ACELC Conference — The Divine Service and Daily Offices, by Rev. Rick Sawyer

March 25th, 2011 Post by

The ACELC has posted all the papers from their recent conference here.

We have reproduced the Rev. Rick Sawyer’s paper (#4 below) and welcome your comments. Please keep your comments on topic to this one paper.

All papers can be reached at the following links:

  1. Introduction to the Conference – Rev. Jim Gier
  2. Ecclesiastical Supervision – Rev. Dick Bolland
  3. Communion, Unionism & Syncretism – Rev. Brent Kuhlman
  4. Divine Service & Liturgical Offices – Rev. Rick Sawyer
  5. Service of Women in the Church – Rev. Robert Wentzel
  6. Office of the Holy Ministry – Rev. John Wolrabe
  7. Unbiblical Removal of Pastors – Rev. Scott Porath
  8. The Church’s Mission & Evangelistic Task – Rev. Clint Poppe
  9. Pure Doctrine – Rev. Daniel Preus
  10. History & Background of the ACELC – Rev. Dick Bolland

 

Whole Lotta God’s Love: The Divine Service and Daily Offices

Since I borrowed the title of this essay from Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” I originally subtitled it using lyrics from the same. “The Liturgy: Whole Lotta God’s Love – Cause you need coolin, baby, and I’m not foolin’! I’m gonna send ya back to schoolin’! Way down inside, honey! The Liturgy . . . ‘Cause You NEED it!” While the song is, you know, like totally awesome (and I really mean that!), its theme is base and its lyrics crass. Still, they “speak to me.” Though I’d never allow the song in the Divine Service on account of its lyrics and acid-tripping orgasmic interlude, I’ll employ it here to make a point. God’s people need some coolin’ down from our constant heat and passion for the new and novel. Like Israel longing after her well endowed paramours (read Ezek 23:20), we lust after the forms and patterns of this world. We need to go “back to schoolin’” and learn how the Liturgy really is a whole lotta Christ’s love for us, in the proper sense. We need that to go way down inside, honey! And yes, I know what the song is saying! Not in the intended carnal sense of its lyrics, it is nonetheless true in a genuinely spiritual sense that we need this to have its way with us as never before!

We see a world that shows little interest and we wonder what we have to do to attract it. Like an aging rock group who remembers when they filled stadiums, the Church looks at her emptying cathedrals and wonders how she can reinvent herself for a new generation. I get that. I also get that it works to some degree. If you happen to hit on what is hot at the moment; if you give ‘em the right hook, they’ll bite! We try to do what we can to grow the Church.

The Church’s growth, however, does not depend on us. [note i] Our Lord says it depends on Him. He will build His Church, promising that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). He sows His good seed in and through the preaching of Christ crucified and risen. He lets down – not hooks, but His Net – and gathers in His little fishes, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He tends to us through the Word and Sacraments administered in His Church. He feeds His Bride the way a man takes care of His own body. He does this as the Church is gathered together for Christ’s saving Gifts.

While the Lord makes use of all His saints in this, from pastors to parents who raise their children in the Way they should go, to the janitor who empties the trash, we confess that Christ Himself is the Chief “Liturgist” or minister in the Church, as Hebrews teaches:

Hebrews 8:1 We have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister (leitourgos in the Greek; the One Whose liturgy or service is ongoing in the Church) – we have a leitourgos in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.

So the New Testament does not speak merely of the works of men when it speaks of the worship of God’s people; rather, it speaks of the work of God Himself. It speaks of baptism as the circumcision done not by human hands but by Christ, when we were buried with Him through baptism into His death and resurrection (Col. 2:11-12). The holy apostle does not deny the use of human hands in baptism but points to the fact that in and through them Christ is the true Minister and Servant. So also, when we hear the pastor’s absolution, we receive it as from God Himself (Small Catechism), trusting that when the pastor forgives, “this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.” When we approach His Table, we approach Him, for “Christ is there when His body and blood are there” (Georg von Anhalt, Treasury of Daily Prayer, p. 1180). Thus, Baptism saves (I Peter 3:21), and absolution saves and the Supper saves because Christ Himself saves in and through them. From this, we may even say that the Liturgy saves, for in and through the Gospel purely preached and the Sacraments rightly administered, Christ Himself is the Minister at work.

Whole Lotta God’s Love

When we speak about the Liturgy, we are speaking first of Christ’s work and love, not ours. Even when addressing the sacrifices of the Old Testament saints, Luther highlights what God is doing over what is being done by faithful men. Luther writes:

It was a great comfort for Adam that, after he had lost Paradise, the tree of life, and the other privileges which were signs of grace, there was given to him another sign of grace, namely, the sacrifices, by which he could perceive that he had not been cast off by God but was still the object of God’s concern and regard. . . In the same way the very Word, Baptism, and the Eucharist are our light bearers today, toward which we look as dependable tokens of the sun of grace. We can state with certainty that where the Eucharist, Baptism, and the Word are, there are Christ, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life. Contrariwise, where these signs of grace are not present, or where they are despised by men, there is not only no grace, but execrable errors follow, and men set up for themselves other forms of worship and other signs.[note ii]

Our Lutheran Confessions define the Liturgy not principally as the work of men but as that public service by which the Lord is caring for His people, drawing them near and comforting them with His mercy:

The term “liturgy. . .” does not really mean a sacrifice but a public service. Thus it squares with our position that a minister who consecrates shows forth the body and blood of the Lord to the people, just as a minister who preaches shows forth the gospel to the people, as Paul says (1 Cor. 4:1), “This is how one should regard us, as ministers of Christ and dispensers of the sacraments of God,” that is, of the Word and sacraments; and 2 Cor. 5:20, “We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Thus the term “liturgy” squares well with the ministry. Apology, XXIV, 80-81[note iii]

As we consider the introduction of new worship styles and practices, it is helpful to ask what has grown up naturally out of God’s loving service in Word and Sacraments, and what has been introduced from the outside? What reflects what God is doing in Holy Baptism, Absolution and the Eucharist, and what reflects a culture “where these signs of grace are not present, or where they are despised by men”? We further recognize a difference between the Church baptizing a form in light of Christ’s ongoing Service and that same Church letting itself be baptized or formed by the world. When Constantine converted and the Church was able to build structures for the gathering of the saints, the Church did not choose the theater or coliseum as a model. Both were available. Both would have housed and attracted many. Both reflected a culture willing to be gathered around performances and exciting, engaging displays. The Church bypassed these forms, choosing the basilica instead. Not only did that reflect what God had put in place in the Tabernacle, it also confessed that in the liturgy, God brings sinners near, the unworthy and sinful, to hear that they now have fellowship with the One Who declares them “clean,” “forgiven,” “holy to the Lord.” The Church’s posture, prayers and places of worship reflect what it believes. Lex orandi, lex credendi (What is prayed is what is believed).

She Wore an Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini

When being told that the Church needs to fit into something a little more attractive to the surrounding culture, I often hear people cite Luther, who spoke favorably of using a variety of instruments to celebrate and extol the Gospel. In a Bible Luther presented to the Halle organist Wolfe Heinz in 1541, Luther wrote Ps. 149:1 and the following:

“A new miracle deserves a new song, thanksgiving and preaching… The stringed instruments of the Psalms are to help in singing of this new song; and Wolf Heinz and all pious Christian musicians should let their singing and playing to the praise of the Father of all grace sound forth with joy from their organs and whatever other beloved musical instruments there are recently invented and given by God, of which David nor Solomon, neither Persia, Greece nor Rome knew anything. Amen.” [note iv]

We can certainly add our own “Amen” to what Luther says! At the same time, we ought honestly ask whether he means to suggest a carte blanche approach to music in the liturgy. If his words are grounds for asking, “Then why not synthesizers and electric guitars and drums?” are they also grounds for asking, “Then why not kazoos and spoons and a DJ scratching a vinyl LP? Why not Seussical styled instruments for a Dr. Seuss liturgy? Why not glasses filled to various depths with water, or a whoopee-cushion performance of the Hallelujah Chorus?”

We do receive all good gifts as coming down from the Father of Lights (James 1:17), even whoopee cushions! This is not about rejecting some things as bad and so unworthy of liturgical usage, nor is it about saying that since something is good it therefore has a place in the Divine Service. It is about making use of all good things in their proper place and time. As St. Paul says, 1 Corinthians 6:12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful.” At least not in every situation![note v]

We are not against guitars, drums, kazoos, or organs. We are not against rock, country, polka, rap or any other form of musical or artistic expression, per se. We are not against dance, but exotic dancing has limited application, to say the least! Lap dancing? For Jesus?! At what point must we draw the line, even if it would bring more people to our churches? Death Metal as a genre may be fine, but is it transferable to the Sunday Service? Is Gangsta Rap? If some prefer what is called liturgical dancing, are polka dancing, clogging and line dancing equally worshipful? Perhaps more so than pole dancing! Then again, maybe not!

If in any of these, Christians can rejoice that God is at work for our joy and edification, does that mean they are appropriate for the Liturgy? We don’t have the luxury of dismissing such inquiries. What shocked parents about Elvis’ hips in the 1950’s seems silly by today’s standards. If our criteria for admitting something into the Service of God’s House is that it “speaks” to the current generation or culture, where will we draw our lines? Whole Church bodies now welcome practicing homosexuals. That “speaks” to many, as does women’s ordination, open communion and tolerance of premarital sex. If we contend that something is good because it reaches those who would not otherwise be reached, who can legitimately argue against anything tailored to a demographic which would not otherwise find traditional models attractive? Thus, a Dr. Seuss liturgy for kindergarteners, a Klingon liturgy for sci-fi geeks, a yellow-polka-dot bikini service for beach bums, or a cowboy church for those with a Western flare! And sign me up for a church that targets Rastafarians! Bob Marley and bong hits – all in the name of Jesus! “Let’s get together and feel alright!”

I’m honestly not sure how we avoid the eventuality of such extremes, if we let the world determine how we worship. Elvis’ hips are already gyrating, and while even many in the contemporary worship camp may be shocked, to quote Marty McFly, “your kids are gonna love it!” It’s only a matter of time! In addition to the Seusscharist offered by Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburg, PA, St. George’s Episcopal Church in York Harbor, ME also has led the way in efforts to “engage” through “new forms of worship.” They offer U2charists featuring the music of U2. “Communion on the Rocks” is available in some churches in England, who describe it as “Holy Communion for the 21st century . . . The Battlestar Gallactica of worship.” You can hear the opening riff of Free’s “All Right Now” as the introduction to a sung version of the Creed. Another Anglican Church, Trinity Wall Street, conducted a “Clown Eucharist” in an effort to return the liturgical experience to “our gut and heart.” St. James Music Press offers a Pirate Eucharist, as a spoof, though I won’t be surprised to hear that someone actually has tried it! “P: The Lord be with ye, Mateys! R: Arggh! And with ye too, me Bucko!” I feel the need to confess! In the pseudo-Seussian words of the Seusscharist (I’m not making this up!). . .

God, we have wronged you
And we need to say boo-hoo
For the things we did and didn’t do
We are not content
we want to repent
One hundred percent

I Say, Slow – Don’t Go So Fast! Don’t You Think that Love Can Last?

I realize the above examples have the potential for meaning something to someone. I’ve given much of contemporary Christian music a look-see and listen to, thanks to YouTube, and admit that it can be upbeat, moving, emotionally engaging. The words are not necessarily bad. They can be very good, in fact, though they tend to be fairly simple, often geared more toward ease of repetition rather than profound theological confession. Still, add some well chosen video or graphics and my YouTube experience can be quite satisfying. I can appreciate why people like many of these songs. However, I find the case to be similar when I watch videos of Led Zeppelin and other classic rock. It moves me, even inspires me. It is not therefore, something I would use in a Divine Service.

I admit that I am sympathetic to those who are asking, “Why not – if it moves you – and if the lyrics are neither heretical nor heterodox?” In return, I would like them to be sympathetic to what the Church has received from God through the ages. We have a liturgy that has grown out of the practices of God’s Old Testament Church. The structure of our Divine Service orders our doxology in much the same way God’s holy priesthood approached Him in the Tabernacle. We walk in step with our fathers when God brings us near in His Liturgy. We are on holy ground and in holy time.

By His Name, we come boldly before His throne of grace, confessing what is most true of us; that we are sinners. We pass again the laver of His washing as we are cleansed by His absolution. In faith, we cry, Kyrie, knowing that the Lord has mercy. We enter the courts of His Holy Place with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. With the heavenly choir, we sing the Gloria in Excelsis. Like Mary, we sit at His feet in the hearing of His Word and are comforted by the preaching of His death, the way Israel was comforted by the rising smoke of the sacrifices that assured her she “had not been cast off by God but was still the object of God’s concern and regard.” We bring our sacrificial gifts. Our prayers rise before Him like incense. As the High Priest entered once a year the Holy of Holies, so we are gathered every Lord’s Day and at other festivals before His Mercy Seat for the eating and drinking of His Body and Blood. With angels, archangels and all the company of heaven, we sing the Sanctus and pray the prayer our Savior taught us. Like John the Baptist, we point to Christ in our kneeling, confessing Him the Agnus Dei, Who takes away the sin of the world. When He has served us, we who have held Him in our hands and mouth sing the Nunc Dimittimis, the song of Simeon who held Him too. Finally, as Aaron placed the Name upon God’s people, we are named again by the Name we were given at our Baptisms, when we first entered the Lord’s Liturgy, that we might bear His Name as a blessing in our daily liturgies of service and love.

I am concerned that many are quick to let go of such a treasure. What the Church has received in her liturgies has stood the test of time. It has come to us through the Tabernacle, Temple and Synagogue, as well as 2,000 years of Christ serving His New Testament people. It has not always looked or sounded as it does now. Even now, a faithful Lutheran liturgy in Kenya or Sri Lanka will differ to some degree with what we do in Brandon, Mississippi. There is room for that, but it will still be the Liturgy. What a people may bring naturally to the Liturgy as part of their folk culture is arguably different from what a people demand because they want the Church to conform to what they have on their iPods! Folk culture and pop culture are not the same. Folk culture tends toward stability while pop culture tends toward change. The former serves the continuity between generations while the latter celebrates and capitalizes on what is “in” at the moment – I mean, what’s “cool,” I mean what’s “phat,” “rad” – you get the point.

As we let go of the timelessness of the liturgical forms and ceremonies we have inherited in favor of keeping up with a culture that changes as quickly as Lady Gaga’s costumes, I am concerned that we erode our people’s hold on what stays the same. Tragically, I hear that LCMS newcomers to our community sometimes opt for the multi-campus, Willow-Creek / Saddlebrook style mega-congregation up the hill, bypassing Word and Sacraments at the little liturgical Lutheran church near the highway for a place where no infant will be received by God through Holy Baptism, no repentant sinner will hear his pastor absolve him, and no Christian will be served the Body and the Blood of Christ in bread and wine, but at least they have a praise band!

By catering to popular tastes, we can reaffirm a fallen world’s desire for non-essentials. Worse, praise, as a joyful expression, can become almost sacramental and any attempt to evaluate it from a Scriptural or Confessional point will likely come off as a bit of a buzz-kill. That is not to say that joyful expressions have no place. They do! David danced before the Lord in a parade-like procession before the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:15-22). Elizabeth exclaimed and the infant John leapt for joy at the greeting of the Christ-bearing Mother of God (Luke 1:39-44). Likewise, the people strew palm branches and clothing in the way as they shouted before the Lord riding into Jerusalem, lowly and mounted on a donkey (Matt. 21:1-9).

Would that our people spontaneously leapt and danced the next time a baptism is administered or the next time absolution is pronounced or as the pastor brings to our ears the Pax Domini or to our lips the very Body and Blood of Christ in bread and wine! But we should not tailor our services to elicit such expressions or even expect them. Herman Sasse, in his 1927 essay, American Christianity and the Church, wrote:

“Worship has been, as we say, ‘developed.’ There must always be something new, and everything must be effective: lighting effect, musical effect, an effective liturgy. I remember a large new Baptist church. The room had only artificial lighting . . . Next to the sanctuary there was a special control room from which the lighting was adjusted. As soon as the preacher knelt to pray, the attendant rotated the great lever on the control board. Darkness filled the church. The desired feelings were literally ‘switched on.’”[note vi]

Many people likely do want to have their emotions and feelings “switched on” when they come to Church. That’s what makes certain styles popular. People want a spiritual “high.” They want a place where they feel accepted, not judged, not even on the basis of their moral choices or personal belief system. They want to forget their pain. A theology of glory accommodates that; conforms to people’s expectations to feel a certain way. A theology of the cross does not deny that feelings and circumstances need to be addressed and can even be altered, but entrusts that to the Words and Promises of God in Christ Jesus! Accordingly, our Confessions “maintain that God will not deal with us except through his external Word and sacrament. Whatever is attributed to the Spirit apart from such Word and sacrament is of the devil.”[note vii]

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

A fallen world is not attracted by essential things. It looked on during the days of the early Church and marveled how they loved one another; a fine witness! But what the world missed in that was the Lord’s Liturgy having its way with His people. They held all earthly things in common because they first held all spiritual things in common, devoting “themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).

Is apostolic doctrine still our focus? I’m sure most would argue that our doctrine hasn’t changed, but it seems we have lost our confidence in it. Why else do we constantly hear that the world won’t come if we don’t start looking and sounding like it? Our emphasis seems to be less on sound theology and practice and more on making the sounds people want to hear.

In a 1538 preface to a collection of hymns on the Passion of Christ, Luther wrote:

Experience testifies that, after the Word of God, music alone deserves to be celebrated as a mistress and queen of the emotions of the human heart . . . By these emotions men are controlled and often swept away as by their lords. A greater praise of music than this we cannot conceive. For if you want to revive the sad, startle the jovial, encourage the despairing, humble the conceited, pacify the raving, mollify the hate-filled . . . what can you find that is more efficacious than music? The Holy Spirit Himself honors it as an instrument of His specific office when He testifies in His Holy Scriptures that His gifts came upon the prophets through its use . . . Not in vain, therefore, do the fathers and the prophets want nothing more intimately linked to the Word of God than music.”[note viii]

Luther said this long before finger tapped guitar solos and driving rock rhythms. We do not deny but acknowledge what he says, and call for the responsible use of something so powerful. External elements such as chanting, vestments, choirs, towering cathedrals, organ swells, silence, incense, icons, the use of candlelight, even the repetitions of certain prayers, all have the capacity to assist the worshiper toward a desired spiritual posture. Insofar as they remain “handmaidens” to the Gospel rather than a focus in and of themselves, we grant their appropriate usage, especially in keeping with what has served the Church faithfully and without detriment for millennia. However, anything may be abused, and Hezekiah found it necessary to remove the bronze serpent God had previously given Israel when it ceased serving the Gospel but became a focus unto itself (2 Kings 18:4).

When the Corinthians abused the gift of languages in their congregation, St. Paul had to impose parameters, lest a confusing witness be given to those who attend the Services (I Cor. 14:23). Notice that the Apostle does not remove the gift of languages (I Cor. 14:29) but adds to it the discipline of self-constraint to preserve decency and good order, along with interpretation so that all may be edified. May we not draw from this a response to those who argue that the Divine Service and other offices are overly confusing to newcomers and so need to be changed or replaced? Instead of removing the historic liturgies, why not add this: a proper interpretation so that those who are otherwise confused may be edified? And let the whole people of God speak together the same confession regarding these most blessed gifts, as St. Paul says:

1 Corinthians 14:24 If all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.

St. Paul is mindful of the needs of unbelieving visitors, but rather than wanting them caught up in an indefinable emotional or “spiritual” experience, he wants them convicted and brought to repentance and faith by the clear-sounding testimony of God’s people united in the same confession. For that, we do not accommodate the world’s tendency to look for love in all the wrong places, but place before it the Gospel clearly and purely preached and the Sacraments rightly administered.

Love Hurts

I admit to accommodating popular culture in my early years in the ministry. I replaced the Agnus Dei with a recording of a Michael W. Smith song. I choreographed liturgical dance. I told people that if the liturgy was a hindrance to reaching someone with the Gospel, we ought make changes. I wrote my own services, incorporating “praise verses” like “Our God is an Awesome God.” I made use of drama in lieu of preaching.

What happened to me? Amongst other things, I got back into reading the Confessions, which I had neglected. I got more into the Scriptures and the faithful testimony of the Church through the centuries. I worked through some Charismatic leanings I had from my experiences as a college student. I looked more deeply into the Lord’s ongoing and timeless service in His Church and fell in love again. I repented. I grew up.

While love can employ playful methods, God did not give us children for our amusement. He gave them to us to raise, hard and sometimes hurtful as that may be. In the home, our liturgies may be simply structured; mothers and fathers folding their children’s hands in their own and teaching them to pray. In my home, we lit the Advent Wreath and allowed our young daughters to blow out its candles. Every night we had to have devotions because our daughters wanted their turn to puff out the flames! We recited the Small Catechism before dinner and while driving to the store; even when taking bike rides. We found simple cadences by which to make the memorizing of the Catechism a little easier for the girls. We prayed Matins and Vespers with them. We bought them their own hymnals to take to church when they were just beginning to read. They took great delight in being able to join with the saints in singing the Faith.

This is the way the Church raises her children. It begins in the home. It moves us forward into faith and living beyond the home. It moves us into the Liturgy of Christ in His Church, and as we grow, the Lord’s Service moves us outward and the world is given the mature in Christ who have learned and are learning repentance and faith, and how to rejoice in service even when it is difficult. The call of genuine Christianity is not “Girls just want to have fun!”

I admit to having tried to make worship fun for kids during VBS and in our chapel at school. As I grew as a biological father I also grew as a spiritual one. Now, instead of playing with the children, we teach them, in gentle ways. Daily chapel in our school follows the office of Matins. Most of our children are non-Lutheran and not even baptized. They enter as four year olds and cannot read. I introduce Matins slowly, explaining how the pastor chants something and then the children do. We take baby steps and by Thanksgiving break, the children can sing through the Venite. By Christmas break, they can sing the whole office from memory, though many of the younger ones are still trying to catch the words. From January to the end of the school year, the children get better and better at having their singing and praying formed by God’s Word. At our school closing, it is inevitable that parents express how impressed they are to hear such young voices singing so much from heart!

We could spend our time teaching songs that will be out of style in a few years, or which the kids will outgrow. We choose to raise up the children God gives us in something with more staying power! In addition to teaching them slowly, we make the accommodation of singing hymn verses rather than a changing Psalm each week, for the sake of our non-readers. My wife does not play the organ for Matins, as she needs to sit with her class. We sing acapella. I make a concession to the little ones by sitting off to the side and accompanying them with light guitar strumming as they sing their hymn verses, “The Church’s One Foundation,” “God Himself is Present,” “Jesus Loves Me,” and “I am Jesus’ Little Lamb.” I sit to the side when I do this, as I found if the children can watch me they tend to focus more on the guitar than on singing. In such ways we accommodate their youth while moving 4 through 10 year olds into praying what gives many adult Lutherans the heebie-jeebies!

Why do we do this? In part because the world does not need more self-centered 40 year old spiritual adolescents. It needs the kind of men and women the Church had in her blessed martyrs, who were converted to the Faith and held to it, even to the point of death, despite the demands and attractions of the world. While the Willow Creek model may succeed in appealing to non-Christians or “new Christians,” Bill Hybels himself has admitted its failure with regard to mature and growing Christians. Why repeat the mistakes of those who have exchanged the Lord’s “signs of grace” for “other forms of worship”? The Lord’s liturgy is capable of taking us by the hand and leading us, but it does not resort to cheap tricks. It is not base but neither is it beyond our reach. Like a mother who is mindful of her duty, it takes us by the ears, heart, mind and mouth and lifts us out of childhood and childishness into maturity. It transforms us, as St. Paul writes in Romans:

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

When Our Lord spoke to the crowd who followed Him after He fed the five thousand in John 6, He charged them with following Him for the wrong reason. As He spoke of eating His flesh and drinking His blood, they turned up their noses. It was against their sensibilities. It was a hard saying. They were culturally unprepared for it! Yet, our Lord did not alter the Medicine He was giving. He did not dilute it for their tastes. He did not follow after them, promising to change. In what must surely have been a sad moment for the Lord, He watched them walk away.

Such reminders help me resist my own tendencies to indulge or cater to – at least at the point of the Service of God’s House – a petition I admit I have a certain affinity for: Give me the beat boys and free my soul I wanna get lost in your rock n’ roll – And drift away

Where Do We Go From Here? Which is the Way That’s Clear?

If I may, let me share some words a young Lutheran who is very dear to me sent in answer to my questions about his participating in a praise band at an LCMS congregation. He writes:

I believe that a praise band is almost a necessity in today’s church. I believe this whole heartedly not only because I’m in one, but because “new Christians”, as I like to say may be somewhat confused or may not understand the traditional hymns that we are used to. “New Christians” are also used to today’s secular music. With that being said they are hungry for rock riffs and heavy beats with a Christian message behind them. I also believe that praise bands are necessary for today’s church because people who aren’t sure what to believe and are on the verge of being atheist or agnostic NEED to hear really good music with a great message. And as these people who have almost lost their faith or have no faith hear the music, they say, “this is awesome!!!” Then as they are singing the words, they begin to realize that they can relate to those words being sung. Then filled with joy and faith they begin to realize that Faith isn’t just a five letter word with a meaning, they begin to feel it in their heart.

I appreciate the passion in this statement. I believe it sums up the reason many have introduced the new forms they have. While I hope we can all commend the desire to reach the lost, I continue to search in vain for where Scripture teaches the Church to conform her worship to the pattern of this world in order to win it. I hear people quote St. Paul, who writes:

1 Corinthians 9:20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.

This does not address the Church altering her worship in order to accommodate those who would otherwise not give her a second glance. It speaks to a willingness to make personal and individual concessions within our Gospel freedom in an effort to reach the lost. So, St. Timothy was circumcised while St. Titus was not. We have no indication from St. Paul’s epistles that he said, “If the Greeks are used to a more lively kind of worship in the temples of Dionysus we ought make sure our own style is familiar to them.”

How does the Church today maintain a proper distinction from the world while attempting to reach it? What latitude do we have for change? The words of the Introduction to the Lutheran Worship hymnal remind us that the Church, in living from what the Lord gives, is living, breathing, growing. She is not static.

The rhythm of our worship is from him to us, and then from us back to him. He gives his gifts, and together we receive and extol them. We build one another up as we speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Our Lord gives us his body to eat and his blood to drink. Finally his blessing moves us out into our calling, where his gifts have their fruition. How best to do this we may learn from his Word and from the way his Word has prompted his worship through the centuries. We are heirs of an astonishingly rich tradition. Each generation receives from those who went before and, in making that tradition of the Divine Service its own, adds what best may serve in its own day – the living heritage and something new. (LW, p. 6)

How do we do this responsibly? For myself, as a pastor, I suggest humility. We can all err and do. The saints who went before often fell at the point of what seems trivial. It was just ONE bite after all! Aaron threw in some gold and out came this golden calf! At least he called it “a feast to the Lord” (Ex. 32:5). Moses struck the rock. So? The people still drank! And Nadab and Abihu . . . Why make such a big deal about the blend of incense? (Lev. 10:1-2) If those greater than I fell in little things, who am I to bypass the Church’s liturgies for those I write?

I realize the Lord has not prescribed the form of liturgical ceremony we have in the New Testament Church, nor the style of music. But what we have received has grown up from the Faith Christ once delivered to the saints (Titus 1:3). I would rather keep my prayers in line with that than to take my cues from the popular culture or from those whose worship has grown up around a different confession regarding Baptism, Absolution and the Supper.

It is thankfulness and faith that make me keep the Liturgy in place. “The word liturgy squares well with the ministry.” The Lord’s Liturgy through the Means of Grace is the engagement ring He has placed on the finger of His Bride, the Church. The Lord’s presence and ongoing Gospel Service is the diamond. The order of our rights and ceremonies has arisen as the beautiful setting in which that diamond is conveyed from one generation and place to another. If the world turns up its nose at that, what of it? Christ told us that would happen. He said the world looks for the broad and easy road, and many there are upon it, but the narrow way – His Way – is not populated like it would be if Justin Bieber were truly present instead of just the Body and the Blood of Jesus!

The Church is not a desperate housewife trying to dress like her teenaged daughter to attract the hunk next door! She is the Queen of Heaven in the proper sense. She is the stately Bride and Mother of all the Truly Living, washed by Christ and beautifully adorned. If Mars needs mothers, the Earth needs no less. She has one in the Church. When the neighbor kids come over, she doesn’t change the pattern of behavior she has imparted to her own. Her kids may complain that the other kids “won’t play with me unless I do this or that,” but Mom explains, “They are in our house now.” If they speak Spanish, she speaks that to them. But if they reject her food and manners and make demands, she reminds them where they are.

So, how do we get our house back in order? Repentance is good! So is learning from our fathers. We remember the need for correction at the time of the Saxon Visitation. We recall that the approach expressed in those Articles was truly pastoral, patient and loving. Let the teaching never lag, though the practice may take some while catching up to it. We are not advocating a new slaughter of souls. We are advocating a renewed study of the Scriptures and our Confessions, something that even those in liturgical congregations need, so that we truly receive with joy what we have been entrusted with, and responsibly make it our own.

Is there room for music and instrumentation that reflects a particular culture without displacing the liturgy? Yes, though the proof is in the pudding, and how can you have your pudding if you don’t eat your meat?! Obscure rock references aside, what I mean is I don’t often find the liturgy sacrificed when it is properly understood and well digested, or where the Confessions are part of a congregation’s regular diet. Conversely, I don’t often find the liturgy in full when new music styles and practices have been adopted from the world or from non-Lutheran sources. I suspect the reason is that styles and forms arising out of a spiritual culture that does not have the Lord’s Word and Sacraments at the center simply don’t integrate well with the historic Liturgy. One cannot take what has developed in the void left by the absence of the Lord’s serving through Baptism, Absolution and the Eucharist, and expect it to fit in the place of the opening or closing hymn. Something has to give, and usually, it is the historic liturgy, which may be there in some of its parts, but suffers terribly in our efforts to carve it up and make room for what is new and quite honestly alien to it. If things can be done better, and I believe they can, I am open to seeing them. When we do it right, we won’t be trying to be the world’s “blue Jean, baby queen.”

Teach Your Children Well

The Church has a long history of welcoming new kids into its fold. In Acts 15, we read how the early Church wrestled with the issue of Gentile conversions and those who preached the need for circumcision. The Church resolved that on two fronts. First, the Gospel must not be compromised. Secondly, those new to the faith were to humbly recognize the sensibilities of those who preceded them, while conforming to what is expected of all Christians.

Our Lutheran Confessions demonstrate a similar sense of catholicity or connection with what has been faithfully guarded and handed to us by former generations. While it is taught among us that “it is not necessary for the true unity of the Christian church that ceremonies, instituted by men, should be observed uniformly in all places,” (AC, VII, The Church), it is also “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. Yet we accompany these observances with instruction so that consciences may not be burdened by the notion that such things are necessary for salvation.” (AC, XV, Church Usages)

Like the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, we are not willing to permit outward practices which conflict with the Gospel, but we continue those which are in keeping with it and which, by instruction, further promote it, raising up the next generation of Christians. It is therefore found among us Lutherans, that “we have introduced nothing, either in doctrine or ceremonies, that is contrary to Holy Scripture or the universal church” (AC, conclusion).

I wonder how much consideration is given these days to the universal church when introducing new forms. I wonder if we are properly mindful that what we do now affects coming generations. There are times when “ceremonies and church rites which are neither commanded nor forbidden in the Word of God . . . have been introduced into the church with good intentions for the sake of good order and decorum or else to preserve Christian discipline” (FC, SD, art. X, para. 1), but issues arise when such things are mandated, either from within or from without. What are we to say when the world demands that our worship look like what it is used to or it won’t have us? Are we still in the realm of adiaphora?

FC X affirms that minor external differences between churches of a common confession do not constitute a threat to true unity, as they are introduced “for the sake of good order and the general welfare” and are in and of themselves “no divine worship or even part of it.” Having incense or not having incense cannot be the measure of true worship any more than having a praise band or organ. It behooves us to ask to what degree any external or aesthetic form is equated in our minds as genuine worship, and whether there is a particular danger in choosing one form over another on the basis of “it really moves me,” or “it gets you up on your feet,” or “it just makes you feel like you’ve really worshiped,” or “it will grow the church.”

While FC X affirms that the Church in every locality has authority to change external ceremonies as these may be profitable and edifying to the faithful, it doesn’t say that we have the same authority to pick and choose whatever appeals to the world. It does not speak to each congregation doing what seems right in its own eyes. It further states that “all frivolity and offenses are to be avoided.” Sorry, Dr. Seuss!

I for one will speak in behalf of those new to the Faith: “Please, let them grow up!” We hear so often that people without a churchly tradition need to be accommodated. If we grant that, do we leave them perpetually in such a state, or do we move them forward? Our little ones start off in t-ball, move on to buddy ball, and then to little league. Likewise, one string melodies on guitar are followed by multiple strings, then chords and on into more complex pieces. The point is that novices progress!

In all other venues, this is true. In today’s Church, however, we hear the hue and cry of change for the sake of the newcomer, and the whole “game” gets brought to their level! There it stays, because it is not seen as a means to an end, but as an end in itself. If that is the case, it needs to be measured against the historic Liturgy’s ability to form God’s children and to convey the Faith from one generation to the next. Are our new forms equally up to that challenge? As defined by their advocates, they are aimed at the lowest common denominator and at those who are either young or not yet even in the Faith. By definition, these forms are of the “lite” variety; easy on the palate, with lots of fizz. At a time when many are asking why “Johnny can’t read,” perhaps it is time for the Church to ask why its adult children can’t explain the Faith or resist cultural, moral and even theological trends that oppose it!

In the midst of constantly changing fads, the Church is called to remain steadfast and sure, trusting that we have a leitourgos who will continue to turn the hearts of many as His Spirit works in the faithful administration of the Word and Sacraments. It is the Lord’s Church, not ours. We are the heirs of a rich tradition. Each generation will contribute something of itself. The Body does change as it grows. That is inevitable. Each generation should do so faithfully, carefully, in humility, in true catholicity and love. We will need to exercise patience with each other and avoid judging with unrighteous judgment. Peter needed to learn not to call unclean what the Lord calls clean. However, the Lord did not say, “They won’t come unless we give them bacon!” Eating pork arises out of the Gospel, not out of an attempt to compete with the Shoney’s breakfast bar, or out of our crass realization that people will in fact behave like the Purina Beggin’ Strips dog: “It’s Bacon!”

Our Synod’s first president expresses well my concern for the integrity of our Synodical affiliation. As I’ve said, I have the big Willow Creek / Saddlebrook style church next door. Over here are the Means of Grace. Will members who leave sister LCMS churches find a home at Good Shepherd, or will they be drawn to the praise bands up the hill? This is a question of whether we are rightly raising the Church’s children to seek after that which is most needful, or keeping them forever young, self-centered and looking for what they think is “cool”?

I leave you with the words of C. F. W. Walther, who writes. . .

We refuse to be guided by those who are offended by our church customs. We adhere to them all the more firmly when someone wants to cause us to have a guilty conscience on account of them. It is truly distressing that many of our fellow Christians find the difference between Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism in outward things. It is a pity and dreadful cowardice when a person sacrifices the good ancient church customs to please the deluded American denominations just so they won’t accuse of being Roman Catholic! Indeed! Am I to be afraid of a Methodist, [or a non-denominational Christian, or a Calvinist, or an Evangelical], who perverts the saving Word, or ashamed in the matter of my good cause, and not rather rejoice that they can tell by our ceremonies that I do not belong to them? We are not insisting that there be uniformity in perception or feeling or taste among all believing Christians, neither dare anyone demand that everyone be of the same opinion as his in such matters; nevertheless, it remains true that the Lutheran liturgy distinguishes Lutheran worship from the worship of other churches to such an extent that the houses of worship of the latter look like lecture halls, [theaters or auditoriums], while our churches are in truth houses of prayer in which Christians serve the great God publicly before the world. . . . Someone may ask,” What would be the use of uniformity in ceremonies?” We would answer, “What is the use of a flag on the battlefield? Even though a soldier cannot defeat the enemy with it, he nevertheless sees by the flag where he belongs. We ought not to refuse to walk in the footsteps of our fathers.[note ix]

 


 

View the original document for endnotes.

 

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  1. John
    April 3rd, 2011 at 09:26 | #1

    I’m a bit disappointed that this post has not generated any conversation. I’d also say that I was disappointed with the paper. We have a rich liturgical heritage, firmly rooted in Scripture and firmly rooted in the understanding that Worship is God’s people gathering to remember their Baptism, hear the Word, receive the Sacrament and being sent out to participate in the mission of the Church. Critical in worship is honoring that form and tradition. But, we can do it with a variety of styles, instrumentation, etc. It seems to me that the challenge is how to develop and use contemporary worship styles that honor the tradition.

  2. April 4th, 2011 at 10:07 | #2

    Hi, John. Thank you for your comment. Of course, you know from my paper that I acknowledge change and growth in our external forms. I remain curious to hear a Biblical argument for the Church conforming those external forms to the pattern of the world’s preferences – which seek after almost everythig BUT the Signs of Grace which God has given us. To conform ourselves to the patterns of this world in order to win it just seems in opposition to what we are given in Scripture. It seems more driven by marketing principles than Biblical ones. I’d be happy to hear you remarks, John.

  3. April 4th, 2011 at 16:32 | #3

    @John #1
    Hi, John. I commented earlier today from my iPhone and haven’t seen it appear yet. Figuring I may have done something wrong, I’m trying again. Forgive me if I end up double posting here. I want to thank you for your comment, even though you express disappointment in my paper. One of the points I have tried to make in that paper is the absence of any Word from God that we should attempt to attract and win the world by conforming to its patterns and preferences. Seems to run counter to Romans 12:1-2 to me, but maybe you have a differing opinion. I don’t discount that there is growth and change in our external forms. I grant that in the paper. But I’m not seeing your final statement supported by God’s Word. In other words, WHY do you believe “the challenge is how to develop and use contemporary worship styles that honor the tradition,” especially when those “styles” are alien to and even hostile to the tradition which has arisen around the Signs of Grace which God has given to His Church? I’d love a discussion of this, and perhaps we can begin here; that is, with you explaining why the Church is to find ways of using the forms you suggest? Why is that incumbent upon us?

  4. John
    April 4th, 2011 at 17:12 | #4

    Rev. Rick – I think you and I would agree that it is inappropriate to conform to the world in worship form and substance. I also agree with you that a well-played pipe organ fits my sensibilities. But, I would not agree that using contemporary musical settings, alternative instrumentation, etc. is necessarily inappropriate or non-liturgical. In fact, I’d suggest that, if by doing so we are able to make traditional worship more approachable for those who have not been brought up in it, we are acting in accordance with the great commission. Thus, it might be incumbent on us.

    To state it a bit differently, I share what I perceive to be your dislike for praise bands. I don’t think my lukewarm attitude regarding the music and instruments is sufficient reason to suggest they should not be in church. I do think the lack of regard for liturgical form and the lack of Scriptural substance in the texts is. From that perspective, I’d suggest that it would be fruitful to engage the question of how might praise bands (or other non-traditional styles) be appropriately used in Lutheran worship?

    I wonder if Luther was criticized for conforming to patterns and preferences whenever he used the hymn mass.

  5. April 4th, 2011 at 17:58 | #5

    I’m glad we’re close on certain points, John. However, I would disagree with your point regarding Matt. 28. There, the Lord gives us to baptize and teach. The challenge is always to do that faithfully in a world that simply doesn’t want it. It wants something else. The crowds followed our Lord on account of His signs, but missed what those signs were about. So, when they wanted bread and fish and were willing to follow Him for it, our Lord departed. He split! When they caught up with Him, He told them they were following for the wrong reason, and gave them what they didn’t want. He watched them go. Our Lord didn’t change His delivery. He didn’t play into the world’s expectations. That doesn’t mean Our Lord frowns on our efforts to make things accessible. We may certainly use methods appropriate for dealing with children, but we must also bring them along toward maturity. That is an important point in my paper. Luther was certainly concerned for the sheep, that they actcually hear and understand the Lord’s Voice. But Luther wasn’t trying to conform the Church’s worship to the pattern of a world that wouldn’t give the Church a second glance unless it looked and sounded as it wanted. When the masses made such expectations plain to Our Lord, He refused to comply. This is our challenge today. How to faithfully teach the holding to ALL that He has commanded, without catering to demands and expectations of a world that says: “We won’t come unless the music is exciting!” I just don’t find anywhere in Scripture that the Lord teaches us to conform ourselves to such demands, and I really do believe such demands are behind the assertion that the Church needs to modify itself in order to reach the world.

  6. David Garner
    April 4th, 2011 at 20:11 | #6

    John,

    You write:

    I would not agree that using contemporary musical settings, alternative instrumentation, etc. is necessarily inappropriate or non-liturgical. In fact, I’d suggest that, if by doing so we are able to make traditional worship more approachable for those who have not been brought up in it, we are acting in accordance with the great commission. Thus, it might be incumbent on us.

    I’m not sure there’s a bright line rule here. I didn’t read Pastor Sawyer’s paper to be advocating pipe organ only liturgies that conform in every jot and tittle to the Common Service. Rather, I read it as advocating a very cautious approach to setting aside what has been received in order to please the World, whether that is stated as “we need a rockin’ praise band to get these kids back” or “we are able to make traditional worship more approachable for those who have not been brought up in it.”

    I also reject your premise that traditional worship NEEDS to be made more approachable for those who have not been brought up in it. That strikes me as being along the lines of arguing that we should make sure our high school French teachers make French sound more like English in order to make it more approachable to those who didn’t grow up speaking French. At the end of the day, Liturgy communicates much as language does. It doesn’t need to be updated. It needs to be TAUGHT and EXPLAINED.

    You further write:

    To state it a bit differently, I share what I perceive to be your dislike for praise bands.

    This, to me, is a rather common misconception about those of us who prefer the received Liturgies of the Church. As I have said here before, I am a former Lutheran turned Eastern Orthodox. I began looking elsewhere due to what you might consider minor liturgical freelancing in what was at that time our home parish. But the freelancing had what I considered to be an unacceptable side effect — it altered (or, perhaps, revealed) the doctrine of the parish. I won’t get into details here, because it is not my main point. The point is, I didn’t leave because I preferred this or that setting of the Liturgy. There was no praise band, there were a few “contemporary hymns,” but no real full blown Church Growth worship. But there was an alteration of what the parish prayed, and by extension an alteration (or, again, perhaps a revealing) of what the parish believed. It manifested itself in false doctrine.

    Now, we visited an Orthodox Church of the Antiochian archdiocese. There was no organ. There were none of the beautiful Lutheran chorales we were used to. The hymnody and chant sounded typically Arabic, which is to say, odd to Western ears. It was also Eastern Rite, which was not the traditional Western Mass I loved, but something totally foreign to us. But the Faith was preserved there. They believed what was taught in their Liturgy. And while our doctrine certainly changed (we accepted Orthodox doctrine as true), it was not, in any sense, because of preference of musical style.

    Further, I never listen to Liturgical music away from Church unless I am preparing to chant with the choir (in which case I have to listen to the correct Tone in order to “get it in my head” before the service). I listen to rock and roll. I play in a rock and roll band, gigging in bars around town. I’m neither opposed to popular music nor particularly enamored with a capella chant. It’s not about preference or taste. It’s about the Faith and the preservation of the same.

    Lutherans have a rich liturgical tradition and a rich hymnody. It’s not rich because it sounds good to our ears, but because it teaches the Lutheran faith most clearly. To my eyes, far too many Lutherans are throwing that away in favor of sectarian worship forms. I pray that trend reverses.

  7. John
    April 5th, 2011 at 05:58 | #7

    David Garner :
    Lutherans have a rich liturgical tradition and a rich hymnody. It’s not rich because it sounds good to our ears, but because it teaches the Lutheran faith most clearly. To my eyes, far too many Lutherans are throwing that away in favor of sectarian worship forms.

    David – I agree. The liturgy teaches the Lutheran faith because it is firmly grounded in Scripture. Moreover, it is grounded in 1,500 years of Christian tradition that preceded 500 years of Lutheran tradition. When we worship, we do so with the whole communion of saints.

    The distinction that I am trying to articulate is that between form/function, which has been more or less constant since the Book of Acts, and style, which has changed as people from different cultures have come into the faith and as culture has changed over time.

    So, I’ll make one more attempt at the point of my initial post. How can we build on the rich Lutheran heritage by encouraging the presentation of the traditional liturgical form/function with contemporary worship style? How can we do so in a way that is consistent with Paul’s notion of being all things to all people and all for the sake of the Gospel?

  8. David Garner
    April 6th, 2011 at 10:34 | #8

    I suppose one still has to define what means “contemporary.” In our Patriarchate the Tones sound different than in the Russian Church, or the Greek Church, or what have you. Adapting the Liturgy to culture is nothing new.

    But as I stated above, some things work in Liturgy where others do not. St. Paul was “all things to all people,” yes. But was he ALL things to ALL people? Truly? To a temple prostitute, would Paul become a prostitute that he might save a prostitute? By no means!

    Point being, updating the liturgical forms to adapt to the culture is fine. Pastor Sawyer, however, makes a good distinction in his paper between folk culture and pop culture. I think that bears a bit of analysis here. It seems to be right on point. The Church can certainly adopt items of folk culture. Ours has — Antiochian chant sounds very middle eastern to American ears, but that’s what we use, because our Patriarchate is Arabic in origin. And yet some of our tones are more Russian in style, and Russian chant is quite a bit more palatable to Western ears. But do we bend to add rock and roll, which as entrenched as it is is still malleable pop culture? Do we add bluegrass? Hip hop? R&B?

    Where do we draw the line between “becoming all things to all people” in the proper sense and just cowtowing to the world?

  9. John
    April 6th, 2011 at 11:48 | #9

    David – the distinction that I tried to make and the conversation that I think is worth having is the question of form/function v. style.

    You, and Rev. Rick and I agree that form/function ought to be rigid – it has been “fixed” for two millenia. But, if the setting honors that tradition, I would set few boundaries on style.

    If one were to start with a typical praise service (Pentecostal-Lite is the way I would describe those which I have typically encountered in Lutheran churches) and reset it in a baroque style played on a pipe organ and I would still strenuously object. Take the traditional Divine Service and reset it to banjo and kazoo, while retaining all of the functional components, and I’d say go for it! The latter is not my stylistic preference and I think congregations choose to use contemporary styles should respect members by offering options.

    Also, please note that, although I used an extreme example, I think the congregations that choose to “do their own thing” ought to do so within reasonable limits. That was the conversation that I hoped would develop in response to Rev. Rick’s article.

  10. David Garner
    April 6th, 2011 at 13:56 | #10

    I don’t think I necessarily disagree, but this raises an interesting question — assuming Banjo and kazoo are all a congregation can afford in the way of worship instrumentation, is it better to use those or sing a capella? And if it’s not the best they can offer, should they be offered anyway as a matter of mere preference?

    I don’t ask to be facetious, but rather — which of those two choices best reflects what is going on in the Divine Service? Which is more reverent? Which is our best effort? Which is the best “setting” so to speak for the jewel that is the Liturgy? If all I could afford was a gold plated wedding setting and a small diamond or CZ, I’m sure my wife would love it. But if I gave her that because I thought that’s what she should have instead of giving her the best I could offer, that’s another matter entirely.

    I’m not dogmatic about instrumentation. I’ve been in well done Liturgies that use an electronic keyboard as the only accompaniment, I’ve seen trumpets and flutes and even cymbals and other percussion done well. My last parish had a high school student play accompany a flute with a baritone horn, and it was well done. And yes, I’ve even seen one proper Liturgy (for a festival — my recollection is it was Reformation Day) with an acoustic and electric guitar, also done well.

    And, of course, as Orthodox all our Liturgies and prayer services are a capella.

    All of which is to say, my concern isn’t over instrumentation per se so much as reverence. One can be reverent and contemporary so long as “contemporary” doesn’t slide into “casual” or “cheap” or “materialistic” or “worldly.” My typical concern with so-called “praise bands” is not that they use instruments I don’t like, but they use them in a way that is neither reverent nor salutary. Maybe it can be done well. If it can, I’ve yet to see it.

    I don’t want to assume anything, but it seems we agree on retaining the basic form of the Liturgy and the catechetical purpose of the hymnody? If so, I’ll also say that to me, that is a FAR greater concern than what instruments are used, how the hymns and parts are structured, etc.

  11. David Garner
    April 6th, 2011 at 14:15 | #11

    One other brief question if you’ll indulge me, John. Earlier, you wrote:

    How can we build on the rich Lutheran heritage by encouraging the presentation of the traditional liturgical form/function with contemporary worship style? How can we do so in a way that is consistent with Paul’s notion of being all things to all people and all for the sake of the Gospel?

    Something strikes me about this. As some in the LCMS (a growing number, in my estimation) play with the idea of doing exactly what you reference — mixing in “contemporary worship style” to “be all things to all people and all for the sake of the Gospel,” it seems to me the LCMS is still declining in number. Rapidly and consistently. Now, I’m not much of a numbers person, so don’t take my comments too far. But as a matter of practicality, that seems to be inconsistent. If the premise is “we have to reach the lost,” and you are shrinking, how is that working out exactly?

    Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Church grew last year, and the Orthodox Church has been growing for some time. There are other factors involved on both sides (immigration with the Orthodox, lapsed Catholics “coming home” with the RCC, converts in from Protestantism in both cases, etc.), so I’m not at all saying “the people want Liturgy and this proves it!” My point is, if your premise is accurate, shouldn’t you be growing too? And shouldn’t the more traditional churches be shrinking, or at least growing less?

    Has it occurred to you that perhaps in trying to reach the lost you are instead losing the reached?

  12. John
    April 6th, 2011 at 15:39 | #12

    David – I’d love to do a capella worship. But, at least in Lutheran circles, you and I are probably in the minority on that one. ;)

    When he took the guitar out of the tavern and into the concert hall, Andres Segovia said, “If you are going to be different, you’d better be good.” With that thought in mind – tempered with the reality that it is one of those things in the eye of the beholder – I generally agree with your comment about reverence.

    I also agree with your comments about praise bands, worship trends in the LCMS etc. But, my principle concern is the lack of substance. I think (and, I think you would agree) that eliminating the components of the traditional mass; choosing readings based on the pastor’s sermon; replacing the liturgy with a few feel-good songs; replacing the liturgy with a poorly acted chancel drama; etc. is hardly worship, even if the words of institution and distribution are tacked on the end. In no way am I defending that kind of activity.

    I’m just suggesting that there ought to be more options than just retreating to “page 15″ (my age is showing). I would very much like to see a group of liturgical scholars, musicians and poets working together to develop variations on divine service that incorporate contemporary styles.

    I has occurred to me that we have a duty to both the “lost” and to the “reached”. Thus, my suggestion that congregations that employ contemporary worship also continue to practice traditional worship.

  13. helen
    April 6th, 2011 at 21:20 | #13

    @David Garner #11
    Has it occurred to you that perhaps in trying to reach the lost you are instead losing the reached?

    They aren’t exactly “losing” the reached, David Garner. They’re so anxious to be left alone with their contempo toys that they tell the traditional Lutheran members to leave! Been there. :(

    “Jojakim” over on LQ told about a church being foreclosed on by CEF “and wasn’t that a sin and a shame!?” He was hot about CEF doing that.
    Further examination disclosed that after a CG faction had moved the location of the congregation and built a building, they told confessional Lutherans (longtime members and givers), “We don’t need you any more.” So the confessionals left. And the CoWo crowd went broke.
    A sin and a shame alright, but not quite the same story!

  14. David Garner
    April 6th, 2011 at 21:56 | #14

    I certainly acknowledge that as well, Helen. I’ve been a confessional Lutheran in a (vast) majority confessional parish, and I’ve been a confessional Lutheran in a full blown Ablaze! (TM) parish, and I’ve been a confessional Lutheran in a low church WELS parish. Honestly, option 1 was fantastic, but unfortunately only option 1 was edifying. The WELS parish was a great place full of nice people — it wasn’t awful, it just wasn’t, well, the Church. To an extent, we couldn’t handle the schmaltz anymore, but to a greater extent we watched the doctrine carefully. It just wasn’t Lutheran, and it certainly wasn’t catholic or patristic.

    Option 2 above — the Ablaze! (TM) parish, started as a TLH using, high liturgical parish. The pastor convinced enough people in the congregation to go CoWo, and began “introducing” (read: imposing) “blended” (read: awful shallow praise “hymns” mixed with liturgy) “worship.” Within 1 year, we were disgusted and left. Within 2 years after we left, they did a highly publicized “bluegrass service.” Within a year after that they folded. Essentially what you reference above — they ran the Lutherans off, only to learn the Baptists and Methodists basically kick their ***es at doing Baptist-style praise band worship.

    For the record, even as a former Lutheran, I insert myself into discussions such as these because I love the Lutheran Church and want the best for her. The very same things that made us look outside her tradition still rend our hearts when we look back. I am quite encouraged by the current Presidency of the LCMS and WELS. Maybe things will begin to turn around.

  15. David Garner
    April 6th, 2011 at 22:31 | #15

    John :
    I’m just suggesting that there ought to be more options than just retreating to “page 15? (my age is showing). I would very much like to see a group of liturgical scholars, musicians and poets working together to develop variations on divine service that incorporate contemporary styles.

    I admit I’m not as up on the LBW project as I should be — I was out of the LCMS by the time that came along, stuck with WELS’ subpar Christian Worship hymnal (which unfortunately was used “from the book” but not “by the book,” meaning the liturgy any given week used pieces of the services in that hymnal — including the unfortunate altered Creed — but the service was never followed as written.). Isn’t what you describe essentially what LBW does? It has 5 settings, and aren’t some of them “modernized?” Maybe I’m wrong on that. I know for a fact some “comtemporary” hymns are included in that hymnal, because I remember the complaints about Twila Paris songs being included, etc.

    As to the rest of what you write, I find little to disagree with. I would add that whatever is done should be done with the whole communion, meaning if the LCMS wants to add contemporary forms, it should do so as a Church body, not on an individual basis, with each doing as he darn well pleases. If the body cannot corporately agree to do something so important as altering worship forms, that’s a pretty good indication it shouldn’t be done without the consent of the rest of the body. Again, it was my impression this is what LBW essentially does, but I’ll defer to those of you who would know better than I.

  16. John
    April 8th, 2011 at 10:43 | #16

    David – I think that is a start. But, I think there is a much wider range of possibilities for employing “non-traditional” styles without doing violence to the traditional form and function of Worship.

  17. April 11th, 2011 at 11:01 | #17

    Sorry to have been away from the discussion, but I’m glad y’all carried on.

    John, you wrote: How can we do so in a way that is consistent with Paul’s notion of being all things to all people and all for the sake of the Gospel?

    Forgive me, but I’m gonna be a stickler on this one, since I specifically addressed this in my paper. The above is a reference to St. Paul’s comment in I Corinthians . . .

    ESV 1 Corinthians 9:20 – To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.

    This text does NOT say that St. Paul EVER changed the liturgy (even in style) to accomodate the patterns, preferences or tastes of the world in order to win the world. It says that St. Paul made PERSONAL and individual concessions – such as eating or not eating meat, taking a vow, shaving his head – in order to “win” the lost. How do we get from one man’s personal concessions to changing the worship of the Church – even in style?

    I mean, I can grasp the logic; ie., “Since St. Paul did this individually, whole congregations and synods and denominations can do it too. In fact, we ought do whatever is needed in our worship styles to win the lost.”

    I hear that logic all the time, and I hear St. Paul cited as the basis for it. My point here is that it simply doesn’t follow from the text. St. Paul DID make personal concessions in what were matters of freedom. So do I. All the time. With some people, I’ll smoke a cigar. With others, I simply won’t, because I know it would cause offense and be a hindrance to them.

    But I don’t extrapolate from that to say the Church should modify its styles in order to attract a world which presumably would reject it otherwise.

    I continue to ask: Where have the Scriptures EVER taught us to do that? HELP! Please!

    That change occurs naturally is a given. God’s people can and DO eat bacon. That proceeds from the Gospel, NOT from our desire to attract bacon-eaters, like the Beggin’ Strips dog.

    What I hear is that we really NEED to and OUGHT to be seeking ways to incorporate new styles to win people. I hear John say we should do that responsibly, without sacrificing substance. I hear St Paul’s words thrown around as if he were an advocate of such, when I find NO example in Scripture of that. And I honestly wonder: If the only way the world will come is that we look and sound like it, have we not already sacrificed something of our substance?

    CAN the Liturgy be done in any style and not have its substance altered? David brings up the issue of reverence. What we have received has come to us from generations of those of who have stood before God in His Divine Service through Word and Sacraments/Mysteries. What we are now having urged upon us as a necessity (without any Biblical basis that I can find) seems to come from a different stance, namely, one that looks to the world and says: “What must we do, be or sound like in order for you to come and give us a listen?”

    We may argue that such accomodating be done responsibly, but if it is true that what the world needs us to be we ought to be, then why not Dr Seuss liturgies and Death Metal services and whatnot – if that’s what the world wants/needs us to be?

    I honestly would tremble to make St Paul the basis for such, when he has never said any such thing. Or am I missing something?

  18. David Garner
    April 11th, 2011 at 11:29 | #18

    Rev Rick Sawyer :CAN the Liturgy be done in any style and not have its substance altered? David brings up the issue of reverence. What we have received has come to us from generations of those of who have stood before God in His Divine Service through Word and Sacraments/Mysteries. What we are now having urged upon us as a necessity (without any Biblical basis that I can find) seems to come from a different stance, namely, one that looks to the world and says: “What must we do, be or sound like in order for you to come and give us a listen?”
    We may argue that such accomodating be done responsibly, but if it is true that what the world needs us to be we ought to be, then why not Dr Seuss liturgies and Death Metal services and whatnot – if that’s what the world wants/needs us to be?
    I honestly would tremble to make St Paul the basis for such, when he has never said any such thing. Or am I missing something?

    Pastor Sawyer,

    I am pretty much a One Note Johnny on this issue, but I keep coming back to it over and over and over and I think it is true. What I find missing in much of Lutheranism are three things: catholicity, catholicity and catholicity.

    This is not to say there aren’t Lutherans who work diligently to maintain catholicity. I know you are one, and I know the good folks here at BJS are as well (one reason I have hung out here since well before we even considered looking outside the Lutheran tradition). I know many others as well. It is, rather, to say that all of the problems I see ultimately come down to this one issue. What you write above is, IMHO, an example of that problem coming to bear. You know this, but for the sake of others, I want to point out that I do NOT mean “Roman Catholicity.” Rather, I mean the Church acting as one, not today, not this year or this decade, but throughout time.

    As I mentioned to John, I would have had no problem accepting “more contemporary” forms in the music, and even in language. Though we found it distasteful, we accepted an altered Creed in the Christian Worship hymnal, gender-inclusive language, modified service language, etc. The problem was that, put simply, Christian Worship just wasn’t used as a hymnal in WELS, at least not in those parishes available to us. It was a book of suggestions, a jigsaw puzzle from which worship forms could be picked and chosen. Of course, the problem with that is the pieces didn’t fit together the same way in each parish, so everyone didn’t get the same picture. The readings were also not followed very strictly from the lectionary, so the picture was distorted further. As you know, both of these are problems in the LCMS as well, though again, I concede and rejoice that you are not a part of that problem. Rather than having the entire Synod acting as a Church, what we end up with is a disparate group of parishes each acting as a micro-church and doing whatever they please. There is no sense that the Church worships as one, and certainly no sense that the Church on earth worships with the Church in heaven. It becomes just me and my parish, and we’ll do what we darn well please, thank you very much.

    This is why I told John that I would have no issue with any particular Synod modifying the worship forms (as, for the record, was done with LSB), so long as the entire Synod is acting in concert. The problem arises when some lone Pastor determines that he is going to start goobering with the liturgy to spice things up, or “reach the lost,” or whatever. When that happens, IMHO, that Pastor is ceding the Church and becoming his own Pope. It raises the question: if the Lutheran Church is not meant to be conciliar, why are the Confessions referred to as the Book of Concord?

    Since that question is rhetorical, I’ll ask a non-rhetorical question: what part of “Concord” do the novelists not get?

  19. Jason
    April 11th, 2011 at 11:57 | #19

    @David Garner #18

    The novelists hang all over adiaphora. It is used as a punch line, if not a punching bag, to give American free license to do what ever they want, since if it is not in the Bible (heck even if it IS in the Bible), then we can alter the forms anyway we want. But the free wheelers forget Christ praying that the church be one, and that the Reformation confesses made it a big deal to still hold to the creeds. You know, the creeds that were hammered out with everyone in the church to come to ONE common understanding. (Nicene, et al)

    I guees I see it as 4th commandment obecience, render unto Caser and all that. Is one going to work togehter in harmony, accept rebuke and correction and submit to God and the rulers He has placed over us? Or is one going to listen to Satan’s whispers (did God really say…?), go on a self-centered ego trip and not care if the weaker brethern around him or her stumbles? Kinda harsh, but those are the ultimate end point of particular trains of thought.

  20. David Garner
    April 11th, 2011 at 12:08 | #20

    Jason :
    @David Garner #18
    The novelists hang all over adiaphora. It is used as a punch line, if not a punching bag, to give American free license to do what ever they want, since if it is not in the Bible (heck even if it IS in the Bible), then we can alter the forms anyway we want.

    This is why I always loved the slogan of the good folks over at Gottesdienst:

    Leitourgia Divina adiaphora non est

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Most notably because I do not speak Latin (but even I can figure that one out).

  21. April 19th, 2012 at 23:39 | #21

    “Goobering.”

    Nicely played!

    The BLutheran Church–Goobering Synod.

    Pretty much sums it up.

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