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.