Friday, December 25, 2015


When the angel came in unto Mary, she was troubled: she thought that something was wrong. And why shouldn’t she? Who has ever seen an angel? Not many. In all the history of the world, not many. And who has ever heard an angel speak? Only few. And why should this humble maiden in her little dark-corner room in the little-known northern town of Nazareth be one of them? Does it not seem as though something is out of place here? As though something is not right? So Mary was troubled. She thought something was wrong.

But the angel said unto her, Fear not. As if to say, No, Mary, nothing is wrong. Everything is right. Nothing is darkness. Everything is light.

For you shall conceive in your womb and bear a son, and shall his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High. What seems to you to be so troubling and what is actually the case are not the same thing. Do not be deceived. You are troubled, but you should not be troubled. Fear not, Mary.

When Mary and Joseph then came to Bethlehem and found no room in the inn, and were therefore constrained to choose a rude stall for the birth of her son, they were both likely very troubled: they likely thought that something was terribly wrong. And why shouldn’t they think that? The decree from Caesar Augustus came at the worst possible time for them, when she was due to deliver her Child, and was in no condition to travel down to Bethlehem. And when they arrived, they found that there was no room for them in the inn, no doubt because there were many that were of the house and lineage of David who also had to come to Bethlehem. The village and its one-horse inn would not be sufficient to handle so many visitors, to say nothing of an expectant mother about to be delivered of her child. So it was on that dark and frantic night, that everything seemed so very wrong.

But no, Mary and Joseph, the truth is that nothing is wrong. Everything is right. Nothing is darkness. Everything is light. 

For this is the story of your salvation, and of the salvation of all the world. So it was that Mary gave birth to her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger. What seems to be an occasion so worthy of dread and foreboding is actually an occasion for the welling up of abiding and eternal joy. O Mary! O Joseph! If you are troubled this night, your fears are unfounded. For God is with you. Immanuel has come.  And he has come in exactly the way he meant to come, shrouded in humility and meekness, so that he might share with us in all our troubles and turn them all for good. Do not be deceived about this. Fear not, Mary and Joseph.

When the shepherds saw the angel of the Lord come upon them, and the glory of the Lord shining round about them, they were sore afraid: they, too, thought that something was wrong. For in this case, it was not only the appearance of an angel that was startling, but the glory of the Lord God Almighty shining round about them. Who ever sees such things? They were sore afraid! Who wouldn’t be? But the angel said unto them, Fear not. For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people; for unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord.

As if to say, No, dear shepherds, nothing is wrong. Everything is right. Nothing is darkness. Everything is light.

For the glory of the Lord is revealed this day for you, for your salvation and rescue. Today is not a day to be afraid, but a day to rejoice. You, simple and ordinary shepherds, who might be able to defend your sheep against natural predators, but who have no means of defense against the glory of God, need not, nevertheless, be afraid: do not be deceived by what see here, for this angel comes not to condemn or punish, but with good news, tremendous news, overwhelmingly marvelous news: your Savior has arrived, your Defender and Shield, your Rock and your Buckler, and the Horn of your salvation. God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay! Fear not, good shepherds!

When those shepherds then heard and saw a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men, they were likely even more troubled, confused, and still at least somewhat afraid, notwithstanding the angel’s comforting reassurance that they need not fear. They, seeing this countryside of heavenly troops all ready for battle—for that is what a host is--they likely thought that something was dreadfully wrong. Who sees such things? Who is witness to such majesty? Who can abide the day of his coming? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap. Our God is a consuming fire. And here, before these poor simple shepherds was a multitude of the heavenly army of angels, all standing before them.

But the angels’ words to them were as if to say unto them, No, dear shepherds, nothing is wrong. Everything is right. Nothing is darkness. Everything is light.

For the meaning of this Child’s birth to you, o shepherds, is this: the highest and greatest glory of God is his coming, here and now, to rescue his poor people from sin, death, and hell. There is no enmity between God and man today, there is no need for these heavenly soldiers to fight (and who could stand a chance to survive against them?); the heavenly armies are not here to make war today, but to announce peace! Peace! Good will toward men! Be not deceived! Heaven does not fight you today! Heaven embraces you!

So therefore, dearly beloved in the Christ-Child, whenever you are troubled, whenever there is sorrow, or darkness, or fretting, or dread, or worry, or regret, or the weight of sin and guilt, or the awareness of mortality, or the approach of death, or whatever may becloud your mind: whenever you are troubled, you will also think that something is wrong. And why shouldn’t you? You can surely recite all the things in your life that you could wish otherwise, the things that are and that should not be, the things that for so many people can so easily be said to bring to ruin this time of year—Christmas—that is supposed to be so happy. Should you not be troubled?

But the angel says also unto you, this day: Fear not. As if to say, No, my dear ones, nothing is wrong. Everything is right. Nothing is darkness. Everything is light.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord. Behold this tiny Child. Consider the manner of his coming: as a newborn infant, so very small, who today has such tiny hands and feet, who today requires the bosom of his mother for comfort, and the swaddling of her wrap for warmth. Consider this wondrous coming: it seemed at first to be so full of fear and foreboding for his mother, for Joseph, and for the shepherds, but it was—o joy!—nothing of the kind. For how can such a tiny child be frightening to anyone? See him in the manger, beloved:  see, there is nothing to fear here.

For the people of the Gospel this was a time to rejoice and be exceeding glad. So learn from this today, his dear children: learn to lay aside your fears, and your dread, and your worry, and even your sorrow and regret. Learn from this not to trust what you sense, or fear, or dread. Do not let the devil’s tricks deceive you into worry, that would rob you of rejoicing and gladness. Whoever you are, whatever your circumstances, your Christmas has not been ruined. Your Christmas cannot be ruined, not now, not ever.

For nothing is wrong. Everything is right. Nothing is darkness. Everything is light. For Christ, the Savior of the world, is born for you this night.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Offensive to Satanists

By Larry Beane

Someone was complaining about a cartoon that featured the devil. It was "offensive to Satanists."

Being always eager to help, I put forth the following proposal:

To bring Satanists into the 'offended narrative' we really need some better marketing. We should refer to them as "Satanist Americans" and they need an acronym. I'm thinking something like the "Satanic, Diabolical, Trans-Demonic, and Evil-Questioning community" (SDTE).

Now next, we need a hashtag campaign. We could go with a classic motif: #SympathyForTheDevil, although Millennials may not get the Rolling Stones cultural reference. I kind of like #EvilIsGood, as it works as a kind of neo-Orwellian play on a "War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength" kind of vibe.

That should do it. ;-)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Out of the barn

The Christmas issue of Gottesdienst is coming to a mailbox near you; unless, that is, you have not subscribed. If that is the case, you should correct the matter at once, so we can send you  this stellar issue.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Should Women Fight?

The D.O.D.'s sad announcement yesterday reminded me that the CTCR of the LCMS is considering the question of whether or not it is immoral for a government to place women into combat. It clearly is immoral even though there isn't a single Bible passage that spells it out in black and white. It is clearly immoral and confusing of the order of creation even though  sometimes women must do what men fail to do (Jael, Deborah, Zipporah) or refuse to do. A woman may have to fight to defend her home and children. That is not the question that should be put the CTCR. In emergencies women may be forced to fight. But that is not what the D.O.D. is advocating. The D.O.D. has said there will be no restrictions for women anywhere in the military. They will be asked to suffer and die for the sake of their fathers, brothers, and sons. That is wrong.  This action also further erodes our ability to recognize what is unique and glorious about femininity. Men aren't being forced to act as women. Women are being forced to act like men. I think our entire military and culture is becoming androgynous to our peril. What is lost is the good and necessary female side of culture and society and I suspect that we will degrade past the point of Sodom very soon if we haven't already. 

The Bible makes the distinction between men and women based on the simple reality that God made us male and female. The distinct duties of husband and wife as laid out by St. Paul also help us see the difference. 

This reminded me of an excellent response a few months ago by Pastor Paul Harris (who apparently boasts a ranger tab!) of Trinity Lutheran Church in Austin. I am copying the whole thing below, but here is a link to his blog so that you can find more: St. Antony's Cave

“These are Men Who Jump and Die”

For weeks, maybe months, in 1966 while my mom was shopping for groceries I was at the soda fountain in the Muir’s drug store with my father listening as Barry Saddler sang the “Ballad of the Green Berets.” One of the lines is “These are men who jump and die.” But the times are a changing. Now you have to sing, “These are men and women who jump and die.”
Have you noticed that how since the First Gulf War everyone from politicians to pundits to journalists go out of their way to refer to the men and women who are fighting for us?
The gross “unfairness” that only men get to sacrifice their body, health, and life to defend their country – never mind that only women get to do the same in regard to raising up the next generation – was first addressed in the 80s when President Reagan changed the physical fitness standards. The military adopted a double standard for men and for women. This changed somewhat in 2012. There would be one standard for combat arms units and if women could meet that they could serve in most areas. Now this past week 2 women graduated from U.S. Army Ranger School.
Thirty-nine years ago this week, I graduated from Ranger School. I would like to think that it was harder than and no women could have done it. But in my class 98/208 (47%) were awarded the Ranger tab. In last week’s graduating class 94/381 men (25%) received it, and 2/19 women (10%). So perhaps their class was harder. Mine was longer 67 days; theirs 62 days. However, the 2 women took 4 months to finish being “recycled” several times. Don’t think that makes them wimps. Everyone in my Ranger class dreaded the thought of being recycled. I failed a patrol by 3/10 of a percent and could have been recycled through the Mountain Phase, but was allowed to go on to the Jungle Phase.
But the issue is not whether or not a woman can do all the requirements. The issue is should they? When my son wrestled in high school, I told him he should not and would not wrestle a girl even if that meant forfeiting and his team losing. It was not that he might lose to a girl, but that he might win, and something much bigger would have been lost.
Ashley’s War is a 2015 book about the U.S. Army’s secret program in 2010 to place female soldiers with Ranger and Special Forces units to talk and search Muslim women and children. I took away two things from this book. First, even today, a woman dying unnerves everyone more than a man dying does, and this is a good thing. Second, and here I paint with a very wide brush, the millennial male thinks it’s a matter of fairness and so believes he is championing the oppressed when he encourages women to go into combat roles. They equate being able to do something with the right to do it.
ISIS (and the Viet Cong before them and the Nazis before them) enlists children to fight. Some are very good. Just because they can doesn’t mean they should. The millennials – at least in this book – think they are forward thinking when they cheer their wife, their girlfriend, their sister on to sweat, suffer, and sacrifice like a man. I think they are being backward.  A mark of an advanced society is women and children NOT going to war. The mark of an oppressive, domineering, and desperate society is sending them.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Unintended Consequences

By Larry Beane

I don't know if this article from the Twin Cities Pioneer Press ("Concordia student loses ministry post over lesbian relationship") is true or not.

I've learned to be skeptical of the press, having had many friends misquoted and misrepresented by the mainstream media over the years.  So, I hope that what this article says concerning the campus pastor and university president is untrue.  And that truly is the best construction.

It seems that a Concordia University - St. Paul student, Nikki Hagan - according to her own website - was asked to resign from the "908 Chapel Board", a "student group on campus that leads worship service on Wednesday nights" because she "was dating a female."

According to the Pioneer Press piece, the campus pastor, the Rev. Tom Gundermann (LCMS) "advised the 908 president to take a wait-and-see response and to take no action" and that "he did not want her removed."  Also according to the article, the university president, the Rev. Dr. Thomas Ries (LCMS) "said she should not have had to leave her position."

Per Miss Hagan's website:
"We asked for a public apology and clarification and received nothing. We asked for policy changes, and it was brushed to the side. We asked for an LGBT group on campus, a group for queer students and allies to feel comfortable and converse. The President suggested that instead we start a group that is open to everyone and that we should have an advisor who is 'for same sex relationships' and an advisor who is 'against same sex relationships.' We were not too happy about that response."
Again, I hope this is a misunderstanding, and that Dr. Ries never said anything of the sort.  I am very skeptical, as this just doesn't sound like something an LCMS clergyman would recommend: an advisor to counsel students who favors what Holy Scripture deems sinful - under the auspices of an institution of the Church.  

The Pioneer Press adds: 
"Hagan wants sexual preference included in the university's nondiscrimination policy.... Ries said he supports the idea, but he's uncertain about the legal implications of such a move and said it would require input from the church.... Ries said he wants to establish a student support group for LGBT people and their allies."
I would imagine Dr. Ries is about to get some "input from the Church."

Miss Hagan writes:
"We are now at the point that we are taking it into our own hands. With the help of many students, faculty, and staff at CSP we are ready to start taking the steps to gain positive change in the University."
If her characterization of Dr. Ries's response is in fact correct, this will not likely end well for him, even as the lukewarm University of Missouri president was hoist by his own petard in trying to appease the increasingly strident, intolerant, and outrageous demands of politically-correct students. President Ries and the administration will have to choose whether to stand with Christ and the Church, or stand with what is popular in the eyes of the world.

Once again, I am skeptical of Miss Hagan's report (perhaps she is honestly mistaken), because LCMS pastors are bound by their ordination vows to scripture and to the Lutheran confessions - neither of which support the currently-popular secular ethics concerning human sexuality.

In fact, the best construction placed upon this entire episode is the Law of Unintended Consequences.  I don't believe that the Reverends Gundermann and Ries have decided to turn their backs on Christ, the scriptures, and their ordination vows. I pray there is a reasonable explanation that will vindicate them, because the implications of this report being accurate are disturbing.  However, the fact that students are involved in planning and/or leading worship services (a common practice in LCMS universities and high schools) is something that has now come back to bite them.

Jesus established the vocation of pastor to (among other things) lead public worship. Article 14 of the Augsburg Confession is very clear about the role of the ordained clergy in worship.  Just as God has provided specialized vocations in many human endeavors, such as administration, medical care, security, and teaching, He has given us men to lead worship, to preach, teach, and administer sacraments. Does President Ries cede his important administrative duties to undergraduates on certain days of the week?  Does the CSP Board of Directors allow students to write critical policies and set budgets?  Are students allowed to perform urgent medical procedures on some occasions?  Represent the university in delicate court cases?  Police the campus?  Chair the English Department?  But it seems that schools are ever eager to recruit students to ply the pastor's vocation (the one and only one office established by our Lord Himself, a vocation with eternal ramifications) by conducting worship services.

And in the current climate on college campuses that opposes Christianity and seeks to overturn the authority of scripture, is allowing students to oversee ceremonies - the chief purpose of which is to "teach the people" (AC 24:3) - wise?  Is it prudent or responsible to allow a teenager to carry out this vocation by managing worship - especially given that her understanding sexuality is admittedly at odds from that which taught and confessed by the Church and the Synod?  If the article is correct, the majority of lay people in our synod's churches also hold a different opinion than the Bible and the Confessions in matters of sexuality:
"Synod members are divided on sexuality issues. According to surveys by the Pew Research Center last year, 56 percent said homosexuality should be accepted, while 31 percent said it should be discouraged. Forty-five percent said they support same-sex marriage, while 48 percent said they oppose it."
If this is indeed the case, why would pastors hand over responsibility for worship to the laity, let alone to students who are barely out of high school, who are the demographic most opposed to the Church's confession by virtue of the popular culture?  Our blessed Lord exhorts us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves, not vice versa.

For who is more equipped to proclaim Law and Gospel to a lost generation?  Who better to call all of us poor, miserable sinners to repentance, and to forgive us when we do in response to the rightly-divided Word of God?  Who better to stand as steadfast catechists and loving heralds of a More Excellent Way than the men whom the Holy Spirit has explicitly called to do just that - especially in these confused and confusing postmodern times?  If nothing else, shouldn't an institution of higher learning at least acknowledge the pastors' Master's degrees and seminary training to be of value in the endeavor of spiritual care and theology?

Just what exactly is wrong with the pastor leading chapel services?

If it is simply too much work, why not have ordained staff rotate the worship responsibilities?  Do the ordained clergy on campus show spiritual leadership by wearing the uniform of their holy office as a confession of their faith and testimony to their calling, or do they just try to blend in comfortably with everyone else?

Why have ordained clergy in these roles at all if they are not going to be shepherds?

Why have we shot ourselves in the foot this way, squandering the Holy Spirit's gifts?  Is it possible that there is value in holding to tradition, that "democracy of the dead", even when we think our radical new ideas are better?  Are we that afraid to stand in contrast to the world?  How will our schools and institutions fare when they are forced to choose between being institutions of the world, with all its benefits, prestige, and money, versus being institutions of the Church, while being scorned, marginalized, and hated?

In our tragic human sojourn in this fallen world, have we not yet learned the unintended consequences of asking "Did God actually say...?"

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Wedding archives (by request)

We finally got around to posting most of the material in our wedding issue of Gottesdienst, published back in 2003. You can browse and see them in the archives section of our regular website.

Speaking of our (quarterly) print edition (since 1992), the Christmas issue is about to go to print, so now would be a good time to subscribe. Only $15 for a year, or $25 for two years.

Monday, November 16, 2015

What a Treasure!

By William Weedon

[Note: this is a guest review originally posted here.]

Matthew Carver (he of the Walther Hymnal and the Herberger goodies) shared with me his latest: Saints Maurice and Catherine DAILY LECTIONARY.

That is, the complete set of office readings indicated in the Cantica sacra of the (Lutheran) Magdeburg Cathedral, 1613. The Cantica sacra is a work of some wonder, providing complete instructions for ALL the daily services (Offices and Mass) at the cathedral (Mass was every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, but also any saint day or festival; the daily office was, well, DAILY). But the readings are only indicated in the work.

Here, Matt has put them all together in a single volume, using the majestic language of the Authorized Version. Sunday nocturnes for Matins (Vigils), and then readings for each Lauds (Matins) and Vespers on week days, and propers for the saints days. If you put this volume together with the Brotherhood Prayer Book you have a complete and thoroughly Lutheran breviary. Matt points out how the readings largely fit with pre-Reformation schemes, but are expanded. The Apocrypha is not neglected. There are weekday readings in the later Trinity season for Judith, Tobit, and 1 & 2 Maccabees. It's a volume I recommend highly to anyone who wants to "let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly" and particularly to any who regularly use the Brotherhood Prayer Book.

You can find it here!

Father Weedon is the Director of Worship for the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod and the Chaplain of the LCMS International Center

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Gottesdienst Calendar

Our annual liturgical calendar comes out soon in the print edition for Christmas, as it does every year, and we are pleased also to announce that the 2016 calendar is also available online. Not a subscriber yet? Take care of that by clicking here, in time for that Christmas issue which is soon to go to print.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Rev. Lincoln Winter: Should I Go on Sinning?

There is a really helpful post over at Musings of a Country Parson.

Follow the link or read below:

Yesterday in Bible Class we were talking about providence and sin. On the one hand, God can use anything – even the works of Satan – for his own glory. (Cf. John 11:51) And yet, we can not say that sin is ever a good thing. We can see in others the redemption God gives from sin, and the freedom that the Gospel offers for those who are sinning. But we dare never think that this makes sin a good thing – especially in our own lives.

There is always the temptation to misunderstand what Paul means in 1 Timothy: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” Correctly understood, Paul is, I believe, making a liturgical confession. This is not just Paul speaking. It is a “Saying”. That is, it is a known formula. If I were guessing, I would say it is likely Baptismal. Unless one is willing to admit “I am the chief of sinners, and Jesus came to save me from my sins” salvation can not be given. That confession, made in the context of Baptism, is nothing more than what we say today in the Baptismal rite, and in the various rites of confession.

However, there is a much more dangerous interpretation of this verse that actually leads us away from Christ, while claiming to be super cross-focused. It goes something like this: “Look at how bad a sinner Paul was, and yet he was an apostle. Therefore since I am also a super-bad sinner, I am almost as qualified as Saint Paul, and certainly more qualified than others to speak of the meaning of the cross.” I have seen this most often used among those who, once upon a time, were popular teachers in the church, but have fallen into some sort of great shame and vice, which then became public. One might call this “Disgraced Televangelist Syndrome.” (These days, they are more likely to be internet stars, but you get the idea.) The ‘televangelist’, riding a wave of popularity, is suddenly caught in some great sin (For the wealthy, it is usually embezzlement. For the merely popular, adultery.) After a short time, they re-emerge, telling us that before (ironically when they were fit for ministry), they only thought they understood the Gospel. But now that they are disqualified from teaching in the church, they have so much deeper an understanding of the cross, they now must shout it from the rooftops (or on TV or in books, with links to purchase their product available at the end of the article/show, etc.)

Sometimes, they will even go so far as to say that their sin was actually good for them, since they now understand the Gospel better. And that is how you can tell they are the same false prophet they were before, when they damaged the church with their scandalous sin. Even if, in all other respects, they are faithful, they are peddling a damnable lie. You see, Satan in the garden did not simply invent some new heresy out of whole cloth. He twisted the Word of God. His lies always have a bit of truth in them. That’s what makes them believable. To Adam and Eve, the lie was this: Your sin will actually be a good thing! You will understand good and evil so much better if you sin.

This is the exact same thing we are told by the ‘reformed disgraced televangelist’. His sin was a good thing. He is much better prepared to speak of Jesus than he was. (With obvious unspoken implication “And also better than your own pastor who does not have great and shameful vices like mine.”)

We may say, “I am forgiven by the grace of God from my sins. It is an amazing thing to be forgiven.” We may say of others, “See how the grace of God works through him, who once was a sinner.” We may say of God’s providence, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” But if we move toward saying, “The sins which I commit have been good for me,” then we have abandoned the truth for a lie. We are only ever saved in spite of our sin. Sin damns us. And we must never speak as if it is any other way. It is not a way to more properly understand the cross. And, perhaps it is partly because of this very tendency among the ‘reformed disgraced televangelist’ that scripture says such men are not to again teach the church. Not because their sin can not be forgiven. But because being returned to a place of authority in the church carries too much risk to their own soul.

So what do we do with the skilled, but disgraced televangelist? Encourage him to hear and learn God’s Word, but recognize that it is no longer given to him to teach. If that’s not clear to him, we can point especially to the words of Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians 9. “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” We want those words to be godly advice for our brother, not prophecy.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Ribbons for the Compact Treasury of Daily Prayer

By Larry Beane

The Treasury of Daily Prayer is a helpful resource for pastors and laity; for groups, families, and individuals to enjoy the blessings of the disciplined prayer life offered by the Daily Office.  The TDP includes breviary readings from Holy Scripture (with emphasis on the Psalms), and devotional writings from the range of the Church Catholic, from the early fathers, through the Reformation and the Lutheran Confessions, to meditations written by modern saints of the church - mainly from our Lutheran tradition.

The original TDP came with standardized ribbons and a page explaining a suggested way to make use of them.

One of the few downsides of the original TDP is its size.  So a user-friendly smaller-sized compact leather edition came out.  However, this one lacks the ribbons as well as the page explaining how to use them.  I'm not sure how one can really use the TDP without some kind of marking system, perhaps sticky flags (which can sometimes damage the print).

Well, my dear wife Grace came to the rescue.

She bought materials and designed a custom set of ribbons that fits perfectly into the spine of the smaller-sized TDP.  She sewed it together, trimmed the ribbons, and treated the edges to prevent fraying.  Upon request, she made one for another member of my parish.

I asked if she would consider making it available to others for a small charge.  She graciously (see what I did there?) agreed to make them and sell them for $5.00, shipping included.  So if you would like one, please e-mail Grace at

A Quick Question...

With the steady increase in bivocational ministry, why is it that worker-priests and their congregations are denied the franchise in synod elections simply because their pastors have to work and are unable to attend their district conventions?

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Oktoberfest Video

Here goes. The entire video collection (four videoa) of this year's Oktoberfest in Kewanee has been provided by Mr. Gene Wilken, to whom we owe a debt of gratitude. The speaker was Fr. Dr. D. Richard Stuckwisch, and his topic was the Eucharistic Prayer. The videos are now published in YouTube, but I'm not sure they will be available at this link, because it's under another account. But I have marked them as "public" so I expect it will work. I hope so.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Straw Man at Worship

By Larry Beane

Typically, anti-traditionalist Lutherans don't cite, study or teach the Book of Concord very often. But one passage that is sometimes trotted out as an indictment of traditionalists (who retain the ceremonies of the pre-Reformation western Mass and the customary liturgical vestments) is from the Smalcald Articles, from the article concerning the church:
Its holiness does not consist of surplices, tonsures, albs, or other ceremonies of theirs which they have invented over and above the Holy Scriptures, but it consists of the Word of God and true faith. [SA 3:12:3]
Some might be tempted to interpret this passage to be Luther's (and thus the Lutheran Church's) condemnation of vestments and ceremony.  Similarly, some might be tempted to ascribe to us a belief condemned by Luther, namely that the holiness of the church "consist[s] of" (German: "steht in"; Latin: "consistit in") traditional vestments and ceremony.

First of all, I have never heard any traditionalist liturgical Lutheran argue that vestments and human ceremonies are necessary for salvation, nor that the holiness of the church consists of such externals.  This is a straw man. Secondly, Luther's statement is made within the context of what defines the Church.  As opposed to the Roman bureaucracy and their arbitrary commands, Luther writes in the previous paragraph:
[T]hank God, a seven-year-old child knows what the church is, namely, holy believers and sheep who hear the voice of their Shepherd. [SA 3:12:2]
The essence of the church is Christ, the Shepherd, the Word of God speaking to His gathered sheep in Word and Sacrament.  But along with essentials come some "benessentials" - such as a church building in which to meet, furniture, seats in which to sit, music and musicians to sing the praise of God, lighted "exit" signs, published service times, places to park cars, air conditioning, heating, indoor plumbing, and other helpful luxuries that serve the kingdom of God.

Nobody claims that such matters are essential for the Church, nor does the holiness of the church consist in them.  Moreover, one can logically deduce from Luther that the holiness of the church does not consist in the lack of vestments and ceremonies or the lack of clerical attire, nor does it consist in roving joking and emoting preachers, cup holders, a sound stage, rock music, dancing girls, big screens, praise bands, nor the imitation of the ceremonies of the radical reformation, of sects, and of the secular world.

In fact, the Lutheran confessions explain that the genuinely Lutheran perspective is to retain the bene esse of human traditions and ceremonies - not because they justify us, are necessary for salvation, or merit God's favor, but because they are simply beneficial to good order.  This is found all throughout the Book of Concord, such as AC 15:
With regard to church usages that have been established by men, it is taught among us that those usages are to be observed which may be observed without sin and which contribute to peace and good order in the church, among them being certain holy days, festivals, and the like. [AC 15:1 German]
The text goes on to explain the valid reasons why Lutherans have not retained a small number of pre-Reformation rites, and how we do make use of the vast majority of the old rites and ceremonies that we have retained:
Yet we accompany these observances with instruction so that consciences may not be burdened by the notion that such things are necessary for salvation.  Moreover it is taught that all ordinances and traditions instituted by men for the purpose of propitiating God and earning grace are contrary to the Gospel and the teaching about faith in Christ. [AC 15:2-3 German]
Article 24 of both the Augsburg Confession and its Apology state quite bluntly that with few exceptions, we Lutherans retain the ancient rites of the pre-Reformation Church, and the that any suggestion to the contrary is a lie, and a cause of righteously indignant anger and scandal among us Lutherans:

Our churches are falsely accused of abolishing the Mass.  Actually, the Mass is retained among us and is celebrated with the greatest reverence. [AC 24:1 Latin]
To begin with, we must repeat the prefatory statement that we do not abolish the Mass but religiously keep and defend it.  In our churches Mass is celebrated every Sunday and on other festivals, when the sacrament is offered to those who wish for it after they have been examined and absolved.  We keep traditional liturgical forms, such as the order of the lessons, prayers, vestments, etc. [Ap 24:1]
Should we, as one proponent of Entertainment Worship suggested, simply consider this part of the text to be "no longer applicable"?  Do we treat the Book of Concord the way the ELCA treats Scripture and simply toss that which we don't like?  Should we convert from being a church body that submits to the confessions (quia) into one that treats the Book of Concord like a cafeteria line (quatenus)?

Furthermore, one could only imagine the cries of "foul!" if the same use of the Smalcald Articles passage about vestments and ceremonies were used against anti-traditionalists, and we accused them of confessing that the essentials of the church and the church's holiness consist of anti-traditional rites and ceremonies, and that salvation were dependent upon the pastor wearing khakis and polos, the use of screens and powerpoint, entertainments, skits, gimmicks, pop music, and all of the trappings one sometimes sees in churches who are members of synod and are publicly committed to the Book of Concord.

One can also see the great wisdom in the confession that we retain the old rites out of good order and decorum, as we have seen nothing but infighting, chaos, confusion, and disunity - not to mention gross biblical illiteracy and a divorce from our historic confessions - as a result of many of our churches and pastors disregarding their own confessions and vows and adopting alien rites, vestments, and ceremonies into the church.  They have opened Pandora's Box and brought us ignorance and discord - the very opposite of the desire of the reformers that the people know the Word of God and the antithesis of the word "Concordia."
[T]he chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ. [AC 24:3 German]
[N]othing has been received among us, in doctrine or in ceremonies, that is contrary to Scripture or the church catholic. [AC Conclusion 5]

Thursday, October 22, 2015

"Style Doesn't Matter" or "In the Spirit of Martin Luther..."

By Larry Beane

One of the frequent assertions of the apologists of non-traditional worship is that "style doesn't matter."  Or put another way, if the words speak the truth, the tune used is completely irrelevant.  There is also a common argument that many praise songs that are not accepted by traditionalists are actually paraphrases of the very texts traditionalists love.

It is very true that Luther used paraphrases of scripture and the liturgy.  Our congregation will be using LSB DS5 (a version of the German Mass, which in LSB ironically has no German, but includes Greek) this Sunday for Reformation Day.  It is an ordo in which the ordinaries of the medieval Latin Mass were translated by Martin Luther into paraphrased German (and centuries later, into English), and set to sung melodies rather than the old Gregorian chants.

And so, according to the argument, this proves that style is of no consequence, as the order is intact (or at least paraphrased).  Any argument to the contrary is thus only based on subjective opinion, and may even be unloving, if not elevating man-made traditions to the level of the Gospel.  Or as Augsburg Confession 15 puts it, confessing that "such things are necessary for salvation."  So why not just embrace it, especially for the sake of unity. It's an adiaphoron anyway, right?

I have to admit that the argument has great appeal.  It sounds so logical.  And upon first blush, it is a viable path to unity for our fractured synod's "walk together."  So there is the temptation to entertain the thought of giving the masses Masses that are entertaining.  After all, by means of Word and Sacrament, butts in the pews means souls in heaven.  If I snap my fingers every five seconds and someone goes to hell, I do have to do something other than stop snapping my fingers and singing old hymns to save both butts here in time, and souls there in eternity.  Hence, let's do the Divine Service to the music of the Beatles!

Ask and you shall receive!  The Beatles Mass was written and is celebrated by a person using the adjective "Lutheran" to boot!

The author says:
In the spirit of Martin Luther who changed the words of pub tunes for use in church, this Beatles Mass seeks to get people excited (we had at least 8 people who don't typically attend who came to sing Beatles tunes), and enable those who don't read music to participate.
Awesome sauce!  Or should I say, "I dig a pony" and "Obla di, obla da"?

But as I walk down the Penny Lane of Christian liberty to the Strawberry Fields of unity, I am suddenly menaced by a Mean Mister Mustard lurking behind the tangerine trees and marmalade skies.  I just can't accept the premise that style doesn't matter, and the whole thing comes crashing down like a Grand Illusion (Styx Service, anyone?)

You can read the entire ordo, a paraphrase of the Western Mass, sung to the tunes of (as irrelevant as that is according to some) Lennon-McCartney songs.  You can also watch the videos of the entire worship service in action in the real world (rather than in the hermetic bubble of a theoretical discussion).  If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video might be worth a million.

Below is the consecration, the Verba Christi (or are they the Verba Lennoni McCarneyique?).

As much as I do enjoy the Beatles, I'm just not buying the premise that style doesn't matter.

To paraphrase Bob Seegar: "This kind of service ain't got the same class, give us that old time Western Mass."

V: Goo goo g' joob.
R: And also with you.

Note: None of the actual remaining Beatles were harmed in the making of this blogpost.

"Our churches are falsely accused of abolishing the Mass.  Actually, the Mass is retained among us and is celebrated with the greatest reverence."
~ AC 24:1

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Grasping at Straws

By Larry Beane

In response to the last post about the use of Entertainment Worship at the chapel of Concordia Seminary St. Louis, there have been some misleading assertions.

I've seen some of them.

One of them is a straw man fallacy that Gottesdienst asserts that "Organ good.  Guitar Bad" in corporate worship. 

Of course, the attempt here is to accuse Gottesdienst (or me) of being simple and not understanding nuance.  It should go without saying that there is a world of difference between Jimi Hendrix playing Purple Haze and Andres Segovia playing Bach's Bourrèe  (both of which most of us at Gottesdienst are old enough to appreciate).  In fact, I personally know a guy who smoked weed with Jimi Hendrix. Top that, you youthful hipsters!

Is it that much of a stretch to suggest that one of these two guitar arrangements might be objectively better than the other for perhaps a prelude for the Divine Service?

Speaking only for myself, I once invited the Rev. Fred Baue to play an accoustic guitar from the choir loft to accompany the congregational singing of the Introit.  It more closely resembled Segovia as opposed to Hendrix (I am supremely confident that Father Frederick could well keep up with Jimi if called upon to do so, though I don't believe he ever smoked with Jimi...).  We are also blessed to have a violinist from the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and a highly skilled brass player in the congregation, and they often accompany the organ during worship services.

There are also some situations in which poverty dictates that a guitar is the only way a congregation can afford musical accompaniment.  This is most certainly true.

But this is a very different thing than the modern suburban American phenomenon of guitar-based "praise bands" and musical settings more like Hendrix than Segovia.  A few years ago, a female "worship pastor" was invited to "lead worship" at a Texas District event.  While I'm sure she is a very devout person and extremely talented as a pop musician, this kind of performance and use of instrumentation tends to detract and distract from the service of Word and Sacrament - which is the focus of Lutheran worship.  As to enjoying the song in the car or at a show, that is an entirely different thing.  But does this belong in a Lutheran service of worship?  Is this compatible with our understanding of the German word from which our journal and blog take their names?

Moreover, there is a good reason the organ is central to our Lutheran tradition: it simulates the human voice.  It provides clear pitches, and encourages congregational participation, even leading in the singing of harmony.  Very few people have the vocal prowess to keep up with our friend the lady "worship pastor" in a congregational setting, and the arrangement is geared toward watching a performance from a stage rather than being led from the loft.

So I think the "Organ good, guitar bad" is kind of hamfisted.

Another critique is a kind of the Tu Quoque Fallacy, arguing that while CSL may be copying Protestant worship forms, CTS "cop[ies] Roman Catholicism in their piety."

Our Lutheran worship forms are similar to Roman Catholic worship forms not because we are "copying" them, but rather because we have a mutual DNA from the pre-Reformation Church and the ancient Church before the Great Schism.  If two cousins have the same cheekbones and eyes, it is not that they are copying each other, they are genetically related.

We have no common liturgical or historical heritage with the radical reformation, with the charismatic movement, or with the worship practices of the Word of Faith movement.  These forms and theologies are alien to us.

The accusation that confessional Lutherans are "too Catholic" is a canard that C.F.W. Walter himself disposed of, as do our Lutheran Confessions (see especially AC 24 and Ap 24 in which it is asserted that for Lutherans "the Mass is retained among us and celebrated with the greatest reverence" including "traditional liturgical forms" such as "the order of the lessons, prayers, vestments, etc.).  We do not keep these things because they earn salvation, but because they "contribute to peace and good order in the church" (AC15). They are important enough to be confessed throughout our Book of Concord to be an apt description of our worship life - the efforts of some to search for loopholes notwithstanding.  We voluntarily bind ourselves to these confessions.  The Chief Confession of the Lutheran Church says that our confession "is not contrary or opposed to that of the universal Christian church or even the Roman church (in so far as the latter's teaching is reflected in the writings of the Fathers)" and "nothing has been received among us, in doctrine or in ceremonies, that is contrary to Scripture or the church catholic."  In doctrine or in ceremonies.

Another straw man is the assertion that we are saying that no hymns from heterodox confessions may be used.  

One will search in vain to find anything of the sort written here.  Our hymnals certainly include hymnody from Protestantism.  This fact doesn't disqualify a hymn in and of itself.  But certainly care should be used - especially if emotion is being substituted as a kind-of pseudo-sacrament.  Such hymns are not helpful to a Lutheran congregation or chapel.

There is also the straw man that the problem is the song's repetition, and that as a paraphrase of Psalm 136, we must also condemn the Psalter.

Yes, that must be true.  I can just see the Christian News headline now: "GOTTESDIENST CONDEMNS BOOK OF PSALMS".

First of all, there is no problem with repetition.  Our Lord Himself (Matt 6:7) does not condemn repetition in prayer, but rather "vain repetitions" (KJV) or "heap[ing] up empty phrases" (ESV).  Psalm 136 includes a repetitive antiphon "For His steadfast love endures forever."  Antiphony is a common liturgical feature in traditional worship.  Our Introits are antiphonal.  In fact, we repeat the antiphon of Psalm 136 in the Common Service (Divine Service 3 in LSB) at each and every Divine Service. Even in Divine Services 1 and 2 one finds repetition in the Kyrie that shares its DNA with the Eastern Orthodox churches.

The problem is that the song "Forever" is not really a paraphrase of Psalm 136.  It includes a reference to Psalm 136.  It contains a hint of Psalm 136. That is not a paraphrase.  As with most "praise choruses" the meat of the Psalm is stripped out, the objective confession of God's work in history, space and time, the sacramental work of God, if you will, to which the antiphon responds, is eviscerated, leaving only the thin gruel of emotional babbling.

Compare the two.  Here is Psalm 136,  Here is "Forever." Any honest appraisal is going to expose the difference.  Only one of them could be described as "heaping up empty phrases", and it isn't the one inspired by the Holy Spirit.

The same critic argues that as long a song used in worship is "not teaching something false" it is okay.

I disagree.  I think that chanting page 395 out of the Chilton 1965 Mustang repair manual to Gregorian Tone 8 would not belong in a divine service of worship - its rectitude notwithstanding.  I think that singing "I Scream For Ice Cream" as a distribution hymn would be out of place, even if it contains no heresy.  If the standard is now "anything goes unless it's false," my how low the bar has fallen!  Nearly five centuries of a distinctly Lutheran tradition of excellence, theological rigor, and rich musicality is now reduced to "is it factually true?"

I've also heard it said that the video is only a "30-second clip."  

So?  I'm happy to report that there is no equivalent 30-second clip of anything of that sort at Concordia Theological Seminary.  It's logically the same objection as a man claiming that he only cheated on his wife for 30 seconds.  To quote one of our politicians: "What difference does it make?"

Others have argued that the style or melody is irrelevant.

I disagree.  Although technically you can sing "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" to the tune of "Come On Baby Light My Fire," I would question the appropriateness of such an arrangement in Lutheran worship.  Style does matter. It is not a matter of indifference or neutrality.

The complete fabrication that Martin Luther's hymns were bawdy tavern songs reworded with Christian themes is nonsense, perhaps grounded in ignorance of the musical term "bar."

I think the attempt to baptize modern Entertainment Worship and the CCM genre as compatible with the Lutheran theology of worship in Word and Sacrament is misguided.  I think it is based on the false premises that changing our worship will increase attendance (the Church Growth Movement has always been wedded to distancing congregations from traditional liturgical forms) by pleasing the world and making Christians look more like the world, and also on the misguided belief that traditional worship is "boring" or that we "don't get anything out of it."

The defensive attitude of many Entertainment Worship advocates in the LCMS reminds me of the line from a song by the Christian pop pioneer Larry Norman:

I ain't knocking the hymns
Just give me a song that has a beat
I ain't knocking the hymns
Just give me a song that moves my feet
I don't like none of those funeral marches
I ain't dead yet!

Perhaps this other chorus is the explanation for Mr. Norman's sentiment. I think it is.

For Lutherans to search out worship forms and hymnody out of a desire to be entertained or "get something out of it" is a very sad confession for Lutherans.  Because if we actually believe our Confessions, we get everything out of our traditional worship life together: "forgiveness, life, and salvation" in Christ.

Satis est.  Or it should be.

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Sample of Chapel Worship at CSL

We were treated to a band ensemble singing Chris Tomlin's "Forever" during this morning's chapel service, led by Seminarian Christian Jones on guitar.
Posted by Concordia Seminary on Thursday, October 15, 2015

Concordia Seminary - St. Louis posted this video of a recent chapel service at its facebook page on October 15.

The song being played by the band is "Forever" by Chris Tomlin. I'm not familiar with it, so I looked up the lyrics (below).

According to Wikipedia, Chris Tomlin is a "worship leader" at "Passion City Church."  Passion City Church doesn't list any confessional affiliation or doctrinal stance other than this single statement about what they believe about baptism:
"Baptism itself does not make us a believer in Christ, but rather a way of saying to the world that our relationship with Jesus, and our faith in Him, has already begun. Baptism symbolizes that our old self is gone (going under the water) and our new self has come (coming above the water) and that we have been made alive in Christ."  
There is a video archive of the church's sermons.

But back to "Forever," here are the lyrics, which some consider a paraphrase of Psalm 136:

"Forever" by Chris Tomlin

Give thanks to the Lord
Our God and King
His love endures forever

For He is good
He is above all things
His love endures forever

Sing praise, sing praise
With a mighty hand and outstretched arm
His love endures forever

For the life
That's been reborn
His love endures forever

Sing praise, sing praise
Sing praise, sing praise

Forever, God is faithful
Forever, God is strong
Forever, God is with us
Forever, forever

From the rising
To the setting sun
His love endures forever

And by the grace of God
We will carry on
His love endures forever

Sing praise, sing praise
Sing praise, sing praise

Forever, God is faithful
Forever, God is strong
Forever, God is with us
Forever, forever

Forever, God is faithful
Forever, God is strong
Forever, God is with us
Forever, forever, forever

His love endures forever
His love endures forever
His love endures forever

Sing praise, sing praise
Sing praise, sing praise

Forever you are faithful
Forever you are strong
Forever you are with us
Forever and ever and ever, yeah

Forever you are faithful
Forever you are strong
Forever you are with us
Forever, forever

You are our God
You are God
Forever and ever and ever

And ever and ever
And ever and ever
And ever

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Out of the Barn, and the Barn Needs Paint

In case you haven't noticed, the barn has been empty for over a week. Yes, Gottesdienst is out of it, and probably -- hopefully -- in a mailbox near you by now. If you're not yet at subscriber and want the latest great issue, click here.

Inserted in the current issue is our annual appeal for help. We didn't send out our regular appeal letters last summer, because things sort of got out of hand. So we're sort of late with everything. Consequently, our reservoir of funds is running really low right now. Please help! Gottesdienst supporters, one and all, you have come through for us famously in the past, and we're counting on you again. To make a donation, click here.

Or bring along a generous donation when you come to Oktoberfest in Kewanee, which is in three days! You haven't registered yet? Do it now, quick! Or just come! We never turn anyone away, of course.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

8th Annual Augsburg Confession Conference!

What better way to spend Reformation Day weekend?

Join us October 30-31st, 2015, for the 8th Annual Conference on the Augsburg Confession with the theme: "The Intersection of Confession and Culture". We intend to work through challenging contemporary issues to better understand how to approach them through the lens of Scripture and the Confessions. You'll have the opportunity to:
  • Learn from lectures presented by Dr. Peter Scaer of Concordia Theological Seminary,
  • Engage with the topics via break-out sessions and a panel discussion, 
  • Participate in three worship services, and; 
  • Enjoy fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ!
Registration is free for all students & seminarians and $10 for all others. Registration includes dinner, breakfast, lunch and of course, gemütlichkeit. The conference will be held at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in the heart of the historic German Village in Columbus, Ohio. Invite friends, family and pastors - we look forward to seeing you there!
Register now at

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Because "we don't do that."

It is sad that Christianity is divided into various confessions - or rather, that the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic faith has been corrupted in so many ways. But it has. And each confession has their own way about them; they worship as they do for theological reasons, and what is appropriate to one confession is not appropriate to every other, as 103 year old Mrs. Genora Biggs knows quite well.

Thursday, September 3, 2015



St. Paul’s Lutheran Church
109 South Elm Street

October 4-6, 2015 (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday)

The Twentieth—Twentieth!Annual Oktoberfest! and Gottesdienst Central will be hosting the Rev. Richard Stuckwisch, PhD, Pastor at Emmaus Lutheran Church in South Bend, Indiana. 

The question of the Eucharistic sacrifice is a critical ingredient in the Lutheran understanding of worship. Pastor Stuckwisch happens to be an expert among us on the matter. He became interested in the Lutheran confession of Eucharistic sacrifice in the course of his STM studies at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne. He explored this further in his doctoral work at the University of Notre Dame, where he investigated the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship, focusing especially on the development and discussion of the Eucharistic rites of the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982). His PhD research was published in 2011 under the title, Philip Melanchthon and the Lutheran Confession of Eucharistic Sacrifice.  His topic for this conference is

“Eucharistic Sacrifice and Eucharistic Prayer in Theology and Practice”

The event begins Sunday the 4th with Choral Vespers at 5 p.m. Following the service is our annual bratwurst banquet. When everyone has had their fill of brats and beer, Dr. Stuckwisch will give a synopsis of his Monday seminar. Following the banquet is the after-the-party party, at Pastor Eckardt’s home, where, as always, a gaggle of the editors of Gottesdienst will be milling about.
On Monday, October 5th, the day begins with Mass at 9:00 a.m., with Rev. Fr. Michael Frese from Redeemer in Fort Wayne, Indiana, as our special guest preacher. Following Mass and a continental breakfast, Fr. Stuckwisch will hold forth for the rest of the day, in two sessions running until about 2:45, followed by Vespers.
On Tuesday, October 6th, the conference will continue in the same format, with discussion of a new video project Gottesdienst is planning, showing the rubrics of the Divine Service, with Fr. Eckardt, pastor at St. Paul’s, holding forth. The Tuesday sessions will be framed by morning low Mass (spoken Divine Service) and Vespers.

REGISTRATION: $40 per person, $60 per couple, students $20 — includes Sunday banquet and Monday continental; no charge for children with parents. Register by email ( or call 309-852-         2461 and leave your name, address, and which days you plan to attend. You may pay the registration     fee when you arrive. Lodging: AmericInn. 309-856-7200. Special rate $97.66 (mention          Oktoberfest when you register, by September 14th); Aunt Daisy’s B & B, 888-422-4148; Quality   Inn, 309-853-8800; Days Inn (Sheffield), 815-454-2361; Best Western (Annawan), 309-935-6565;        Kewanee Motor Lodge, 309-853-4000.