and keep His Word? Will we taste and see that the Lord is good so that we don't see and taste death? The Lord will always have his church, He will always have His people, He is able to raise up offspring of Abraham from stones. The question is will we be a part of it? (Small Catechism on Petitions 1-3 of the Lord's Prayer). 

Best Read of Gottesdienst Online

At right please notice a new feature - a listing of the five best read posts from the current week and the five best read of all time.


Monday, March 19, 2012

CTCR: the good and the. . . yet to be determined

A couple CTCR items. First, I think they have done a fine job of rejecting the dissent of Dr. Matthew Becker of Valparaiso University and (oddly enough) the NWD of the LCMS. For this the CTCR should be commended with our thanks. Read it here and here. One hopes that now the way is clear for the rest of the Synod's due process to proceed and remove Dr. Becker from the Synod roster. By his own admission he favors the ordination of women to the pastoral office and rejects the traditional Christian understanding of creation and death as punishment for the sin of an historical Adam and Eve. He has had every opportunity to repent. Various brothers have spoken to him face to face over the years on these topics. We have engaged him in debate on this blog and on his own. His heart is hard on these matters. He is convinced he is right as much as the Pope is convinced he is right about purgatory and prayer to the saints. Well, the Pope ain't Lutheran. . .

Second, along with every other member of the Synod, I just received a CTCR document on prayer. It looks to be a discussion of the Lutheran understanding of prayer. The receipt of the document causes me some confusion. Was this a hot topic that required a long document to be printed and mailed to thousands of addresses? What is the cost for that? What is the utility of that? Why not just post it on their website in pdf and send me an email? Perhaps these questions are answered in the document: frankly, the topic did not engage me enough to tempt me away from parish duties to read it cover to cover.

At any rate, see the poll at right.


Friday, March 16, 2012

A Commentary on LSB's Rubrics for the Common Service (p. 184)

Specifically, I want to comment on the various options (the "may" rubrics) in the LSB rubrics for the Common Service. I will not spend much time below dealing with the various things that are not mentioned in the LSB rubrics: placement of celebrant and deacon, how to hold the hands, when to bow the head, genuflect, etc. Those things are ably dealt with in The Conduct of the Services by Piepkorn and McClean, whose rubrics are placed side-by-side with the Ordinary in Daily Divine Service Book and Daily Divine Service Book: Rubrics for Celebrant and Deacon.

Please see the LSB Desk Edition: Liturgy for further details regarding this service.

LSB became available in the second half of 2006. It is now the first have of 2012 and still no Desk Edition. Gottesdienst will be sure to provide a similar commentary(ies) on those rubrics when they appear.

Confession and Absolution

The presiding minister may conduct the Confession and Absolution from outside the chancel.

The minister does well to take advantage of this rubric. The time of public confession is, properly speaking, the preparation for the Divine Service and is thus fittingly conducted from the nave just below the chancel steps.

A note on "presiding minister:" this corresponds to the traditional term "celebrant."

A Hymn of Invocation may be sung.

The minister does well take advantage of this rubric. The singing of hymns is a hallmark of the modern Lutheran rite.


It is less awkward if the congregation is taught to stand for the first hymn. Then they are already standing for the Invocation. It is awkward indeed to have the celebrant's first action be the slow raising of the palms to have the people rise rather than the sign of the cross, or for his first words to be "Please Rise" instead of "In the Name..."

The sign of the cross may be made by all in remembrance of their Baptism.

The presiding minister may face the altar and sign himself, or he may face the congregation and mark them with the sign of the cross.

The celebrant does well to face the altar for the Invocation because, as the name indicates, this part of the liturgy is invoking God, not blessing the people.

[Invocation and versicles]

The celebrant faces the people, turning by his right, for "Beloved in the Lord. . . " and turns by his left back to the altar for "Our help is in the name (+) of the Lord."


If he remains standing, the presiding minister faces the altar.

Indeed, even if he kneels he faces the altar!

Silence for reflection on God's Word and for self-examination.

[Two options for the public confession]

The left hand side contains the indicative-operative, or Sacramental, formula of absolution. The right hand side contains the Common Service's declaration of grace. The left hand side option is not part of the Common Service and was not used as part of the Missouri Synod printings of the Common Service until TLH in 1941. The editors of Gottesdienst have had a lot of back and forth over which is the better option for public worship. I prefer the declaration of grace for pastoral reasons. Namely, I believe that one should not say "I forgive you" to someone unless one has actually spoken with them and know one should not be saying "I bind unto you. . . " This is an impossibility with a mixed crowd. Nor do I believe it to be the best practice to attach conditions to Sacramental formulae (Upon this your confession. . . ). Thus I believe the Sacramental formula is best reserved for the Confessional. 

Introit, Psalm, or Entrance Hymn
The presiding minister and his assistants may enter the chancel.

The minister does well to always avail himself of the Introit rather than a Psalm or Entrance Hymn. The Introit is an historic proper and should not be replaced with a Psalm or Hymn any more than a Gospel lesson should be replaced by a Psalm or Hymn. Frankly, this is one of the chief weaknesses in the Reformation era orders, in my opinion. They did indeed often omit historic propers or replace parts of the ordinary with hymns that can only be called paraphrases rather than translations. 

The "assistants" of the "presiding minister." These should be other other called and ordained ministers, the liturgical deacon [and liturgical subdeacon for those parishes blessed with three pastors] : see AC XIV. Of course, such assistance is not available in the majority of our parishes. Where it is, appropriate rubrics for liturgical deacon and subdeacon can be found in DDSB: Rubrics for Celebrant and Deacon and The Conduct of the Services by Piepkorn and McClean published by Redeemer Press.

[Gloria in Excelsis]

During Advent and Lent, the Gloria in Excelsis is omitted.

The Gloria in Excelsis is appropriately omitted at all penitential days, anytime the color is violet. It may also be omitted at any weekday Divine Service.

[Salutation and Collect of the Day]
The presiding minister stands at the altar facing the people. He may extend his hands in greeting with the words, "The Lord be with you."

He turns by his right and smoothly moves his hands out and then back to palms facing, with left thumb under right; then turning by his left back to the altar for the prayer.

[Greeting and response]

The presiding minister faces the altar.

By his left.

A brief silence may be observed.

The minister is advised not to take advantage of this rubric. It seems to me an awkward pause. I think the idea is the gathering of the collected prayers of the people - but again, it seems out of place in the modern rite where we specifically do not ask for prayers from the people at this point.

The presiding minister may raise his outstretched hands in the gesture of prayer while speaking or chanting the Collect of the Day.

A well proportioned gesture brings the entirety of the hands just above the level of the shoulders; care should be taken so that he gesture is symmetrical and that the fingers are held in order and not splayed hither and yon. Excessive jewelry, even a shiny wrist watch, should be avoided on hands and wrists. In short: distractions from devotion because of the minister's personal dress or demeanor should be minimized.


[OT Lesson]

Psalm or Gradual

The minister does well to always avail himself of the Gradual. As in the case of the Introit, the Gradual is the traditional proper and should not be displaced with another Psalm.

During the Psalm or Gradual, the presiding minister and any assistants face the altar.

They simply turn to face the center of the altar from where they are standing during the OT reading. Please note that all the clergy remain standing for all of the readings.



During the Alleluia and Verse, the presiding minister and any assistants face the altar.

The congregation sings one of the following, or the choir may sing the appointed Verse.

While this rubric presents the Verse as an option for choir only, like the rest of the intervenient chants, it is appropriately sung by the congregation, a cantor, or the pastor if no choir is available. And like the rest of the propers, the Verse should also be used. It is certainly fitting to have the Verse and the congregational singing of the Alleluias.

During Lent, the Alleluia is omitted.

For those following the Historic Lectionary, the Alleluia is also omitted during Pre-Lent.

[The Gospel]

This is the one place in LSB's rite where the people have a sung response and no musical notation is given for the minister's part. Just an oddity to take note of. One could, I suppose, have the people say their part, or provide simple musical notation for the minister's part. The say-sing manner of conducting service is awkward and counter-intuitive.


During the Creed, the presiding minister and any assistants face the altar.

For more details on where to stand, see DDSB: Rubrics for Celebrant and Deacon and The Conduct of the Services.

Nicene Creed or Apostles' Creed

On Sundays and other festivals the minister does well to use the Nicene Creed, the Eucharistic Creed of the Western Church. At midweek Divine Services, it has been traditional to omit the Creed. At such times, it would be appropriate to confess the Apostles' Creed, the Baptismal Creed of the Western Church, rather than no Creed at all.


[Hymn of the Day]

Before the sermon the pastor may say. . .

This is a good rubric for pastoral and very practical reasons: it gives people time to put the hymnals away.

After the Sermon the pastor may say...

Again, this is a good rubric and one does well to take advantage of it.



While the offerings are being gathered, the presiding minister or an assistant prepares the altar for the celebration of the Sacrament.

Rather than either, both the celebrant and the deacon have roles to play in preparing the altar, if a deacon is available. For more details on altar preparation see DDSB: Rubrics for Celebrant and Deacon and The Conduct of the Services.

After the presiding minister or an assistant has received the offering plates (or baskets) and raised them slightly toward the altar in a gesture of offering, they may be placed on the credence table.

The deacon should deliver the plates to the celebrant who raises them. The celebrant should keep his head and eyes cast down as he raises the plates to set this ceremony apart from the elevation of the Host, in which he gazes at the Host. The lifting of the plates is a ceremony of offering. The lifting of the Host is a ceremony of worship and reverence. Most credence tables are small and it is probably more useful to have the plates placed either in the sacristy or returned to the ushers afterwards. They should certainly not be set on the altar.

[Prayer of the Church]
The prayers may begin with the following.

When the Prayer of the Church includes responses from the congregation, one of the following forms may be used after each petition or bid.

The minister does well to take advantage of these rubrics, although note that the Prayer of the Church need not have responses or bids. If bids are used and a deacon is available, he should say the bids.

Petitions may be included for:
* the right use of Word and Sacrament
* the blessings associated with the appropriate season of the Church Year
* the Church and the proclamation of the Gospel
* good government
* special needs
For sample prayer texts, see pages 440-445.

These are fine suggestions and the prayers listed on those pages are fine prayers. It is hard to beat TLH's General Prayer for appropriate scope and diction. This prayer is easily modified to include the suggested response forms of the LSB rite.

The prayers may conclude with the following:

The minister does well to use this rubric.

If there is no Communion, the service concludes on page 254.

If there is no Communion you are using the wrong order! I would advise you to use Matins, Responsive Prayer, the Service of Prayer and Preaching, etc., but not the Divine Service. Although, I should point out that this "dry Mass" is of the very oldest Lutheran pedigree. In Magdeburg at least, during weekday masses, if no communicants showed up, the service continued straight through the Proper Preface and then abruptly ended. Better, I think, to have a non-Communion Order for what is meant to be a non-Communion service.

If there is a freestanding altar, the presiding minister (and appropriate assistants) moves to a position behind the altar.

A freestanding altar can be and, in my opinion, is best used as if it were an east wall altar. The reasons for this have been hashed time and again and I will not repeat them here, though some of the following rubrics will bring some of these reasons to mind. At any rate, for those enamored of Vatican II, you can find rubrics for freestanding altars in The Conduct of the Services.

"Appropriate assistants" are clergymen: the liturgical deacon and subdeacon.

Please turn the page to continue with the Service of the Sacrament.

This rubric always reminds me of a choose your own adventure book.



Facing the congregation, the presiding minister extends his hands in greeting while saying:

The presiding minister then lifts his hands while saying:

The presiding minister brings his hands together and says:

For more details on these gestures see DDSB: Rubrics for Celebrant and Deacon and The Conduct of the Services. Notice that these are some of the few rubrics in LSB that do not present an option, there is no "may" here.

The presiding minister faces the altar to speak or chant the Proper Preface.

Here the chief criticism of the freestanding altar is easily seen. If the celebrant is behind the altar, then to face the altar he is also facing the people. And then he begins to pray. This seems downright odd. The people and the pastor should at this point all be facing the same liturgical direction if they are all making the same prayer. Thus, the Second Vatican Council's main point - the people as actors in the liturgy - is actually mitigated by this oddity of having the pastor face the people while he prays.

The presiding minister may raise his outstretched hands in the gesture of prayer.

The minister does well to do so.

The Proper Preface appropriate to the day or season is spoken or chanted.

[Proper Preface]

Note that there is no rubric for the traditional bowing during the Sanctus. For more extensive rubrics at this point please see DDSB: Rubrics for Celebrant and Deacon and The Conduct of the Services.

The Lord's Prayer may be spoken by all or sung as follows.

This is another area of disagreement among the editors of Gottesdiesnt. Dr. Eckardt and I (and perhaps others) have championed the traditional method of the celebrant praying the Lord's Prayer with the people adding their doxology and Amen. Fr. Petersen (and perhaps others) has made the case for the appropriateness of the whole assembly praying together at this point. This argument deserves its own treatment, so we leave it aside for now.

[The Words of Our Lord]

The presiding minister faces the elements on the altar during the consecration.

This is a well-worded rubric. The Consecration is a tertium quid: spoken neither to God nor congregation. These words are consecratory. In that, they are both a sacrifice of praise and obedience, in that we are doing what the Lord told us to do, and they are a sacramental proclamation of the Lord's Testament. But mainly they are just what they appear to be: consecrating these elements. Thus, the celebrant focuses his attention there.

For a more detailed description of the celebrant's manner and movements during the consecration see see DDSB: Rubrics for Celebrant and Deacon and The Conduct of the Services.

[Pax Domini]
Facing the congregation, the presiding minister says or chants:

Again, for a more descriptive rubric at this point, see see DDSB: Rubrics for Celebrant and Deacon and The Conduct of the Services.

[Agnus Dei]

The pastor and those who assist him receive the body and blood of Christ first, the presiding minister communing himself and his assistants.

Thank you, thank you, LSB! This rubric is, as they say, worth the price of admission. It is a confession against Receptionism - for now, right after the consecration what we have here is the body and blood of Christ. And we get the clear restoration of the normative practice of all Christian history: the celebrant communes each and every communicant, including himself.

The assistants, again, are properly clergymen. It was simply unknown for all of Lutheran history down to the mid-twentieth century for laymen to distribute - that is, to take in hand fully half of the administration of the Sacrament. I, for one, am simply not convinced that the administration of the pastor's office is communicable to others. Shall he ask laymen to preach his funeral sermons while he sits in the pew so long as he is "overseeing" this preaching?

Again, for more descriptive remarks at this point see see DDSB: Rubrics for Celebrant and Deacon and The Conduct of the Services.

Then they distribute the body and blood to those who come to receive saying:

In dismissing the communicants, the following is said:

This goes a bit beyond rubrics to the actual order, but I especially like the wording of this dismissal. It is phrased in such a way that it can be read in English either as a blessing in the jussive or a statement of fact in the indicative.

At the conclusion of the Distribution or during the Nunc Dimittis, the remaining consecrated elements are set in order on the altar and covered with a veil.

This is the rubric that makes most clear the impossibility of using only the LSB rubrics. So you veil the consecrated elements and then what? Silence. Never mentioned. In the imaginary world where you can only do LSB's rubrics, you get an ever growing pile of left overs on your altar under a veil, for you are never told to take them out from under this veil and what to do with them when you do!

The best practice, as advocated by Luther himself, and, if I may be so bold, by Jesus is to "Take and eat, take and drink." Whatever is consecrated is best consumed at the Mass in which it was consecrated. This leaves the least room for "impious questions."

Communing shut ins from the Sunday Mass throughout the week has a long history in the Church and one certainly cannot say that it is unorthodox in any way. But I contend that it causes more pastoral problems than it solves and that it is best to follow Luther's advice: what is consecrated at the Mass should be consumed at that Mass, the celebrant and deacon doing this unobtrusively at the altar during the Nunc Dimittis. This calls for a little planning by the celebrant - and for using even a freestanding altar as an east wall altar so that the people are distracting by this consumption as little as possible.

If the presiding minister has been behind a freestanding altar, he may move to the front of the altar for the remainder of the service.

Indeed, he is advised to do so.


[Nunc Dimittis]


An odd time to use that word! But at least we got Eucharist in here somewhere. . .

The presiding minister and any assistants face the altar for the Thanksgiving.

The presiding minister may raise his outstretched hands in the gesture of prayer as one of the following collects is spoken or chanted:

[Salutation and Benedicamus]

Facing the people, the presiding minister stands at the altar. He may extend his hands in greeting with the words, "The Lord be with you."

This is always an appropriate gesture for these words.


Facing the congregation, the presiding minister raises his hand(s) and says or chants:

This is another rubric that makes me chuckle: it seems as though we have only a few pastors with two hands. Like forms for school: "Bring your child(ren) to the bus top by 8:15."

At any rate, either both hands are raised in blessing palms outward, or only the right hand is raised in benedictione: you know, like in all those pictures of the hand of God in creation.

The minister then does well to turn to the altar by his right for silent prayer.

Please note there is no rubric for a closing hymn - but it is a widespread and appropriate practice.