Blessed Feast of Mary, Mother of Our Lord Day – The Lutheran Confessions on Honoring the Saints, by Pr. Rossow

Whenever a saint day falls on a Sunday we at Bethany – Naperville, Illinois celebrate it with the propers for the day. I have learned that while some churches chase after all sorts of trends for liturgical and pericopal variety (40 Days of Purpose, emergent moods with dark and candles, the bouncing ball on drop down screens, etc.), we find sufficient variety in the various liturgies and feast days of the Lutheran Service Book

We were treated to a wonderful sermon by Associate Pastor Stephen Schumacher that focused on how Mary knew her place before God as a sinner and how she modeled the life of vocation for us. The introduction of the sermon included this excellent quote from the Lutheran Confessions that teaches us the threefold manner in which we honor the saints.

4] Our Confession approves honors to the saints. For here a threefold honor is to be approved. The first is thanksgiving. For we ought to give thanks to God because He has shown examples of mercy; because He has shown that He wishes to save men; because He has given teachers or other gifts to the Church. And these gifts, as they are the greatest, should be amplified, and the saints themselves should be praised, who have faithfully used these gifts, just as Christ praises faithful business-men, 5] Matt. 25:21, 23. The second service is the strengthening of our faith; when we see the denial forgiven Peter, we also are encouraged to believe the more that grace 6] truly superabounds over sin, Rom. 5:20. The third honor is the imitation, first, of faith, then of the other virtues, which every one should imitate according to his calling. 7] These true honors the adversaries do not require. They dispute only concerning invocation, which, even though it would have no danger, nevertheless is not necessary. Apology to the Augsburg Confession, Article XXI, from

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.


Blessed Feast of Mary, Mother of Our Lord Day – The Lutheran Confessions on Honoring the Saints, by Pr. Rossow — 10 Comments

  1. I am going to throw this out there and we will see what happens. First I appreciate this article and what your church did, relates to my Orthodox roots-not the Mary thing but the big picture and the confessional tie in. One of my biggest beefs with the Lutheran liturgy is the lack of depth I have sometimes observed. Do we criticize our own liturgies enough? Yes the contemporary worship is highly criticized, but what about our own liturgies? Anyway I am wondering if Luther went too far. Be nice now, I am a little confused given that I come from an eastern background. The liturgy of the east is similar is structure to the west, but some of the meanings are completely different than the R.C. view.

    A quick search of the web brought these articles to my attention and they were interesting to an insomniac like me. I happened to read them a few nights ago as I was working on church discussion of our liturgy.

  2. Awesome on the Mary feast, I wish it would become more prevalent. This is a good change in Lutheranism, back towards proper appreciation of Mary. I can’t picture my Grandfather approving though—too Catholic.

  3. Andrew, I went through the same confusion. What do you think the standard for critiquing liturgies should be? Good luck on that answer!

    I read through the confessions trying to find the basis for the confessional position–that the Lutheran confessions require use of historic liturgies–couldn’t find it, and upon further reading, changed my opinion. My own view is that historic liturgy is good for many reasons, but not required, and that the requirements for Lutheran liturgies are only that the form preach and teach the gospel (just as the Sermon must, Law and Gospel), the form not cause offense to the weak, and that the form show unity with those in fellowship to the extent possible. Luther didn’t seem to feel any mandate to retain all the ordinaries (though there was no standard Roman liturgy at that time either, different areas often had their own forms).

    I think it would be great to have a Lutheranized Orthodox liturgy. I wonder if Lutherans in Russian ever had one.

  4. Ccncerning a Lutheranized Orthodox liturgy… When I was in Russia, early 90’s, the liturgy was VERY simple and very German. The simplicity was something on par with the TLH confessional service. Simple one line responses, but typically structured. We all felt right at home. Of course they didn’t have hymnals at the time, so liturgy was minimal. The bigger influence was pietism, not Orthodoxy. Don’t forget that in the face of persecution going to church was also a time for the Germans to come together culturally. This was a BIG deal for them. I’m guessing that if you went back to pre-revolution days, you would NOT find much difference. I do remember someone writing about the practice of lighting votive candles, no doubt an Eastern in heritance. Perhaps if there are any brothers in Russia following this, they can better explain how the liturgy expanded or contracted.

  5. The Second Martin is a wonderful book that all should read. One not only for President-elect Harrison to review but also all pastors. When Martin Chemnitz was made superintendent of Braunschweig (about 260 congregations under his bishopric I believe), he required all congregations use the Bugenhagen order. As I read it, this order almost made it into the Formula of Concord. Wouldn’t that have been a help! Chemnitz also visited every pastor and evaluated them (not alone but with his cohort). Amazing how many needed correction, instruction or removal (actual numbers are given). If Harrison could just visit all the DP’s (leave Mueller out of this since he is a former insider (DP) and maybe use one of the other Vice-presidents to accompany each visit) and evaluate their service to the church, wouldn’t that be a great help. One question might be “What standard are you using in evaluating the pastors under your care in their practice of Closed Communion?” Since clergy are the problem with harmony in the Missouri Synod, this would be a possible starting point and one that is fully within the realm of reason since there are only 35. Getting to the rest of the 6,000-8,000 might be difficult.

  6. Don’t forget about the sainted John the Steadfast, Elector of Saxony, and devout Christian layman and confessor.

    D. August 16, 1532

  7. Pr. Rossow,
    Did you sing LSB 518 with stanza 22? (By All Your Saints in Warfare) Beautiful words with a tune that is a challenge!

  8. If your church celebrated the Festival of Mary on Sunday, and you heard ‘theotokos’ your church is probably confessional. The Lord honored Mary. We must too. It is not optional, see the Confessions.

    @A Beggar #7
    Hymn 670, stanza 2 is about Mary too. We introduced hymn 517/18 and the people loved it! Great minor key bold hymn. First time in 102 years this festival was celebrated in the Lutheran church here (they think)’ 12 very positive comments, no negative comments.

  9. Regarding our hymn selection at Bethany, the local cantor will field the question. 🙂

    I considered “By All Your Saints” but opted to use “For All the Faithful Women” since we sing “By All Your Saints in Warfare” all the time at Bethany (as it is the only hymn especially fitting so many of the saints’ days) and also because the flow of the service. I was looking at a closing hymn since we used “Tell Out My Soul” (paraphrase of the Magnificat) for the Hymn of the Day and “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones” for the Entrance Hymn.

    I’m very pleased that LSB returned the Marian stanza to “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones”. It was omitted from LW. Other hymnody at Bethany on Sunday: selected stanzas of “Let the Earth Now Praise the Lord” for the Offertory, and, at the Divine Services, “Let All Mortal Flesh” and “The Infant Priest Was Holy Born” for communion.

    We had Divine Service at 7:45 & 11:15; Matins at 9:00am. I would have leaned toward “By All Your Saints” for the Office Hymn at Matins, but favored “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones” to balance the Sermon & Closing Hymns in terms of style and familiarity. Such of course are secondary considerations, but, when one has enough hymns of merit to consider, one should consider stylistic balance and congregational familiarity.

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