Calvin, Luther, KFUO and a Merry Christmas – Comment from the Cello Player

“Cellolee” has been leaving interesting comments all through the KFUO discussion. We thought this one was worth a broader read and was appropriate for today since it ends with Christmas greetings. (For the entire string of comments click here. You might also want to check the last few comments from Rev. Stefanski on this string. He does a helpful service of reminding us to distinguish the Word from the music.)

December 24th, 2009 at 02:31 | #441
Interesting the direction this thread is going despite a few barbs thrown back and forth. I’m trying to wrap my mind around this and a couple other threads. I’m another classical musician who converted to LCMS partly through Classic 99. When driving to church gigs on Sunday morning, I’d hear Chapel of the Cross Lutheran Church. Later I started getting asked to play there and at Christ Memorial Lutheran Church in South County. Those radio broadcasts kept the LCMS in my mind. My wife and I were seeking a traditional, liturgical church with strong theology, good music, good teaching, and good community. We were Calvinist in theology and after studying Lutheranism felt it was closer to Calvinist than some Lutherans realize (in some cases just using different terms).

With all the dirt coming out right now both in my congregation and in the LCMS in general, I’m a bit embarrassed and I’m concerned about the core values of the leadership. Are they just paying lip service to the Christian faith? I don’t know. Should a lawyer on the board have been used or one that might have had less of an appearance of conflict of interest? Could he have been more respectful of the 41 petitioners? (That really worked me up.) The manner in which the pending sale of KFUO-FM has been handled has certainly made me think whether I should reconsider my relationship with the LCMS, although it’s going to have more to do with my own congregation in the longer run. I don’t have a life-time history with the LCMS, but I do with Christ. In the long-term I have cared care more about the Bible and the creeds than the confessions/catechisms (although as PCA members, we were concerned with the Westminster Confession so that we even included a part of it in our wedding). I’m watching to see how those who are confessing their faith are really behaving.

I think one of the things LCCM’s colleagues and mine, too, run into is a general conflict between left-brain and right-brain thinkers. In a PCA church where I used to be a member, I felt greatly misunderstood and in some ways beaten down. I kept my mouth shut and put up with it because of solid teaching. Later, I married and then was in a PCA church (with some Lutheran roots) that was very artsy but it was a little more flaky and the pastor did not seem as solidly grounded in his sermons. Yet, it felt mostly right… until more of the liturgical elements started being stripped out of the services.

When I play church jobs, there are places where I’m playing that I see a massive number of empty places in the pews. We saw this in the two years my wife and I searched for a new church home. On one Sunday morning one of my colleagues once said “people aren’t going for organized religion any more.”

There are times I feel like I’m part of two shrinking minorities — a lover of classical music (including the traditional hymns) and as a Christian. It really disturbs me that so many people are staying home from church on a Sunday morning. We are such a fast-food society and we seem to want fast-food religion if we want it at all. Let’s not take the time to listen to God. Let’s not take the time to enjoy his creation. Let’s not enjoy the work of those inspired by God’s creation. Somehow to me, the loss of Classic 99 is just another sign of this.

Having read on another thread started by Pastor Wilken I’m understanding more about the need for the LCMS to sell the station (the declining value of all radio stations was an eye-opener). The situation is still painful to me. (And no, I can’t afford to buy any new devices to play broadcast music through any other means… haven’t figured out how to pay tax bills….)

In the meantime, I’ll take joy in the birth of my Savior–play in three Christmas Eve services and possibly attend a fourth (my own church). If any of you come to the 5 & 10 p.m. services at Christ Memorial, I’m the guy holding the cello.

Wishing you all a very blessed, meaningful Christmas–that includes those anonymous as well as those identified by name.


About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Calvin, Luther, KFUO and a Merry Christmas – Comment from the Cello Player — 2 Comments

  1. Interesting thread concerning music. It could go in a couple of directions. My wife and I have backgrounds first in various SB congregations up to and including a “Calvinistic” SB church, then to PCA finally LCMS. This was our first full year at our LCMS church and through the Christmas season. I could not help but notice a couple of music related issues as to worship in a liturgical church versus others we had previously attended.

    1. Our first background, especially my wife’s, was rooted in the more “free style worship” one finds today in most evangelical and SB churches. That means bands and mostly pop “Christian tunes”. The old argument basically is we don’t want to get into that old school tired repetitive nothing new stuff of churches in ages past. As we sang through various hymns out of the Lutheran service book over the Advent season it practically leaped off of the page. My wife has more musical background than I do and I’m more of a person who appreciates music with no talent, she also has a life long background of being in the church, I don’t. All that to say is she grew up learning a LOT more hymns than I ever did. All that to say this, she noticed this too, we were singing hymns and psalms we never ever heard before. In our old SB churches it was basically the “big three” (like Amazing Grace) and then a handful of pop “Christian” tunes done over and over and over again. In the Lutheran worship the waters are deep, hymns and lyrics I’ve never ever heard before. In other words it’s the “free worship” style that is utterly repetitive and stogy!
    2. We noticed that not only hymns we’d never heard of, but EVEN within the Christmas songs we knew well (e.g. O’ Come Emanuel, Hark The Herald Angels Sing), we were actually singing the other 4 or 5 verses we NEVER sang in other churches. So the not only hymns never heard before, but verses we’d never heard or sang before.
    3. The verses most often removed from the traditional hymns still heard on rare occasion at heterodox churches are the strong verses concerning the incarnation or resurrection of Christ. What was painfully obvious was that most of the strong incarnational verses are removed and retained are usually the opening verse and one select one. I found even myself, who has not purged all my own evangelical “gut reaction”, at first singing these “new” “strong incarnational/resurrection versus” thinking, “Whooaaa, that’s a bit strong is it not”. Then oddly encouraged by what they said. The “earthyness” of the incarnation and resurrection is both offensive to the old man, and greatly faith strengthening to the new man!
    4. This next issue is more seen against our prior SB background. The Trinitarian nature of the music (and worship in general). It’s almost if not entirely vanquished from Baptist music. Even the worship. I told my wife, “Can you imagine outside of the rare moment of “believers baptism” being done the mention of the Trinity. How do you suppose it would be received in our former SB churches if the Pastor stated frequently in the worship, “in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit”? It would be so out of sorts it would IMMEDIATELY be identified as a problem. It would not last one Sunday without immediate address. Other than in the rite of believers baptism and the rare outside apologetic SS class against say the Mormons, and the EXTREMELY rare occasion of the singing of the 100th Psalm, one could live their entire life in a SB church and never here otherwise of the Trinity.

    I could go further but that’s enough for now.


  2. Thank you for this post Larry. I’m going to copy it and send it to some friends who have been bashing the “stogieness” of our hymnody. You’ve laid it out quite eloquently.

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