Friday, August 30, 2013

The Brady Bunch, the Book of Concord, and a Paternal Postscript

By Larry Beane

As addressed definitively by Father Curtis in a previous post, our Lord's words in Matt 23:9-10 are often used by Protestants to decry the "Roman Catholic" custom of calling their pastors "Father."  Fr. Curtis addressed the biblical passages that conflict with that peculiar minority view found in modern American Protestant Christianity that vociferously attacks the "Father" custom.

I offer the following as a sort of PS, as the issue keeps popping up like the proverbial Whack-A-Mole carnival game.  The argument hinges on the question of our Lord's context.  Is this passage to be interpreted literally ("this is my body") or figuratively ("if your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out")?  An episode of The Brady Bunch revolved around this kind of thing when Greg, seeking to work around being grounded, parsed his parents' decree by invoking "exact words" - knowing full well what the intent was.  Let's just say that Greg's hermeneutic did not get him closer to truth and the dishonesty rather complicated matters.

Regarding the assumption that the "father" custom is "Roman Catholic, there is a gap between perception and reality.  For the ancient custom is not only practiced by Roman Catholics, but also by Eastern Orthodox Christians, many Anglicans worldwide, and numerous Lutherans in diverse countries around the world, and to a lesser extent, in the United States.  Moreover, it is also practiced by Protestants and Lutherans when they refer to Roman Catholic clergymen by the title "Father."  If our Lord's words are intended to be taken literally, a Protestant Christian should never refer to a Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, or Lutheran pastor as "Father" - for the Lord's "exact words" (thank you, Greg Brady!) are "call no man father."

The "calling" is contrary to our Lord's words as well as the "being called."

And the Lord says "call no man," which would include our earthly fathers, church fathers, founding fathers, step-fathers, city fathers, grandfathers, etc.  If the Lord is being literal here, we must come up with a different name for "Father's Day."  Or, to invoke Greg Brady yet again in another episode, maybe teenagers, in order to be consistent with the Lord's command, should amble to the breakfast table in their shades and address their parents as "Mike" and "Carol."  Let's just say the Brady parents did not approve of this innovative custom of protest, disrespectful of tradition and authority.

Some objectors to pastors being called "father" argue that the Lord's words "call no man father" does not apply to our bio-dads - only to our fathers in the spiritual sense, such as pastors.  In so doing, such people are arguing that the Lord's words are literal in some cases, but figurative in other cases; that "call" is literal while "no man" is figurative - at very least, in some cases, but not others.  They parse the metaphor to not include some fathers, but to include other fathers.  It's all very confusing.

Many pastors (as well as ordained men not serving as pastors) are also "instuctors" ("neither be called instructors" v. 10) - whether they are teachers at parochial schools, universities, or seminaries.  The title "instructor" (as the ESV renders καθηγητής) must include the many titles we have for instructors, such as "Professor" and "Doctor."  Yet I have yet to hear anyone offended by this common practice, refer to it as sinful, or interpret the Lord's words to be a literal prohibition against calling men, ordained or lay, "Doctor" or "Professor."

Thus the argument, hacked at haphazardly by Occam's razor, runs like this:
  • Calling your biological, well, um, father, by the names "Father," "Dad," Pop," "Papa," etc. is okay.  
  • Calling your doctor "Doctor" is okay.  
  • Calling your ordained professor "Reverend Doctor" is okay.  
  • Referring to the Bishop of Rome as "the Pope" (which is an Anglicized form of the Latin/Italian title "Papa") is okay.  
  • But calling your spiritual, um, father, "Father" is one of the few linguistic prohibitions ever given us by our blessed Lord.
Moreover, if it is sinful to apply the title "father" to religious leaders, then St. Stephen committed this sin against our Lord just before being stoned to death by the men he called "fathers" by means as spiritual address, not to mention the Holy Spirit's ill-conceived judgment in allowing this in the inspired Scriptures (Acts 7:2).

But what of our Lutheran confessions?  Surely, calling clergymen "Father," from the parish priest to the Pope (which again means "Father"), was a common practice at the time of the Reformation.  Lutherans based their doctrine and practice on scripture - which certainly includes Matt 23.  Luther did not shy away from making reforms in doctrine and practice that were contrary to our Lord's words.  In fact, he was himself referred to as "Father Martin" as an ordained priest in a monastic order.  One would expect that after the Reformation, his title suddenly became "Pastor Luther."  Even "Doctor" would have been discarded if Luther interpreted Matt 23:9-10 in such as way as to gainsay the use of the honorific "Reverend Father" among Christian clergy.

Well, let's see what the Lutheran Confessions say.

Matt 23:9-10 never appears in the Book of Concord.  Not once.

In fact, the Lutheran confessions do not accept this supposed dominical prohibition of the title "Father," but they actually make use of it.
  • In the subscriptions to the Smalcald Articles, one of the signatories, Brixius Northanus, refers to the Smalcald Articles as "the Articles of the Reverend Father Martin Luther" ("articulis reverendi Patris M. Lutheri") - SA 3:15:27.
  • In the subscriptions to the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope (the title of the treatise itself violates Matt 23:9-10 if our Lord is speaking literally), we find the signature of John Brentz, who makes a statement of assent to the articles with a reference to "Dr. John Bugenhgen, most revered Father in Christ" ("D. Iohannes Bugenhagi, Pater in Christo observandi") - Tr - Subscriptions.  In this case, the "offense" is doubled by using both "Father" and "Doctor" as titles of address.  "Doctor" as a title is spread liberally throughout the subscriptions.  If these were seen as inappropriate usages, one could not find a hint of support from the Book of Concord.
  • The Formula of Concord (Solid Declaration) includes this reference: "Therefore also our dear fathers and predecessors, as Lutheran and other pure teachers of the Augsburg Confession..." ("Derhalben auch unsere lieben Väter und Vorfahren, als Lutherus und andere reine Lehrer Augsburglicher Konfession..." / "Quare patres et pii maiores nostri, D. Lutherus et alii sinceri doctores Augustanae Confessionibus...") FC SD 7:58.  This passage uses both "fathers" and "teachers" in a way that those citing Matt 23:9-10 in a literal way ought to disapprove of.
  • Martin Luther is also referred to as "doctor" and "teacher" in the Solid Declaration: "Dr. Luther as the leading teacher of the Augsburg Confession..." ("D. Luthers, as die vornehmsten Lehrers der Augsburgischen Konfession" / "D. Lutheri ut primarii doctoris Augustanae Confessionis") FC SD 7:34.
  • And it goes without saying that the bishop of Rome is referred to as "the Pope" in the Book of Concord: more than 120 times!
So either the literal interpretation of Matt 23:9-10 is wrong or the Book of Concord is in error.

We are all - spiritual fathers and spiritual children alike - guilty of quite enough real sins that we really don't need to be condemned further, accused of sinning against made-made rules under the guise of innovative Protestant customs rooted in bad hermeneutics and in ignorance of what the Book of Concord contains and of what the Lutheran fathers confessed and practiced.

In the end, Greg Brady learned the foolishness of playing the "exact words" hermeneutical game when it suited his selfish ends to reinterpret an obvious meaning within an obvious context.  Some of our Lutheran brethren have not learned this lesson.  

An Interview with Healy Willan

Thank you to my father-in-law Martin Fonda for recording this on VHS and sending it to me. I was finally able to convert it and load it up on YouTube.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Can you imagine a church like this?

By Larry Beane

Can you imagine a Lutheran church that has avoided the pitfalls of lay-ministry and lady deacons, a church that retains Article XIV and does not have a hire//fire mentality regarding her pastors, a church in which a man generally serves five years as a deacon before being ordained to the pastoral ministry (with no fast-track path), a church grounded in doctrine and practice in the historic catholic faith as confessed and articulated in the Book of Concord? Can you imagine a church where not a single congregation uses individual shot glasses or grape juice, where not one parish has "contemporary" worship - no rock music, no praise bands, no dancing girls, and no chancel dramas?  Can you imagine a church in which every Sunday communion is universally practiced as long as there is an ordained pastor to preside?  Can you imagine a church with no CRM controversy, no power struggles pitting districts against pastors and congregations, with arguments settled by politics and bylaws?  Can you imagine a church with no district and synod conventions, and no running for political office?

It may sound like a pipe-dream to us in the LCMS - even though we fancy ourselves as the orthodox among the orthodox.

Of course, there is no perfect church because there are no perfect church members.  But there is confessional faithfulness according to scripture, the confessions, and the catholic tradition - and that is found in the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC).  They are a church that practices what we at Gottesdienst preach.  They are also a church in full altar and pulpit fellowship with the LCMS, whose ties to the SELC go back almost to the very fall of the Soviet Union.

And no, not every SELC pastor wears a chasuble (most can't afford them).  Very few congregations use incense (St. Andrew, the cathedral church in Novosibirsk may be the only one that does), and the SELC services are spoken rather than chanted.  But the Divine Services conducted in the SELC are Russian versions of the traditional Western Mass.  Pastors are not free to cut and paste the liturgy.  The most noticeable thing that strikes the visitor to a Siberian Lutheran church is the reverence.  There is no nonsense, no games, no gimmicks - and yet there is pure unbridled joy, as the younger parishioners have only recently discovered the treasure of the gospel and the older members recall vividly when they were persecuted, their families exiled, their pastors shot, and their churches razed.  They understand that what happens in a church is truly important.  

Fortunately, we do not share this experience of persecution and trial in America.  But unfortunately, our Christian culture is lukewarm, and many take their liberty to worship and the treasure we have in the Holy Things completely for granted.

The SELC has its share of challenges.  There are relatively few congregations strewn across some eight time zones.  Travel is expensive and time consuming.  Unlike his LCMS counterparts, Bishop Vsevolod Lytkin personally knows and provides pastoral care to every priest and deacon in the SELC.  He stays with them, eats with them, encourages them, baptizes their children, and preaches in their pulpits.  He confirms the youth of the congregation, and does not allow potshots to be taken at the pastors by antagonists.  He visits every congregation, and he is himself a pastor with an altar and a pulpit.

To provide for this kind of genuine churchly fellowship and biblical oversight over such a swath of territory is expensive.  Neither the church nor the bishop is wealthy.  He does not stay in swanky digs when he travels.  Unlike the Russian Orthodox bishops, he does not have luxury cars and drivers.  Likewise the SELC parish priests travel great distances by rail and by road (often hundreds of miles of mud and dirt) in order to visit remote preaching stations and bring the Holy Sacrament to small groups of the scattered holy remnant from the days of Stalin.  Every pastor and deacon in the SELC is bi-vocational.  The SELC clergyman is paid roughly the equivalent of about $400 a month.  His parishioners are often impoverished, and sometimes the only thing they can present as a thank offering takes the form of garden vegetables.

The churches are small, nearly all housed in purchased flats in apartment buildings - and yet they are all traditional and dignified in their simplicity.  They have altars, pulpits, and fonts.  The people kneel to receive the body and blood.  The vessels are not ornate, but appropriate and decorous.  There may be wood carvings or icons adorning the sacred space.  The liturgical action is reverent no matter the circumstances - even if it happens in a beauty salon as the Mass I attended in Chelyabinsk was.

And the fellowship exists outside of the worship itself: tea and snacks, convivial conversation and mutual support, friendship and a sense of genuine fraternal communion forged by generations of enforced Atheism and Communistic hatred against the Church.  When our brothers and sisters in the SELC recite the Nicene Creed, it is said against the backdrop of the history of Gulag camps and secret police.  There is no talk of "clergy domination" - real or imagined - by anyone.

Not only is the SELC a living example of how Lutheranism in practice can indeed look like the Lutheranism of the Book of Concord, the SELC navigates a difficult political and social sea dominated by complex government regulations and a society that often sees any expression of Christianity outside of Russian Orthodoxy to be heretical.  And still, people come to the SELC - from Orthodoxy, from Pentecostalism, from the Jehovah's Witnesses, from the Atheism that still lingers.  There are still pockets of Lutherans being discovered who have lacked pastors since the days of Stalin.  They all come for the gospel preached in its purity and the sacraments administered according to Christ's institution - for the forgiveness of sins, for eternal life in Christ.

The SELC stands like a lighthouse amid the storms of abortion and alcoholism; of crime and cronies and cynicism; of long cold winters, perennial poverty, and periods of literal and figurative darkness.  Yet the Church is always bright, for she is illuminated by Christ.  She does not have the luxury to play games or try to draw people into the services with fads and entertainment.  It is far too late in the day for such things.  Christ is returning for His remnant!

Part of the SELC's mission is also to us in the LCMS.  She extends hope to us that we can also look forward to a time when the things we confess are indeed the things we practice.  They have shown us that with God all things are possible.  They have overcome far more than we have, and the Lord has blessed them with faithfulness and steadfastness in the carrying out of our mutual Evangelical Catholic confession.  There is a great affection between many in the LCMS and the SELC, as the first wave of SELC pastors and professors - especially at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Novosibirsk - were educated at Concordia Theological Seminary - Fort Wayne under the auspices of the Russian Project.  They learned their confessional faithfulness from confessionally-faithful professors - and they have put it in practice in confessionally-faithful congregations.  We now have them as examples of confessionally-faithful pastors and lay people.

I urge you to get to know Bishop Vsevolod and the clergy and the laity of the SELC!  Many of them are on facebook.  Some of them speak English quite well.  And even those who don't speak English still communicate with us through Google Translate.  It means a great deal to them knowing that they have brothers and sisters on the other side of the planet who know they exist, who pray for them, who love them, and who confess that we are all one body.  For when one of them hurts, we all hurt.  When one wins the victory in Christ, we are all more than conquerors.  Individuals and congregations can sponsor a congregation and can earmark donations for the people that they can actually get to know thanks to technology such as facebook and Skype.

The Siberian Lutheran Mission Society (SLMS) is made up of mostly American Lutherans who are supporting our Siberian brethren in prayers and in offerings.  Over the years, the SLMS has made it possible for many church flats to be purchased, for evangelism to be funded, to support the travel of pastors to remote regions, and to provide for ongoing catechesis of lay people - including camps for children.  The SLMS has a unique policy concerning donations: 100% of gifts are wired to Russia.  All "overhead" is paid for by separate private donors.  You really can help in very real and tangible ways!

I would urge every Gottesdienst and Gottesdienst Online reader to check the website!  The newsletters - available online back to 2003 - are written by Russian pastors and laypeople, and they give an accurate and moving account of Christian life in the former Soviet Union, of the triumph of the Church of Jesus Christ over the spite and abuse of the commissars and party apparatchiks and relentless social pressure.  This is intense, captivating, and joyful reading.  They were also so kind as to link to my travelblog from 2011.  Several of the editors at Gottesdienst have been to Russia (some several times) to lecture in a variety of settings, teaching pastors, seminarians, and lay people the Christian faith and pastoral wisdom.  I would also point you to the Rev. Prof. Alan Ludwig's website and blog; Fr. Alan has been teaching at Novosibirsk since 1998.  His writing is fascinating and utterly inspiring.  

In spite of their poverty, social and political challenges, vast distances and harsh climate, small numbers, and a hostile culture, our brothers and sisters keep the faith day in and day out.  

LCMS pastor Fr. Daniel Johnson, who served a congregation in Iowa for nearly 20 years, who has traveled almost annually to Siberia for some 14 years, and who is the immediate past president of the SLMS, is now the LCMS mission catechist to Eurasia.  He is in Siberia right now.  Unfortunately, his new position makes it harder for him to raise funds and support the SLMS and the SELC on the homefront.  He reports that SLMS funds are extremely low right now.

If you would like to support a Gottesdienst-friendly mission outreach, genuine Lutheranism and an outpouring of the Holy Gospel to people in need of its joy and freedom, without the nonsense that too often accompanies missionary endeavors, please contact the SLMS and find out how you can sponsor a congregation - even if it is with a small amount.  They really need ongoing support.  One day, Russian missionaries may need to come to America and teach Miley Cyrus's grandchildren who Jesus is and how to recite the catechism.  One day, beneficiaries of our mission gifts to Russia may come back to us as our own people may emerge from persecution in need of instruction and faithful Lutheran doctrine and practice.

In Novosibirsk, the cathedral seat of the SELC and the location of Lutheran Theological Seminary, there is a small Russian Orthodox chapel, St. Nicholas, located on a main boulevard named for Lenin, on what is purported to be the exact geographical center of the old Russian empire.  The original chapel was destroyed by Stalin, but it was rebuilt after the fall of Communism - and is once again a Christian house of worship.  On the outside of this monument that represents Russia's center is an icon of our Lord Jesus Christ.  

This would have been unthinkable a little more than 20 years ago when the Soviet Union existed.  And in spite of Lutheranism being the second largest Christian confession in Russia before the Revolution, and having been there since the Reformation itself, it was virtually destroyed by the time of Stalin.  But thanks to faithful lay people who kept the faith alive in the Gulag and in exile, teaching their children to pray, squirreling away Bibles and catechisms, and reciting scripture from memory - the Lutheran Church outlived the Communist State.  Today there are pastors and churches - and there are a lot of children and young adults who are pioneers - not like the old red-scarfed Pioneer Movement for children being indoctrinated into Communism, but rather a new generation of free people, pioneers catechized into Christianity and Christian liberty in the gospel under the red of the blood of Christ.

We have the opportunity to take part in this ongoing miracle.  Please check out the SLMS and prayerfully consider helping our brothers and sisters bring the gospel to Russia!  If you have not seen the above video before, it is well worth a view.  It is an accurate and moving portrait of the Holy Spirit's work in Russia, especially through the ministry of the pastors in the lives of the faithful in the parishes, everywhere where the Word is preached and the sacraments are administered in faithfulness.  

Friday, August 23, 2013

Last Chance for Historic Lectionary Bulletin Covers

Good news: CPH has let us know that they have a "critical mass" of orders for the Historic Lectionary bulletin covers and they will go to press soon. You should order now because they will base what they print on the order they receive by August 30th. So don't sit back and think you can order them in November - they may run out and not have any for you!


More info:

Dear Valued Customer,

According to a recent survey, you expressed interest in a bulletin series aligning with the one-year lectionary.

Good news!  Responses were so favorable, we are now launching this new series to mail in October but we need your orders now to ensure enough inventory. And, if you order by August 30, we will send you a free gift. 

For more details, see the information below.  Visit our web site to sample more of our bulletin images.

Thank you for your partnership and for making this product possible. 

Corinne Lattimer
Marketing Manager, VBS

Thursday, August 22, 2013

On the Altar Guild

A new altar guild member here related her first "actual" experience as part of our altar guild. It reinforces my notion that it is of critical importance for pastors to spend time with the altar guild.  This society is the most important group in a Christian congregation.   It is the first group to which any new pastor should pay attention. More important than the board of elders or trustees; even more important than the church council itself is the altar guild.  

Here's what the lady wrote: "Even tho I can't explain why, I found myself holding back tears of awe as I helped clean the blood of Christ. I've always known that every Sunday the body and blood of Christ is in our church, and even that I take the sacrament, but never before have I felt so humbled and grateful. I'm very happy that I accepted the invitation to join altar guild and eternally grateful for the reason it exists."

Amen to that.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Did she go to Fort Wayne?

You know the calumny cast upon my bemonocled brethren of the Fort Wayne seminary, and even upon us poloshirted CSL grads of a self-consciously confessional bent: they come in, change everything in a heartbeat, castigate the people for not being Lutheran enough, and then when everybody leaves they blame it on God and say that a smaller congregations indicates greater faithfulness.

I have not actually met anyone who has ever told me that a smaller congregation is an indication of faithfulness (though I have seen pastors rather relieved to say goodbye to a parishioner or two who could not play well with others), so I had begun to doubt that such people really existed. I doubt no more. I finally found a church leader who has come right out and said that the losses in membership happening under their watch are a sign of greater faithfulness.

HT: Fr. Lee (CTS)



Father Surburg is sharing his research into the history of confirmation - fascinating stuff, and helpful for congregations thinking through the practicalities of bringing children to the Lord's Table. The first installment is here.


Monday, August 19, 2013


It's official!

This year's Oktoberfest! (the Eighteenth Annual), and Gottesdienst Central, at St. Paul’s Evangelical-Lutheran ChurchKewaneeIllinois, is scheduled for October 13-15, 2013 (Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday), and will be hosting Pastor Todd Wilken of Issues,Etc.   A number of the editors of Gottesdienst    as many as seven or eight of us    will be there too, as always.  THIS IS AN OKTOBERFEST YOU WON'T WANT TO MISS!  It's sure to be crowded with all the people you love to see, and who love to see you.  Mark the event down on your calendar today!
Pastor Wilken, who also has a popular blog, "The Bare Bulb," will provide the guests with his insights on this conference's theme: “What’s So Special about Being Lutheran?”

The event begins Sunday with choral vespers at 5 pm.  Following the service is our annual bratwurst banquet.  When everyone has had their fill of brats and beer, Pastor Wilken will give a synopsis of his Monday seminar.  Following the banquet is the after-the-party party, at Pastor Eckardt’s home.

On Monday October 14th, the day begins with mass at 9:00 a.m. Following mass and a continental breakfast, Pastor Wilken will hold forth for the rest of the day, in two sessions running until about 2:45, followed by vespers.

On Tuesday October 15th, the conference will continue without Pastor Wilken, as those who remain will discuss the rubrics and significance of the Mass from the Introit to the Creed.  The Tuesday sessions, will be framed by morning low mass (spoken Divine Service) and Vespers.

AmericInn, 4823 US Hwy 34. 309-856-7200.  Special rate $98.91, a $10 discount off the listed price.  Mention Oktoberfest when you register.

Aunt Daisy’s B & B, 223 W Central Blvd.  $99.00. 888-422-4148 (nice B&B).

Quality Inn, 901 S Tenney (Rt 78). 309-853-8800 (a bit cheaper at $90, but a little less of a hotel too).

Days Inn, I-80 & Rt 40, Sheffield. 815-454-2361.

Best Western, I-80 & Rt 78, Annawan. 309-935-6565.

Kewanee Motor Lodge, 400 S Main St., Kewanee  309-853-4000.

REGISTRATION: $40 per person (students $20) $60 per couple — includes Sunday banquet and Monday continental; no charge for children with parents.  Log on at where you will find the option of using PayPal with an account or a major credit card.  Or you may pay the registration fee when you arrive. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Compare and Contrast

Wouldn't you rather see pictures like these on Sunday morning instead of kids out fishing or sappy families holding hands around a picnic table?

You know, even if you are on the 3 year series, you may want to patronize CPH's new Historic Lectionary bulletin covers featuring truly ecclesiastical art.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Books You Need to Add to Your Library: Valerius Herberger, "The Great Works of God" and they're on SALE

Poets read good poetry. This gives them inspiration for their own, but also teaches them something about the craft. Preachers read good sermons. This gives them inspiration in how to handle homiletically certain texts that have become familiar, but like the poet, instructs them in the homiletic craft. 

These two volumes by Valerius Herberger, The Great Works of God or Jesus, the Heart and Center of Scripture, do just that. Masterfully translated by Matthew Carver, these volumes use the best of English prose to translate faithfully the original without being wooden, archaic, or overly simple. While not full sermons, they are meditations on the text of Genesis that preach Christ, easily serving to bolster your own preaching on both the Old and the New Testaments. The text is laden with Scripture and scriptural allusions. And it is well referenced and footnoted, though the volumes do not have an index of Scripture, which is really their only drawback. But this is a minor flaw, overshadowed by their other benefits. 

From the Translator's Preface, 
"Throughout eastern Germany, Silesia, and the German-speaking areas of Poland, Herberger was widely know for his homiletic skill, and that mainly thourgh his written sermons which were printed often during his lifetime. . . . The Great Works of God, which is an ambitious edifice of devout meditations on the Scriptures as 'those that bear witness about Christ.' These he regarded rather like the linen cloths that wrapped the infant jesus in the manger, and traced his Lord in every little wrinkle."
These two volumes are only a quarter of the work the Herberger did on the Old Testament. I pray that more translations of Herberger's The Great Works of God are forthcoming.

So get these books for your library. They're great for Bible Class preparation, sermon preparation, devotional use, or straight reading. And now until October 1st, the two volume set is 40% off. ORDER YOUR COPIES TODAY. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sighs Too Deep For Words Replaced With A Sigh Filled With God's Word: Thoughts on Trinity 12

"And looking up to heaven, He sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," which means "Be opened."

Sometimes we feel our fallenness most acutely not in the sins that we commit ourselves, but in the sins that we suffer from a fallen world and from the hands of evil people. We realize in those times that it’s not that we need to try harder, that we need pep talks, life coaches, or twelve-step programs. We realize that what we endure because of sin is far bigger than all of that. It is a cancer that infects and destroys everything around us. It is a sickness that is destroying us.

And it leaves us dazed, even confused. It leaves us overwhelmed and exasperated. And it makes us tired. So we groan. We sigh. We sigh in pain, in exhaustion, in disbelief. When we watch our heroes grow old, become weak, and die. When our friends or family let us down, when they don’t stick up for us, or worse, when they take advantage of us, when they betray us. We feel the effects of sin. We feel the effects of the curse “by the sweat of your brow you shall eat . . .” and “you will surely die.” Sighing is a fruit of the curse.

And so we try to ignore it. We shrug it off, looking for the ray of sunshine in what is otherwise complete darkness. But some of the things we endure can’t be shrugged off. Somethings can’t be ignored, either because they are so deeply personal or because they are of such a magnitude that they can’t be. It is not always possible to make lemonade out of lemons. They gnaw at us because we know that this is not how things are supposed to be. It is not how God intended it.

St. Paul says that what we experience is what the whole creation experiences. That the whole creation groans and sighs as it suffers and endures the realities of sin in the world, that sickness and decay, sin and evil are part of our daily experience. We live under the weight of sin, the weight of death and loss, the weight of loneliness and betrayal. We live under the curse.

And this is why we sigh and groan. Because we know this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Because we’re tired and overwhelmed, because we’re hurt and confused, because we don’t know what to do.
Sighing is a fruit of the curse.  It comes with the knowledge that all is vanity, that nothing can be done to stop death. It comes with desperation, with frustration. It comes when with blood, sweat, and tears we see that our work never amounts to what we desire. It comes with sorrow and distress, with pain and suffering, when our bodies grow old, our health deteriorates, our loved ones die. Sighing is a fruit of the curse and the curse is sin becoming flesh to dwell among us.

But when Jesus sighs, it's different. His sighs are not out of desperation or exasperation. He sighs not out of confusion or exhaustion. This is not to say that He doesn't feel your pain or know your frustration. He does. But His sighs are not just an acknowledgment that this is not the way things are supposed to be, that man was not created to suffer, to live under a curse of his own making, to live separated from God by his sinfulness and then to die. Man was created to live forever and to live forever in communion with the most Holy Trinity. No, His sighs are more than that. They are more than expressions of the curse made incarnate. His sighs are filled with compassion and with the cure. For He is the cure incarnate. God's Word made flesh, the embodiment of God's will and law in human flesh. When Jesus sighs He does more than give expression to the human struggle under the curse of sin. When Jesus sighs He breathes in the curse and breathes out the cure, the blessing of His Word, the impartation of His Spirit, which gives life.

For looking up to heaven, Jesus sighed and said "It is finished." He breathed His last and handed over His Spirit. He gave His life into death so that you will live. He took the curse into Himself, your sin into Himself, He suffered in your place, died in your stead and was raised from death, out of the tomb so that you who trust in Him are forgiven your sins, rescued from death, have eternal salvation. And now He gives you His Body and His Blood. He gives you Himself, the embodiment of His Father's Word, to make it embodied in yours, taking away your sin and giving you His righteousness, His holiness, His purity, His life. Indeed, He does all things well. And in Him, so do you. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Coming Soon . . . .

Here's a preview of the Michaelmas 2013 issue of Gottesdienst. It's never too late to order your subscription. They make great back-to-school gifts. Don't go for the usual, dull, and boring candy for Halloween this year. Try a bulk subscription to Gottesdienst. Imagine the look on the faces of every child who gets a magazine in their bag! (The upside is that no one will come to your house next year). And Christmas is right around the corner. If you're looking for that perfect stocking stuffer, Gottesdienst is it. We also will mail to businesses. So if you have a local doctor office, dentist office, or anything with a waiting room in which you read magazines, we will mail them each issue, when you purchase a gift subscription for them.

The Gottesdienst Online reader shall now order a subscription to the print journal by going to the link provided below. He may either order a one-year or a two-year subscription. 

HERE is the LINK.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

LCMS in the News

What the Gottesdienst Crowd is Really Like

If you are within shouting distance of Bellaire, MI, make sure you put next year's Weekend of Theological Reflection on your calendar. In 2012 they had Fr. Beane up to speak and this year was my turn - and what a great conference! A wonderful group of engaged lay people were present and Fr. Seaver puts on a great banquet. Complete with entertainment.

Nice rabbat.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Order Historic Lectionary Bulletin Covers Now!

CPH hath heard our plaintive cry and the new Historic Lectionary bulletin covers are ready to order! They include truly ecclesiastical artwork keyed to the Gospel Lesson for each Sunday and Feast. The new covers will start shipping with Ad Te Levavi in December. You can see all the information as well as sample covers here. I called and the switch over was easy as pie - just dial 800-325-3040 and you'll be done in a snap.

This is a great way to support the Historic Lectionary in our Synod: the more who sign up for the service, the better. And as I've mentioned before: you can't do full color artwork cheaper than this; I've tried and local print shops just can't compete with CPH's prices.


A Tale of Two Church Bodies . . .

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
So wrote Dickens in the opening sentence of A Tale of Two Cities. The same could be said of recent history in the church. The Roman Church is just now coming to grips with it. So are we. Things seemed to be going so well for so long that the great demographic cliff was no where in sight. But now it is upon us. The reality is that it was always there. We were making it level by level with every decision not to procreate as intended by natural law and the teaching of the Scriptures. We were so excited by the freedom that technological advancement gave us (the Pill, IVF, contraception in general). We were so exited by what we could do, we never stopped to ask the question whether or not we should do them. But now we are. We are asking: How did this happen, how have we come to this place? Everyone is pointing fingers. Our Lutheran schools are closing. Our attendance in small and smaller churches is waning. The laity blame clergy. The clergy blame the laity. And the blame falls to both. The clergy have not taught as it should the unity of procreation and marriage. And the laity have not learned it. And both have not lived it. And in the words of Dr. Phil, "How is that working out for you?" Thus, the rise of divorce, children out of wedlock, co-habitation, pseudogamy, etc.  Natural consequences impeach.

HERE is a recent article about one parish priest's experience. It is this article that prompted this post. Here is one gem: 
Having grown up in the 60‘s and 70‘s with many “Don’t call me Father” Priests, I knew that the problem was a lack of orthodoxy. Twenty years ago when I was ordained, I thought that if I just preached the faith and celebrated a solemn Sunday Mass people would turn around. But, after twenty years, my experience is that a few parishioners will write letters to the Bishop, some will leave murmuring, but the standard fare is benign indifference. Instead of encountering joy and submission to the Natural Law and the Church’s teaching on human life and its dignity, I have found Catholic Christians either complacent or complicit with the Culture of Death. It was reported that over fifty percent of Catholics voted for a pro-abortion president who at a recent Texas Planned Parenthood convention asked God to bless them. If I have found any fruit, it has mostly come from home-schooling families. 
I have become convinced that there is a connection, a direct correlation, between contracepting or sterilizing one’s fertility that parleys into an infertile relationship with Jesus, the Divine Bridegroom. In other words, mortal sin is the ultimate barrier method when it comes to God’s gift of grace being implanted within our souls. It is known that Jesus expects us to be faithful in small things before He will entrust us with larger issues. What is smaller and yet has the greatest value than bringing new life into the world? The realpolitik, the sitz im leben, the situation on the ground, is that reproductive dissent has reached and surpassed a critical mass. Whether we are talking within or outside the church, tacit support is given to the culture of death when we don’t support the Natural Law against all unnatural sexual actions. To wit, the arrogant aggrandizement of the state and Federal government under Obamacare and the HHS mandate over Catholic hospitals and educational institutions. Where will it end? (Cardinal George of Chicago has predicted that there may be no Catholic hospitals or colleges within two years.)
If you FIND/REPLACE all the terms dealing with the Roman Church with terms specific to the LCMS, you have our current situation. It is sad. But we've built it. And now we must raze what we've built by going back to what we all know to be true in the natural law and the Scriptures, or be razed ourselves.

Gottesdienst is about liturgy. Its about keeping doctrine and practice together. Its about holding together what God has joined together. Its about enacting the Lord's Word with ceremony that confesses and teaches the Lord's Word, not only to others but also to ourselves. The ceremonies we do—the sign of the cross, genuflection, the elevation, etc.—reinforce in us what we ourselves believe about God. Not just what we confess about Him to others. And so these ceremonies teach us too. They are bodily reminders of what we believe, teach, and confess. 

But this is not limited to the Divine Service on Sunday mornings. The Divine Service is bigger than that. The Divine Service encompasses the entire life of those served by God, who receive His gifts in Word and Sacrament. That Word is also imbedded in the world (Gen 1; John 1). And there are ceremonies in our lives in the world that do the same. They either reinforce what we believe about God or they don't. They either teach us to believe rightly or not. This is the case with procreation and contraception. This is the liturgy of our lives in this world lived from the Divine Liturgy. Let us in every aspect, in the liturgy of life and in the liturgy of the Divine Service, say the black and do the red. As we are blessed by Him in doing so in the Divine Service, so shall we be blessed by Him in doing so in life. What God has joined together, let man not separate.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Look At Those Smiles

Look at the smiles on those faces. This is a picture from the Weekend of Theological Reflection hosted by Hope Lutheran Church, Bellaire, Michigan. Rev. H. R. Curtis presented on "Election and Evangelism: Set Free By Grace."

If you are interested in hosting a weekend like this at your church, the Editors (online and print) are ready to present on a wide range of topics. For possible topics, download a copy of the Gottesdienst Speakers Bureau. Or e-mail me ( for other topics not listed and who is prepared to present.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Cain and Abel, the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, Trusting in the Blood of the Lamb: Thoughts on Trinity 11

Two men went up to an altar to offer a sacrifice. One is accepted the other isn’t. One comes from faith the other doesn’t. One comes from thanksgiving for the Lord’s provision the other doesn’t. Abel offers not just the first-fruits of his flock, but he offers his sacrifice from a humble and a contrite heart. He offers his sacrifice by faith, believing the promise given to Eve that by the blood of her descendant the serpent’s head would be crushed forever. Cain offers only a portion of his grain. His offering does not proceed from faith. His focus was only on his work, his performance, what he could give to God. He came before the Lord with pride in himself.  

When Cain was born, his mother, Eve, rejoiced and said, “I have gotten the man, the Lord.” She thought that Cain’s birth was the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise, that through Cain, the serpent’s head would be crushed. Cain was the first born. He was the hope of his parents. He received the inheritance of his father, the working of the ground. 

Then came Abel. His name means vapor, vanity. He was seen to be born in vain. He would never amount to anything much because the promise was to be fulfilled in Cain. Or so his mother thought. Abel lived constantly in the shadow of his older, gifted brother. 

One can see why Abel came to his sacrifice with faith, with humility, without pretense and offered the best of his flock to the Lord. Abel knew he was nothing unless the Lord made something of him. He knew he was vanity for he heard it every time he heard his name. Also, one can see why Cain came without faith in the Lord, but with faith rather in himself. He offered his sacrifice with pride in his own works, being conceited in his own mind and heart, thinking and believing that His work was enough to please the Lord. 

And so it is "Two men went up into the temple to pray." In English, we mostly use the word "pray" to refer to private devotion and the word "worship" to refer to what a community does together. In the Jewish mind, however, the word "pray" was used for both. Here a the place of worship, the temple, is mentioned and two men are on their way to this place at the same time. What type of worship service—public and communal or private and individual—does this language then indicate?  

The only daily service in the temple were the atonement offerings that took place at dawn and again at three in the afternoon. Each service began outside the sanctuary at the great high altar with the sacrifice for the sins of Israel of an unblemished lamb whose blood was sprinkled on the altar, following a precise ritual. In the middle of the prayers there would be the sound of silver trumpets, the clanging of cymbals and the reading of a psalm. The priest would then enter the outer part of the sanctuary where he would offer incense along with the prayers that the sacrifice would be pleasing in the Lord’s sight. At that point, when the priest entered the building, those in attendance could offer their private prayers to God (see Luke 1:8). It is here when our two men make their prayers. 

While the Pharisee thanks the Lord that he is acceptable because of who he is and what he has done, the tax collector implores "O Lord, have mercy on me, that is, make atonement for me, THE sinner." Both the Pharisee and the tax collector are standing in front of the great high altar on which a lamb without blemish has been sacrificed for the sins of Israel. The tax collector stands far off, apart from the others gathered, and watches the sacrifice of the lamb. He listens to the blowing of the trumpets and the clashing of the cymbals, hears the reading of the psalm and watches the blood splashed on the sides of the altar. And when the priest offers the incense, the prayers of the people wafting up to heaven, the tax collector, beating his chest, cries out, "O Lord, make atonement for me, the sinner." And when the priest returns, He announces that the sacrifice has been accepted and pronounces the Aaronic Benediction over them. Israel's sins are washed away by the atoning blood of the sacrificial lamb. 

It is not that the Pharisee's prayer was wrong period. We are thankful to the Lord that we are not like others all the time. What was wrong was the context. It is as if the Pharisee attended the chief service of Good Friday and during the reproaches said: "I thank you Lord that I am not sinful like these others around me." The service was a service of atonement not of first fruits, not of a thank offering, but of atonement.  Like Cain, the Pharisee came with pride and trusted in his own works. And like Abel, the tax collector, knowing he and his works were but vanity, trusted not in himself but rather in the blood of the sacrificial lamb that the Lord provided. The Pharisee compared himself to the others. The tax collector compared himself to the holy Law of God. The Pharisee saw only sinners around him. The tax collector saw only one sinner, THE sinner, himself.

This parable was spoken to some who trusted in themselves, that they were righteous and so they despised others. But those who would find mercy, whose relationship to God would be restored in love, who would be welcomed in the gracious presence of God, must despise themselves. For of ourselves, we are unrighteous. We must trust in Him, who is righteous, for mercy, for atonement. We must trust in him who is righteous to make atonement for us.

And here we see the irony of Christianity: those who are without sin, those who have been Baptized, Named by God, belong to Him as HIs children by grace, such as you and the believing tax-collector, feel their sin. It hurts. It is shameful and awkward and you struggle with it. But those who are in sin, who embrace it and seek to justify themselves, like the pharisee, they are satisfied and comfortable. The devil doesn't bother them because he already has them.

That is how it is in the Kingdom of God. It is a Kingdom of reversals and irony. God became Man. Life became Death. He who knew no sin became sin. And the instrument of execution, the cross, made from the dead limbs of a dead tree to put what is living to death has become for those who believe the Tree of Life. He exchanges His life for yours. This God, this merciful, long-suffering Lover of mankind, makes something from nothing. But this happens through reversal, through Grace. For it is only the blind who are given sight, the sick healing, and the dead life. It is only the repentant who are forgiven. It is only sinners who become saints and go to their homes justified.

And so come, then. Be a sinner that feasting upon that which is holy you may be made saints.  Come and feast on Christ the Lamb to become His sheep. Come like the tax-collector, with your pain, your fear, your worries, your shame, your loneliness, your failures and disgrace. Come to where God promises to be, where He extends His mercy, where His atonement is applied to you, in the sprinkling of His blood, which cries out a better word than the blood of Abel. Come to the Temple made without hands, torn down by men, but rebuilt by God on the third day. Receive in your mouths the embodiment of the temple, and in that Holy Communion become the Temple of His Holy Spirit and go home justified.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Brass tacks Bible study

 CPH did some market research a while back and the overwhelming response from LCMS pastors was "more Gottesdienst", wait, not that, it was: "more practical, how to studies." At any rate, we Gottesdienst editors do try to keep busy producing resources in various venues, and when we get the nod from the official folks in St. Louis all the better. The new series from CPH is aimed at the Bible Class-going lay person and focuses on "Five Things You Can Do" in a specific area of the Christian life: understand the Bible better, get more out of church, etc. The result is a series of 96 pages books with five chapters plus introduction and conclusion. They are suitable for either Bible Studies or simply to read.

I was assigned what was perhaps the most general topic "how to lead a Jesus-centered life." I can't speak for the other authors, but the editor(s) assigned to me were very good about letting me write the book as I wanted. I hope it can be of use to you: check it out here.


Antinomians have always been and always will be with us...

I'm currently working on editing the translation of Gerhard's locus On the Gospel. Here is a fantastic quotation regarding the relationship between repentance and the Gospel. And here is a link to the schedule of upcoming volumes and how to order them at 30% off the cover price.

Thus although the message of the Gospel is universal, only those who believe in Christ become active sharers of the goods promised and offered in the Gospel; serious contrition comes before this faith and its handmaid is good works. Thus they who are influenced by no feeling and hatred of sin but go on in sin securely and yet still have the conviction that the Gospel promises belong to them commit a kind of sacrilege. About these someone might, and not without merit, declare that the Gospel is preached as a witness against them. This is a very shameful abuse of the Gospel in these last times of the world. Alas! This attitude is so strong that almost all hope for a remedy has been removed, although all Scripture declares the Gospel message pertains only to those who experience true repentance, who grieve steadfastly over their sins, and seek anxiously to be freed from them “Those who are well have no need for a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Matt. 9:12 and Mark 2:17. Luke 5:31). “The poor have the Gospel preached to them” (Matt. 11:5) “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Thus John the Baptist, Christ, and the apostles always gave the message of repentance before they preached the Gospel. Christ does not enter into people’s hearts through the grace of the Gospel unless John first prepares the way for Him through repentance. God does not pour out the oil of His mercy except into a contrite vessel.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Luther's Preaching

The Rev. Dr. Benjamin Mayes has a great essay here about Luther's preaching. The longer I stay in one place, the more I appreciate Luther's style...but that's another essay: just read Dr. Mayes' fine work for today.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Clergy Dominated Church?

The president-emeritus of the LCMS, the Rev. Gerald Kieschnick, has written a blogpost expressing his "perspective" positing that the LCMS has a culture that is unfriendly to the laity.  However, the title he chose, "A Clergy Dominated Church?" makes use of the question mark, which seems to invite answers to his "question."

We respectfully disagree with his premise that the LCMS is a church body in which the laity are dominated, denied a voice in the governing of the church, and treated with disrespect by her pastors - especially in the "direction the LCMS seems to be heading these days."

This is a not-so-subtle reference to the fact that the current synod president defeated the Rev. Kieschnick three years ago, and in some ways broke ranks with the style and substance of the past administration.  It is no surprise that this is a source of disagreement for the Rev. Kieschnick, and may well be especially frustrating given the landslide victory - what secular pundits might consider a "mandate" - in the Rev. Matthew Harrison's recent reelection.  Of course, the Rev. Kieschnick's minority view should be heard and considered, and he is entitled to his dissent.

He writes: "Clergy dominance was particularly evident at last week’s Synod convention, even more so than in the past. In worship services, on the podium and at microphones, black shirts and white collars were abundant."

We think the Rev. Kieschnick's reference to collars is misleading.  There may well have been more pastors wearing clerical attire, as this does seem to be a trend among younger pastors, but there were not more pastors than in the past.  Delegates to the convention are half clergy and half laity.  That formula has not changed.  And in fact, the representation of every congregation by a lay person belies the claim that pastors "dominate" the representative process.

Moreover, it should strike no-one as odd to see a lot of clergy at a church convention.  One would expect to see a good number of lawyers at a bar association meeting, a large proportion of medical doctors at a gathering of the AMA, or a lot of really big tall men at a meeting of the NBA player's union.  This is not a conspiracy - it reflects the reality that in the LCMS, all pastors are members of synod.

He also mentions a dearth of laity in "positions of significant leadership in our church body. That includes, for example, university presidents, significant missionary supervisors, and other leadership positions at the national level."  Of course, the Rev. Kieschnick spent several terms as synod president, as well as previous service as a district president.  Neither of those positions is open to laypeople.  Were the bylaws changed with the new administration to restrict the roles of the laity?  The Council of Presidents is certainly the single most powerful body in the LCMS - and laymen and laywomen are not permitted to serve on this council.  Was the Rev. Kieschnick lobbying for lay membership in the COP when he was a member?

He writes: "Furthermore, there’s a discernible aloofness and even pharisaical demeanor exhibited by some pastors, obvious during worship services and in pastoral ministry functions as well. Intentionally or unintentionally, this telegraphs a 'holier than thou' attitude in both work and worship."

He provides no examples of this sinful and disgraceful attitude.  We do not believe such sweeping generalizations about pastors are particularly helpful.  The strong consensus of delegates and attendees who were at the convention is quite at odds with his description.  To the contrary, there seemed to be a great deal of concord and  harmony at this convention.  We disagree with his conclusion and would not describe our pastors to be "aloof."  To be sure, as with any other group of people, there is a bell curve of any and all human traits, good and bad.  The vast majority of parish pastors are not snobs.  They do not enjoy six figure salaries, big expense accounts, finely tailored suits, expensive cars, and palatial mansions to live in.  Indeed, most parish pastors are endowed with every manner of human sin and frailty.  They often live and work in rather humble circumstances, and relate to the average layperson in a much closer and less aloof manner than those who occupy lofty bureaucratic positions.  And we do believe this observation - which is admittedly anecdotal - is a very good argument for ordained presbyters in the LCMS who hold bureaucratic offices to serve a parish in some capacity, perhaps as an associate pastor, such as the example set by the Rev. Harrison.  We do believe it is very easy for men to lose touch with how ordinary people live when they are treated like princes of the church.  Continued service as a parish pastor is a humbling and grounding opportunity for service.

As to the conclusion that the LCMS is a "clergy dominated" church body, we should consider the following:
  • Most parish pastors are overseen not only by an ordained (but for all practical purposes laicized) district president, who holds an enormous amount of power over him), but they are also overseen by a parochial board of elders, almost exclusively composed of laymen (and in some cases, laywomen).
  • The LCMS holds the laity in such high regard as to permit them to speak the words of institution over bread and wine and to preach from the pulpit - a practice unheard of in other historic Catholic communions (not to mention prohibited by our own confessional documents, to which all pastors and almost no laypeople are bound by oath) - but one that was approved by synod conventions comprised of 50% lay delegates.
  • The LCMS considers schoolteachers and other lay church workers to be "ministers of religion."
  • The LCMS has "licensed lay deacons" - whereas among many of our partner churches around the world, deacons are ordained ministers.  Some LCMS congregations even vest laywomen in albs and stoles and position them at the altar during the Divine Service without censure.  
  • The LCMS has the confusing notion of "lay ministry," as well as outstanding lay training institutes, and many resources for lay people to study theology - both formally and informally.  Laypeople can, and are, fine instructors at our seminaries, professors at our universities, authors, and administrators.  Laypeople typically serve ably in nearly every capacity in our congregations, including those who teach Sunday school, and those who serve on, and chair, boards and committees.
  • It should also be noted that recent changes in the synod's structure to consolidate a great deal of authority at the presidential level (thus making synod more hierarchical and less democratic) were conceived and implemented with the encouragement and leadership of then-synod-president the Rev. Kieschnick and his administration.
While we respect former president Kieschnick's right to his own perspective on the governance of our church body, we believe he could not be more wrong.

One of the issues that has come to fore of late (including at the recent convention) is the scandal of the many pastors who were removed from their congregations for unscriptural reasons and who languish on CRM status.  These men, in most cases, were removed by laypeople who oversee them on boards of elders, church councils, or voters assemblies.  In those cases of unscriptural removal from office, the "clergy dominated church" could be interpreted to mean that the clergy is being dominated.

The word "dominate" finds its roots in the Latin word Dominus - which is a title that is applied to our Lord Jesus Christ.  Rather than pit "missionals" against "confessionals"; or "conservatives" against "liberals"; or pastors against laypeople, we should find ways to reconcile, to dialogue, to find mutual respect among all of the Church's royal priesthood - which includes pastors and laypeople.  We should encourage the preachers of the Word, our shepherds, to be shepherds - not hirelings or fence-sitters.  And we should encourage our hearers of the word, our laity, to bring their gifts and talents to the table in areas where they provide valuable expertise lacking by our clergy.  We most definitely should not encourage laypeople to usurp offices to which they have not been called and ordained.

Instead of arguing over domination by clergy over the laity, or domination by the laity over the clergy, we should all humbly submit to our Dominus, the Lord of the Church, our Great High Priest, who has come to serve and to save.