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: