In his sermon at the installation of President Harrison Bishop Walter Obare did the unthinkable. He took on the sacred cow of contemporary worship. Obare is the archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya and is a long-time friend of President Harrison.
The sermon was terse and straightforward in its addressing of the main theme of Scripture which is also the main theme of the short-lived Harrison presidency – sin and forgiveness. It was also terse and straight-forward in its addressing of issues facing the church today. Obare encouraged the newly elected president and officers to maintain the confessional nature of the LCMS by upholding the clear Biblical preaching and teaching of law and Gospel. He encouraged the newly elected to keep the church from drowning in the false postmodern thought that causes man to doubt the clear Word of God and replace it with his own reason, falsely dreaming that God is not behind all that happens and rejecting the miraculous power of God as revealed in Scripture.
He also spoke out clearly against those in the church who falsely teach that homosexuality is a predisposition. He rejected that notion as foolishness since God is the creator of all. “Sin is sin” he said and God does not contradict himself. But of course that was not all that earth-shaking since most everyone in the LCMS, including ex-president Kieschnick have spoken out against homosexuality, although none as clearly as Bishop Obare. What was really jolting and refreshing is that Bishop Obare took on the sacred cow of contemporary worship.
Obare called the “holy liturgy” one of the marks of the church along with the office of the holy ministry. He begged the newly elected to help the LCMS remain a confessional church in the face of postmodern pressures. Contemporary worship was one of the postmodern pressures called out by Obare. He encouraged the newly elected to be committed to the holy liturgy which he said has come down to us in the church through the ages.
He compared contemporary worship to “the [unintelligible word or phrase] of the Kenyan marketplace that changes every four to six months” and that veers from what it should be. The sermon was a little difficult to understand at this point but the lesson was clear from the aged and wise bishop – contemporary worship is temporary, passing and in league with the earthly lusts of the secularized world. Seminaries and President Harrison I hope you are listening? Everyone I talked to at the installation party said it was a knock-out sermon. Now we just need to listen to it and heed all of its advice.
This is very timely for two reasons. For one, I have just received word from a source today that Concordia Seminary – St. Louis is forming a “chapel band” to lead contemporary worship as a part of its contextual worship efforts. (We will share more with you as this story develops, if it indeed it does.) Concordia Seminary St. Louis, did you hear the sage advice of the Bishop Obare? I personally beg you to listen and heed his advice to stay in the church catholic rather than following the whims of secular culture as though you are some kind of an Americanized Baptist or some such thing.
It is also very timely because the folks over at Jesus First, who continue to claim to be a growing movement in the LCMS, just today issued their most recent newsletter and amongst other things took a stand in favor of contemporary worship with the following antithesis:
[We cannot accept…] An effort to stymie the creativity and versatility of congregations in worship
We do understand that there are appropriate expectations of what will take place in a service of Lutheran worship. As congregations understand and honor those expectations, congregations can and should use the variety of gifts that are available to them without undue criticism or judgment from others. (Click here for the full article.)
Jesus First is all in favor of evangelism and mission but has been duped by the culture and the American Protestants into thinking that contemporary worship is a godly way to grow the church. But, here is this guy, a bishop no less, straight from the mission field, dumping on contemporary worship. Go figure. Something does not add up.
We applaud Bishop Obare for taking on the sacred cow of contemporary worship. It was even more ironic since his longest trope was an extended analogy about the Maasai people who think that every cow in the world belongs to them. (You can listen to the entire sermon by clicking on this post from Sunday. The link is at the bottom of the post, just above the comments.) The “sacred cow” of contemporary worship does not belong to the church nor does it belong in the church catholic. Bishop Obare sees this perfectly clear, even through his dimming and aging eyes. It remains to be seen if the LCMS and its leadership will see this as clearly.