Harrison Installation Themes: Repentance, Forgiveness, Unity, by Pr. Rossow

If the Divine Service for the installation of President Matthew Harrison is any indication of what’s to come, then there are days of blessing ahead for the LCMS. The blessing will come from a godly and scriptural focus on sin and repentance aimed at unity in the church.

Harrison’s right hand man Rev. John Vieker deserves the thanks for the service. I cannot help but compare it to the last corporate LCMS service I attended at the opening of the convention a few weeks ago. That service had a producer. This service simply had a reverend-liturgist (Vieker) who opened the hymnal, located the Divine Service, picked the propers, called on a superb cantor (Mark Bender) to direct the choir and there you have it – a liturgy for the ages, a liturgy we could all sing, a liturgy by which God could give us his gifts and through which we could worship His glory. There were no screens, no faux video altars, no praise bands, and nobody waving to Jesus during the latest top forty Methobapticostal anthem which we endured in Houston.

Speaking of praise groups, the low point of the service was the psalmody. It involved my favorite musician – our own Bethany Lutheran, Naperville Cantor Phillip Magness who played the keyboard wonderfully on the jazzy Richard Smallwood version of Psalm 121. It was beautifully sung by Monique Nunes, wife of LWR Director John Nunes, with back-up by a local black ensemble. The problem was that the free-lancing and jammin’ section of the piece was private in nature and ad-libbed to the point that it did not fit the rest of the service and was a bit over the top for me. I am all in favor of diversity in the Divine Service. We regularly sing African, Chinese, and Irish tunes from LSB and use such varied instruments as congas, harp, accordion, etc. at Bethany – Naperville. I have had the pleasure to meet Monique. She has a stunning voice and even more stunning personality. The Psalmody just did not work today. It was however a clear sign of Rev. Harrison’s breadth of taste and worldwide reach since the globe-hopping Nunes’ are close friends of the President.

The readings and sermon flowed right out of Harrison’s acceptance speech at the convention. (I will have more on the powerful sermon by Bishop Obare in my next post.) They were filled with humble repentance and the grace of God. The last words we heard and sang, the closing hymn, were certainly picked by Harrison and Vieker to foreshadow the years of Harrison leadership to come: “We are Called to Stand Together,” (LSB 828). Sin, forgiveness and unity in the synod – years of blessing lie ahead for the LCMS.


A loyal BJS reader has provided this recording of the sermon:

[podcast]http://steadfastlutherans2.org/mp3/BishopObareSermon11September2010.mp3[/podcast]

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.

Comments

Harrison Installation Themes: Repentance, Forgiveness, Unity, by Pr. Rossow — 84 Comments

  1. Just one little observation on the service, which in the afterglow several people were heard to comment on… after Rev. Mirly said to Rev. Harrison, “I install you as Pres. of the LCMS in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”… the AMEN!!! that followed shook the rafters like a mighty shout. Much much louder than all the other amens, which all were pretty vigorous. But this one was exceptional. I wonder how many angels in heaven might have joined in just at that moment…

    “Shout unto God with the voice of triumph” (Psalm 47:1).

  2. This discussion about “opportunity missed,” escapes me. Was this not a service to install the president of the LC-MS? I didn’t know the intention was to share the Gospel in the foreign mission field.

    Dutch, you mention only two languages, but many more were present. Spanish, French, Russian, German, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin and others. Should the Psalm been sung in every language present so that they could have “taken the words back to their countries in their own language (sic)?” The service would have been much longer than 2 1/2 hours.

    Why do we always assume that we are the only ones that can share the Gospel with other countries. Many of these countries have been praying faithfully for us in the LC-MS to remain orthodox and they have been rejoicing with us and were happy to participate in this grand occasion. They have faithful pastors and teachers as well as the Word of God in their own language. This was a day for them to rejoice, pray and minister to us. Reminds me of the hymn that talks about the church praying 24 hours a day, because as we are sleeping, our brothers and sisters on the other side of the world are awake and are praying.

    It was a great day! I am not ordained, just a layman who sits in the pew. However, I was blessed to be there among my “family” from around the world as we watch the installation of the leader of our American church – one, equal among many in our Lutheran worldwide community.

  3. Thank you, Mr. Nielsen. You express it more clearly than I. We were blessed in 1996-97 when the Lutheran Church in Kenya sent Pastor Walter Obare to minister to us, to train this pastor and others, and he continues to minister to the world and us, leading Lutherans around the world to stand and proclaim Christ crucified and truth. Archbishop Obare has been a missionary to us since that time. And his mission efforts on Saturday showed in his gospel proclamation and exhortation to President Harrison and us to stand firm, exhorting us: “Help The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod to remain a confessional church within the Church Catholic.”

    We thank the Lutheran church in Kenya for their willingness to enter into fellowship with us, ro lead by example, and to come to us and share the Gospel with us in our own language.

  4. Okay, I see we have a wise guy in our midst. 🙂

    I should have used capital letters to distinguish contemporary worship (which the service clearly was!) from Contemporary Worship (which it was not). I’ll try to get back to your question later, gnesio. My morning computer time is up and kids need to be awakened and chores done and homeschooling assignments written. If anyone else wants to jump in and get the ball rolling on gnesio’s question, please feel free, and I’ll check back in and see if there’s anything left for me to add later.

  5. @mbw #40
    I think I proposed a Texas National Church in another thread …
    : – ) Kidding.

    It sounds like the ‘pseudo baptists’ were represented. The rest of us will take our chances with the new administration. 🙂

    Actually, from what I remember of the black congregation in our LWML zone, they would have sung the introit straight. They saved the embellishments for their choir anthems. [Their dedication of a new church was a joyous occasion which many in the LWML attended.]

  6. @gnesio #47

    Gnesio, here’s an article from the Commission on Worship that is broader in scope than your question but that includes some discussion of Contemporary Worship. I hope it is helpful. I think it says a lot of the things I would try to say but does a much better job than I ever could.

    http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=3722

    Obviously it is not easy to settle on one universally agreed upon definition, as illustrated by the distinction to be made between contemporary worship and Contemporary Worship, and I hesitate to try to do so here. In my opinion worship should be contemporary, but not Contemporary. I am tempted to say that Contemporary Worship is sort of like pornography–I struggle to define it but I sure know it when I see it. So rather than try to provide a very specific or descriptive definition I will just say that I think the hallmark of Contemporary Worship is that it is focused on the subjective experience of the worshiper rather than on the objective truth of the salvation story. It is that misguided focus that leads to most of what is unfortunate about the Contemporary Worship movement.

  7. Cheryl Magness :

    I think it safe to assume that when someone is talking about contemporary worship that they are not typically speaking of a current worship service, but are rather speaking of a form of worship that emerged in the 19th century within evangelical churches following after the worship practices of such men as Charles Finney.

    @revfisk #12

    Pr. Fisk, I too don’t think an impromptu, extemporaneous, prayer offered by a woman in the divine service is proper. That is a practice which would be welcomed in Pentecostal forms of worship, but is really disruptive (being disorderly) in the divine service and should have no place in our liturgy since it draws attention to the person praying.

  8. >> the AMEN!!! that followed shook the rafters like a mighty shout

    I wasn’t the only one who noticed! It was indeed thunderous. I know that at that moment I felt like a weight was lifted from me.

    I’ve been reading a letter by Sasse from the early 60’s and he commented that all of world Lutheranism was waiting for the outcome of events in the LCMS, as the last major bastion of confessional Lutheranism. If the LCMS went the way of the LWF he foresaw the end of Lutheranism as an independent movement, becoming only one viewpoint of those remaining individual Lutherans scattered in non-Lutheran bodies. But, if the LCMS could retain its confession he foresaw a worldwide resurgence of Lutheranism.

    I am NOT saying the struggle is now over, nor certainly would Sasse. But, in the bigger scheme of things, I do hope and pray this summer was a critical turning point, the delayed denouement to the struggles of the 60’s and 70’s.

  9. @Kebas #61
    I do hope and pray this summer was a critical turning point, the delayed denouement to the struggles of the 60?s and 70?s.

    Sounds like a seminary may not have learned a thing from the 60’s and 70’s. 🙁
    Still clamoring for and dispensing ‘that which is not bread’…

  10. @Cheryl Magness #62
    Friends, here’s the video of Psalm 121. The sound quality is regrettably poor …

    As you say, Cheryl, I would not be able to tell from that video what was said.
    If it was a bid for attention, it got it, some unfortunate, which is too bad.
    It might have been otherwise, done as written, since it was the “extemp” portion which is catching flak.

    It will all be the same in a 100 years!

    [If the world ends sooner, we may be learning to sing that…
    while Louderback is learning to appreciate Bach’s Lutheran chorales!]

  11. @Cheryl Magness #62

    Thanks for the video footage, Mrs. Magness.

    A couple thoughts came to mind as I was watching it. The first was that the woman vocalist was quite talented. She definitely has southern gospel singing down.

    I also wondered why she (and the three vocalists with her) wasn’t up in the choir loft. Why did they have to be down in the congregation as close to the front as they could get? She certainly got a good deal of attention down there. Notice the pastor behind her snapping photos. I would have found this whole thing distracting.

    I also recalled how much of that type of exhortation through song I encountered as a Pentecostal. In fact, it was quite ordinary at black Pentecostal churches I attended at times for the preacher to break out in impromptu singing parts of the sermon as he energized and excited the congregation. Of course, this is also one of the “new measures” of Finney where preaching and exhortation shouldn’t be “dull or dead” since the idea is to have a revival meeting in each worship service. The job of music in these settings is not for teaching and prayer, but to induce a subjective “feel” which revives the person or brings the “sinner” to God.

    Those are just some of my observations from watching that portion of the video and it is not my intention or desire to tear down the installation service. I am pretty sure that had I been in attendance I likely would have ignored this part of the service wondering why it was even part of the service. I hope this is not an example of more to come.

  12. I listened to the recording. I could not make out the words during the ad lib…if that is what it was. The piece itself was nice. Always easy to play Sunday evening quarterback. How many of you still do Amazing Grace at probably every funeral and certainly at least once a year? We all like a bit of junk food if indeed that is what the ad libbing was.

  13. Off topic, but #828 We are Called to Stand Together, the closing hymn, has a tune that kicks butt, digs the hole, tosses the bodies in, then dances on Satan’s grave.

    I just had to say that.

    Regarding the setting of Psalm 121, I allow for the fact that the volume got too loud due to unforeseen issues, and leave it at that. The soloist was very capable, and stayed neatly in tune, something that is difficult in that style of singing, and her accompanist was extremely good. The piece was an authentic expression of what Lutheranism looks like outside of whitey-white Germans; it’s no different than if a choir from Kenya or South America had participated. We need to get out of our ethnic closet a bit, I think.

  14. @Jim Pierce #65

    “I also wondered why she (and the three vocalists with her) wasn’t up in the choir loft.”

    I would guess it was 1) because the balcony was completely loaded with other musicians: organist, children’s choir, adult choir, plus various instrumentalists, and so there was probably not enough room for a third choir, pianist, and sound equipment, and 2) they were positioned so as to be close to the grand piano, highly desirable for the best musical resuilt. Unfortunately for some, that adds to the feeling of it being a performance. But for those of us whose churches don’t have balconies and so are used to seeing musicians off to the side, that was not the case. I think they were positioned appropriately. They weren’t singing from the front of the sanctuary, walking back and forth wielding microphones in front of the altar. They sang from the side of in the place they were told to sing from. I couldn’t help noticing at the rehearsal the night before that Mrs. Nunes was concerned that she did not have a mic stand. She wanted one. She did not want to hold the microphone, pop singer style, but to stand in place before it and sing.

    “I also recalled how much of that type of exhortation through song I encountered as a Pentecostal.”

    Interesting. This did not strike me at all as exhortation or Pentecostalism. I didn’t feel exhorted to do anything at all or pressured to feel any certain way. For me it was just a Gospel song, sincerely sung in a cultural style that is not my own but that I have encountered on many occasions and come to love for what it has to offer in its unique way of proclaiming the Word.

  15. @helen #64

    “If it was a bid for attention”

    It was not. I have never met a more humble group of musicians in my life. They came because they were invited. They came to serve by sharing their gift of music. They sang the song they were asked to sing. They did their best under circumstances that were challenging. They didn’t know what to expect, who this guy was that was going to play for them and whether he was any good or knew how to play this style of music, or even whether he was going to be playing the piano. At one point at rehearsal Friday night (which took place in a choir room with piano), one of the ladies asked whether they would be singing with organ the next day–I’m assuming because that, after all, is what Lutherans usually do. Even though it would not be the best way to accompany this song, she was prepared to do it if that’s what was asked. She was assured that no, the proper instrument to accompany this sort of song was piano, and the group would not be asked to do otherwise.

    So no, Helen, there was no bidding for attention. At least not from where I could see.

  16. @Jim Pierce #65

    By the way, Jim, (and please call me Cheryl), there were more than three back-up singers. There were at least five, plus the lead, so six in all, maybe even seven (having trouble remembering), plus the pianist and the grand piano.

    And I have no idea who the pastor was taking pictures. Or was it video? But I think that is immaterial. I saw people taking pictures and video in many other parts of the service, too. I think this was just highly noticeable because of where that pastor unfortunately happened to be.

  17. Cheryl Magness :@helen #64
    They came because they were invited. They came to serve by sharing their gift of music. They sang the song they were asked to sing. .

    I think that this bears repeating.

    Pastor Harrison heard the group play this song before, knows them personally, and, I assume, knew he could trust that whatever words they used would be appropriate and doctrinally sound, or he would not have asked them to sing.

  18. So no, Helen, there was no bidding for attention. At least not from where I could see.

    @Cheryl Magness #69

    Cheryl,
    Your Pastor speaks of ad libbing with comments the congregation wouldn’t understand.
    That’s what I meant by ‘a bid for attention’.

    I think it’s too bad that the Psalm wasn’t sung straight so the comments here could be about a beautiful voice. But I wasn’t there; I didn’t hear it. So the comments may be over the top?
    With a 2.5 hour service, I would certainly like to hear porportionately about something else! (E.g., were there no better hymn clips than “This is the feast….”?)

  19. @Helen #73
    Hi Helen,
    I watched the live feed, and what seemed like it might have been ‘ad libbed’ was easy for me to understand live, but I don’t remember the exact words so I am reluctant to say much about them. It had something to do with asking God to anoint those present for leadership, or something similar. It certainly was not any more difficult to understand than the rest of the words, and it’s also quite conceivable that it was planned even though it seemed ad libbed.

    I assume that Pastor Harrison expected this and approved it. That is the best construction on this.

  20. Helen,
    I’ve been watching this thread. I wonder, am I the only “special music”, “vocalist”, “soloist”, or in Emergent/CGM speak, “special gift vocalist” watching this?
    One thing I can say, whether I was asked for or paid for, what I am able to do, if it was in His House, the last thing, I wanted or was horrified by, is being placed in a position, where I saw seen en masse or my name known. The last thing wanted was my name known, let alone my face connected. “Solo/Soloist” is all anyone would have seen in that Sanctuary or bulletin.

    My little guy, has a soprano Vienna Boy’s Choir voice, perfect pitch, like me cannot read music, but excelles at the gift he was given from Above, for His Lord Alone. He will refuse, to do so in public unless I do so w/him. Was it because he was afraid, no. My little guy wasn’t singing, using his “gift” for those attending, he was singing to his Lord & does so for Him alone, as my son understands, it’s Jesus’ House, “I’m singing for Him, not all those other people.” When my son & I, enter in His Sanctuary, what we are able to do is for Him, not those attending, congregation, assembly, or as often used, (but not in t his) as a marketing tool. If the Holy Spirit chooses, you may walk away with a bit. But that is soley up to His Good & Kind choosing. Not by script, staging, or management.
    It’s for Him Alone.

    No one, should take advantage of someone who has a gift, nor should those who have one, use it to take advantage or preform, let alone “improv” or make a personal statement in His House.
    That is abusing a gift given. 20 years ago, I never thought I’d be asked to make such hard choices, about what to sing, how to sing it, intents, where I’d be placed & spotlighted or used, I NEVER thought my son would know those hard choices at 8-10 yrs old.
    But, a few of us do. My son learned that from me, I learned it, from someone who sang on the “world’s stage”, the New York Metropolitian Opera. This is what he said, it rings in my ears when I hear of this type of thing…

    “Heidi (yes, that’s it, but don’t use it I don’t answer well to that, just call me Dutch PLEASE!), we have a gift. How & where we choose to use it, is up to our Faith & Conscience. We both know the stage & how to preform for an audience. But dear, when we cross the threshold of His Sanctuary, it ceases to be the stage & we are no longer preforming for an audience. What we do is not for a congregation, a Pastor, or public. You must be unseen, unknown. Because when we sing, it is a true solo. It is you, singing just for Him. You remember that, and you will not be used, abused, or arrogant in the gift you’ve been given.”

    Now if an 11 year old can understand that, as timid as they are, say no, when “no” should be said, how does this preformance, which is exactly what it was, look now?
    Helen, we haven’t done this since 12/08, because we have ceased to be a blessing and become a commodity or draw. The more I see & hear of this, it was a preformance on both ends. And those who arranged it & did so, should know better than this.

  21. @Jim Pierce #71

    Jim, thank you for the examples. I don’t have time to watch them all from start to finish, but I clicked briefly on each. I have to say that I don’t quite understand their applicability to the current thread. I don’t see much similarity between the psalmody at the installation service and the clips you provide other than the color of much of the skin and the Gospel roots (musiccally speaking) of the music. But the music itself is very different, the way it is presented is very different, and most importantly of all, the services in which your clips are presented are worlds apart from the solidly liturgical, confessional service that was President Harrison’s installation. There’s just no comparison, in my opinion. The majority of hymns in our hymnal were not written by LCMS Lutherans. The majority of musical settings are not of German Lutheran origins. We have music and hymnody from all sorts of traditions and backgrounds. But singing a Baptist or Methodist or Anglican hymn does not make us Baptist or Methodist or Anglican, and having a black choir sing a Gospel style piece does not make us Pentecostal.

    Helen, I think you are exactly right. This is getting way more attention than it merits. And I think it’s time for me to stop contributing to the elevation of it to undue importance, so I am going to refrain from any additional comments on this thread.

  22. @Cheryl Magness #76

    Cheryl, the examples were provided for those who might not have understood my descriptions given @65. Namely,

    I also recalled how much of that type of exhortation through song I encountered as a Pentecostal. In fact, it was quite ordinary at black Pentecostal churches I attended at times for the preacher to break out in impromptu singing parts of the sermon as he energized and excited the congregation. Of course, this is also one of the “new measures” of Finney where preaching and exhortation shouldn’t be “dull or dead” since the idea is to have a revival meeting in each worship service. The job of music in these settings is not for teaching and prayer, but to induce a subjective “feel” which revives the person or brings the “sinner” to God.

    The examples I provided were not intended to be used as comparisons with the event at President Harrison’s installation. I thought that was clear from the first example of a preacher delivering his sermon and then breaking out in song as I described having experienced myself in post #65.

    So, for clarification, the examples I provided are to give others a good idea of what I was describing of my experiences and that is where they are applicable to this thread.

    I hope that clarifies why the examples were posted.

  23. @Cheryl Magness #78

    You are most welcome, Cheryl. I do want to make an additional comment with regard to your statement,

    The majority of hymns in our hymnal were not written by LCMS Lutherans. The majority of musical settings are not of German Lutheran origins. We have music and hymnody from all sorts of traditions and backgrounds. But singing a Baptist or Methodist or Anglican hymn does not make us Baptist or Methodist or Anglican, and having a black choir sing a Gospel style piece does not make us Pentecostal.

    I think it is very important to point out the hymns in the LSB went through a process of doctrinal review. While the LSB is not perfect, I think those who put it together did a great job at ensuring the songs contained therein are faithful to our doctrine. As you know, we can’t separate doctrine from practice. We do not use a Methodist hymnal (for example) in our churches, not because we couldn’t find good hymnody contained in it, but because hymns serve to teach us and we reject false teachings contained in some of their hymns.

    So while it is true that a good number of hymns in the LSB are not written by “LCMS Lutherans” we have to keep in mind that the LSB did go through doctrinal review by the LCMS, underscoring that we can not separate doctrine from practice.

  24. @Jim Pierce #79

    Sigh. I have no willpower. I said I was going to stop commenting and here I go again. I will rationalize it as needing to respond to Jim since his comment was directed specifically to mine. But I really am gonna stop. Really.

    Yes. Everything in LSB went through doctrinal–and musical–review. But the song in question here went through both of those things as well as it was considered and chosen by the confessional pastors who planned and oversaw the installation service. And I trust their vigilance and judgment in doing so just as much as I trust that of those who oversaw the hymnal project.

  25. Dutch : The more I see & hear of this, it was a preformance on both ends. And those who arranged it & did so, should know better than this.

    Dutch, no, really, it wasn’t. It was an anomaly in the service, definitely it did not sound or ‘feel’ like the rest of it, but it wasn’t a performance. It was worship. Read Cheryl’s posts again, all of them…she has the inside scoop, no? The video makes it seem that way because it’s zoomed in, but if you look at it from the beginning and see where the singers are standing and the whole picture, they are off to the side, not drawing visual attention to themselves. And if you see the choir loft, it is clear that there is not room up there, plus the piano is downstairs so that is where the musicians should be.

    I agree with you about not becoming the focus. Our choir sings from a loft, and that is as it should be. If the loft is full and they have to sing downstairs, they are always off to the side. A soloist is almost always in the loft, not down in the nave. But this was different from performance, so much so that I feel badly for the singers that might read what has been written here.

  26. OTSJ,
    If all I have, is what is linked by taping or video, as only a few could attend, this is all most have & must go by, what am I to think?
    This service, is a service, so vital & important! No matter how small the aspects, should it ever be considered, in any aspect an “anolmaly”, St. John.

    Mr Magness, once was quoted as saying,, “the LCMS is like a box of chocolates, you never know what your going to get”. This, a day of days, appears to be no exception. That would be my point. You really never know, not matter the day, service, Circut, District, or Congregation, what you are ever going to get. That being said, it should not be so, but nationally, let alone internationally, it is a very regretfull fact. Why is it, & should it ever be so?

  27. @Dutch #82
    Dutch, I’m really not sure what you mean by this post.
    However, I may have been a bit unclear in mine. What I meant by ‘anomaly’ was a matter of style–this piece was anomalous in style compared with the rest of the Divine Service.

    However, still, not a performance or show.

  28. IMHO, noone who is not an ordained pastor should be saying or singing anything during divine service that has not been doctrinally approved by an ordained pastor. Period.

    (Furthermore, I really get tired of “black”, “white”, and comments like “whitey-white”. Some of my grandkids are brown, and others are tan. None of us are black and none of us are white, just different shades of brown. We all like some “spirituals”, some “ML German music”, some “classics”, some “pop”, some “country western”. Color of skin has nothing to do with it.)

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