Great Stuff Found on the Web — Pastoral Meanderings on “Reading Between the Lines”

I happened on this today over on Pastor Peters’ Pastoral Meanderings blog. There seems to be an unending dispute between those who use the historic liturgy and those who write their own, and this points out a problem of creating your own — tying your worth based on how well your creation goes over with the members of your church.


personal-brandOn another forum I have been following another long discussion of non-liturgical worship with the use of contemporary worship vs liturgical worship with the use of mostly hymns. It is so painful because this debate has been going on on different threads in that forum for, well, ever. It shows no signs of winding down and both sides are entrenched in their positions. One of the things I consider as someone who has both participated in this debate and someone who has stayed out of it for periods of time, is the remarkable way that we as Lutheran Pastors are personally connected to these positions. Especially those who write their own stuff for Sunday morning!

Those of us who use the liturgy and the great volume of the Church’s hymnody (new and old) do so from a fairly secure position. In other words, it is less about our personal preference or choice than it is about the Church’s confession, history and practice. In many respects this is a safe choice theologically. We do not have to pour through everything that is done on Sunday morning to see if it is reflective of our confessional identity, consistent with what we believe, teach, and confess as Lutherans, and consonant with what Lutherans have done through the ages. By using the hymnal and its rich body of hymnody and the liturgy and its deep historical identity with Christians assembled, we stand well within that evangelical and catholic tradition no matter which hymns are chosen or lectionary used.

For those who prepare an essentially new order each week, to talk about what they do is to speak personally about them, about their strengths and weaknesses, about their personalities and tastes, and about their “Lutheran-ness.” When you presume to write what the Church will do when she gathers in worship, you presume a great responsibility that some do not fully comprehend. The Church’s worship on Sunday morning is the Christian’s faith on Monday morning. While those who do this are searching for relevance and culturally attractive and appropriate ways to use the Sunday morning experience as an entry point for those not yet in the Church, they often forget that they are also determining who the Church is, what she believes, and how she looks to the world. For the Church’s identity in worship is the Christian’s identity Monday through Saturday.

Often they point to numbers as affirmation of their practice and justification for their cause. I will not question or even deal with numbers but the very fact that they are looking for what works to fill the pews is itself an indication of the fragile foundation upon which some of these houses are built. When you choose to stand outside the Church’s catholic and evangelical tradition and depart from the order that the Church has known from the earliest of days, then you must find support for and reason for such departure to explain and justify such a disconnect with the Church’s identity and life. That is generally an appeal not to Scripture or to the Confessions or even to Luther but to the numbers — the liturgy does not work and what I am doing does work.

Those who know me know that I have no shortage of ego. Yet I am extremely fearful of what would happen if I were left unconstrained by the path of the Church’s tradition and practice. I know that I would love it on one hand and would believe that what I am doing would be better than what anyone else is doing, but it would be a terrible tyrrany upon the people to have them subject to Larry Peters or what Larry Peters thinks they want or need week after week after week. And if someone found fault with what I had prepared, it would not be a simple matter of the way a text were treated or which hymn were chosen, it would be a challenge to who I am and how well I know my people and what they want or need. If attendance wavered from week to week, I would be left with the soul searching question of what I did wrong the Sunday before or the Sunday before that and what I need to correct in order to correct the drop in attendance (if numbers is the primary definition of faithfulness).

All of this relates why such a discussion of contemporary music and non-liturgical worship vs liturgical worship and the music of the Church gets so personal, so heated, and so bitter…. for those who invest themselves and their identities and understandings of the people in determining what happens on Sunday morning, any question about their practice is a personal challenge. And that is exactly the weakness in all of this…. the worship of the Church is not personal to the Pastor or personal even to the congregation but to Jesus Christ, His Word and Sacraments, and the Church’s confession and identity. That is the personal that ought to be front and center in our discussions…. and not ourselves.


Read more at the Pastoral Meanderings blog.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

Great Stuff Found on the Web — Pastoral Meanderings on “Reading Between the Lines” — 7 Comments

  1. I got one for you, how about a pastor who writes his own liturgy, but uses the same 4 -6 hymns week in week out? Especially difficult at this point in the Church year. Now don’t get me wrong I love the hymnody, But how many hymns are their in LSB? OBTW the hymns are all from TLH, that were transfered over into LSB!

  2. In other words, do we have to spend our time forming the “liturgy”, or do we spend our time being formed by the liturgy because it already says what our Lord is saying to us?

  3. “All of this relates why such a discussion of contemporary music and non-liturgical worship vs liturgical worship and the music of the Church gets so personal, so heated, and so bitter…. for those who invest themselves and their identities and understandings of the people in determining what happens on Sunday morning, any question about their practice is a personal challenge.”

    Having personally challenged a few pastors who write their own liturgies I can vouch for the fact that it gets bitter. It is bitter from the challengers perspective also. Especially if your conscience compels you to seek another parish because you find the new innovative liturgy less than scriptural.

  4. Just a Layman :I got one for you, how about a pastor who writes his own liturgy, but uses the same 4 -6 hymns week in week out? Especially difficult at this point in the Church year. Now don’t get me wrong I love the hymnody, But how many hymns are their in LSB? OBTW the hymns are all from TLH, that were transfered over into LSB!

    Could you please share more about his practice? Very interesting. He writes a new liturgy interspersed around 4-6 hymns? What are the hymns?

  5. We had a vacancy Pastor who wrote long substitutes for the general prayer.
    It read like an extended confession… of things I never thought of doing… and there was no absolution, which I felt in need of, if I were going to take the prayer seriously.

    I did hurt his feelings, telling him so, but I was unimportant in his eyes so they weren’t hurt very much.

  6. Almost all the members of my first parish in Douglasville, GA have now departed for other pastures, driven out by a “shepherd” whose own personal agenda apparently has trumped that of Christ and His one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. Great persoanl grief for me.

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