Great Stuff Found on the Web — Christmas Eve With Lutheran Baptists

Thanks to a loyal BJS reader for pointing us to a new to us blog by the Fearsome Pirate .. Cruising Down the Coast of the High Barbaree. This post was put up a couple of days ago about his experience Christmas Eve at a LCMS Baptist church.

 


 

I made the mistake of going to an LCMS church for Christmas Eve service. I had originally planned to go to a Catholic church, since few Lutherans do a late night Christmas Eve, but I saw that one not too far from where I was staying had one, and the Catholic friend I was visiting agreed. So I went.

First, the positives: They sang traditional Christmas hymns, the readings came from the Bible, and they had communion.

I knew I was in for a “treat” when an overly caffeinated young pastor greeted me in the narthex. Of course, he wasn’t wearing a robe. After his effusive welcome, I said, “And you are Pastor…?” “Oh, call me Pastor Kevin,” he chirped. I entered the sanctuary and took my seat, noting the guitar and drum set in the background. Fortunately, whoever had planned this service had decided to not inflict them on us tonight. Unfortunately, they had decided that the traditional liturgy just wouldn’t cut it.

“Where are the kneelers?” my friend asked.

“This isn’t that kind of Lutheran church,” I glumly responded.

My field work in Fort Wayne had trained me to sniff out “Creative Worship” stuff, and this service was full of it. The service itself was largely inoffensive, which I suppose I ought to be thankful for in today’s day and age. I saw much worse when I was in seminary. At least there wasn’t a custom “Christmas creed” or something. However, the structure of the service was basically lifted straight from the traditional Baptist playbook, with hymns, readings, and special music alternating, with a sermon near the end.

The sermon was horrible. The pastor decided that what is important about the Christmas story in Luke is that it’s a unique display of how God’s power can beat the odds when our lives seem hopeless. The sentiment is inoffensive enough in itself, but I seem to recall Luke embellishing his narrative with decidedly different themes. Even the pastor seemed aware of this, which is why he detoured almost immediately into Judges and preached about Gideon. I shouldn’t be surprised that a Baptist service structure had a Baptist “Trust God, and life will go okay” sermon, but somehow, I was. Is Pastor Kevin a DELTO guy, or is this how they teach them to preach at St Louis? He couldn’t have been over thirty, probably younger. The worst part of the sermon is that Pastor Kevin noticed that the name of God sounds kind of like “Yeah way,” so he said at various points in the sermon, “When life says ‘no way,” God says ‘Yahweh!'”

I kind of wanted to leave.

Now, I’m no Pharisee about the name of God. In case you hadn’t noticed, lots and lots of the faithful in the OT addressed or spoke about the Lord using the divine name of Yahweh. The later Pharisaical piety insisting that this name should never actually be spoken aloud is misdirected and shouldn’t have been adopted by Christians when translating the Bible into English. But, you know, that doesn’t mean you should be making puns with it!

So it was a terrible service. Not the worst I’ve been to, but still not good. The Catholic friend I was with turned to me as we left and said, “That seemed more like a Baptist service. I miss singing the Gloria, the Sanctus, and the Kyrie on Christmas Eve.”

“So do I.”

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 — Christmas Eve With Lutheran Baptists — 29 Comments

  1. Is it any wonder that fire came from the Altar and consumed Aaron’s sons when they offered unholy fire before the Lord.

    One has to immediately question not only the lutheran character of this Pastor but also whether there is a living faith as well.

    For either he is an apostate from the true faith or he never had a faith in the first place.

    This is the seriousness of the fanatical consequences of what is termed Church Growth theology and Contemporary Worship in a Lutheran context,

    Does anyone doubt the above after reflection.

  2. An LCMS friend of mine went to a non-denom Christmas Eve service before coming to our church’s midnight Mass. He was sharing the experience with me and said the big mega-church didn’t have the whole band going, but went with traditional Christmas hymns and almost had a liturgy of sorts (including communion).

    That got me thinking. Why is it that non-liturgical denominations and non-liturgical churches within the LCMS revert back to forms, rites, and a liturgy (of sorts) for Christmas Eve/Day and perhaps for Easter???

    Could it be that on those occasions people desire something… sacred?

    I remember Dr. Kleinig speaking on Issues Etc 24 about Americans not holding anything sacred anymore. He’s right. For many, the only time sacred is acceptable is when it fits our nostalgic self-interest which is why it pops up on Christmas, maybe Easter, perhaps a wedding here or there.

  3. and might I add to my above post,
    And when they revert back to the hymns, forms, rites, and liturgy, they don’t do it right and the preaching still blows. I guess the atmosphere of sacred was all they were after, not the substance.

  4. Of course the service and preaching still blows. These preachers do contemoprary so much, they do not know and do not remember how to do high church liturgical stuff. Worse, they just don’t care, so if their heart is not in it, the congregation will sense it is just mediocre. I say this is worse, becuase then the few times some people will see a liturgical service, they will think this is the way it is: crappy. And they’ll never want to return. Probably better the pastors don’t lie to themselves and just keep doing CoWo, even for Christmas and Easter.

  5. “I kind of wanted to leave.”

    You probably should have.

    I imagine Pastor First Name went home thinking he had impressed his visitors with his creative and relevant take on Christmas.

    Bad preaching doesn’t deserve a hearing.

    TW

  6. I was actually shown a sermon in Hom I that used that whole “No, way” Yahweh crap. The real shame is that is was shown as an example of a really good sermon. I have thankfully forgotten everything that “teacher” tried to teach me.

  7. @Young Blood #2
    Note the other poignant time of life that the divine Service, complete with rites and rituals, is so needed: funerals. I can’t imagine a stage with a five piece band devoid of a cross or crucifix. It has the wrong focus: us and what we are suppose to “feel”, and not the Lord and His Word. The “care of souls” problem with CoWo is that it imposes on the worshiper what they are suppose to feel and emote, as Pastor Perky was doing. The Liturgy allows the full range of human emotion. I have seen people listless at the communion rail or beaming from ear to ear or crying and sometimes at the same service!

  8. @Rev. Mark Schroeder #7
    I thought about including funeral, but I have not been to a funeral that wasn’t at a Lutheran or Roman church. Sufficed to say, the baptist ongoing family eulogy style of funeral is not liturgical even if classical hymns are sung.

    I think it would be hard to get the praise band to make it to a funeral. Try and coordinate that many schedules on a weekday morning! I’m sure if the tragedy of a youth dying fell upon the congregation the praise band would pull together for it and play his/her favorite song or something that I pray is remotely appropriate.

    Per the original post. I’ve come to the point where if I visit a church with a terrible sermon or a ridiculous excuse for the Lord’s Supper or even a heretical song, I’m just gonna leave. Sitting there silently fuming does nothing. Getting up, walking out, and sending a respectful yet truthful letter of explanation to the pastor will do more.

  9. @Young Blood #9
    “I think it would be hard to get the praise band to make it to a funeral. Try and coordinate that many schedules on a weekday morning! I’m sure if the tragedy of a youth dying fell upon the congregation the praise band would pull together for it and play his/her favorite song or something that I pray is remotely appropriate.”

    Nah. Just pop in the CD (or select the right MP3 file) and let the system do the music.

  10. Young Blood :

    Per the original post. I’ve come to the point where if I visit a church with a terrible sermon or a ridiculous excuse for the Lord’s Supper or even a heretical song, I’m just gonna leave. Sitting there silently fuming does nothing. Getting up, walking out, and sending a respectful yet truthful letter of explanation to the pastor will do more.

    I had to do that in Apache Junction AZ when the pastor implied that following the 10 Commandments would improve one’s life. What the [REDACTED]?! The Law is to condemn us, not merely a system of moral improvement. And before a service, there was a sing along of “gospel music” (you know, generic Protestant schlock).

    Another time, I had to attend a ELCA church service in Cedar Rapids. Cannot leave because at that time my relatives were regulars of that church. Luckily, I have an MP3 player and listened to Bow Wow Wow while the poor saps listen to heterodoxy. THIS IS MORE PROFITABLE for me to listen than a crappy sermon.

  11. A pastor told me that (as a seminarian) he was advised by his mentor that the Psalms in the hymnal could be read if the sermon was too bad.

  12. A wise pastor taught me that if you know something is going to offend you try to avoid it.

  13. I attended the 10PM Christmas Eve candlelight service at my LCMS congregation. I would say it was fairly traditional but they tried to be creative here and there. For instance there was a procession at the beginning, but I never see this during normal worship services and I rarely miss a week.

    The carols were out of the LSB and accompanied by piano but we sang so many of them that they had to omit a couple minor things such as the Creed and Lord’s Prayer. Leaving out the Creed may not have been a bad thing because I was watching earlier services streamed online and it was a “Christmas Creed” not one of the three ecumenical Creeds. As you can guess, other items such as the Kyrie, Sanctus, etc weren’t included.

    The sermon was okay I guess. It was entitled “Mary’s Treasure Box” and based off of Luke 2:19. I’m thinking one of the pastors recently came across this book: http://www.amazon.com/Marys-Treasure-Box-Carolyn-Kramlich/dp/0849958342/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1293857228&sr=8-

    Sorry to gripe. I could ramble on all day about stuff that bothers me about where I worship. I just feel like I’m watching a train wreck in slow motion. It breaks my heart. If it wasn’t for the great people and the fact that I’ve been a member there for nearly 13 years, I would get up and find a new congregation in a heartbeat. I pray it doesn’t come to that point.

  14. How can anyone be asked to confess a creed that they have not directly or indirectly agreed to? If someone uses AC III & IV I can point to the congregations constitution and say, yes, we’ve agreed to this. But this write your own creed stuff is nonsense to say the least. To be a valid creed it must have standing.

  15. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the Christmas Eve service that the very conservative LCMS church I grew up in used was a Candlelight Service. I tend to consider that traditional, although it is really neither mass nor vespers. Thoughts?

  16. Young Blood :
    @Rev. Mark Schroeder #7
    I think it would be hard to get the praise band to make it to a funeral. Try and coordinate that many schedules on a weekday morning! I’m sure if the tragedy of a youth dying fell upon the congregation the praise band would pull together for it and play his/her favorite song or something that I pray is remotely appropriate.

    Rev. David Mueller :
    Nah. Just pop in the CD (or select the right MP3 file) and let the system do the music.

    My church has had 22 faithful saints go home this past year ranging in age from 25 to 102. Every one of them receiving funerals which remembered their lives as flawed yet forgiven servants of the Most High, whether it included traditional music on pipe organ or full band, or a combination of the two. It might be hard to imagine your congregants rallying for such a thing, but the faithful instrumentalists, vocalists, and audio/visual artists who serve in our church are committed to their acts of service to the Lord and take off work routinely during the week for funerals. They even showed up for a funeral on the day before Christmas Eve. These are, for the most part, fully volunteer positions. Yes, it is more work for our staff to equip the saints at our church for their acts of service rather than just open the hymnal to the order of service and have the paid organist play (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but I am convinced the Lord is also smiling down on His children as they give thanks for His faithfulness in the life of a loved one, and remember the salvation that is also theirs in Christ, even when a drum or an electric guitar is involved.

    Such a broad judgement call with such sarcasm is incredibly childish! And, NO, we have NEVER just pushed play on iTunes for ANY service.

    Happy new year to all of you here on BJS. Hopefully the new year will actually bring constructive dialogue.

  17. The sermon was okay I guess. It was entitled “Mary’s Treasure Box”

    I am torn about commenting this- but I just died laughing. Both ‘box’ and ‘treasure chest’ are slang terms for a specific part of a woman’s anatomy. The sermon had both terms smashed into one AND it was in reference to Mary. As a high school teacher I am very aware that it is impossible to keep up with all the slang…. but seriously???? Mary’s Treasure Box???? LOLOLOLOLOL!

  18. This is tragic. When one goes to church and is tempted to sin, something is terribly terribly wrong. It’s one thing to be blind-sided as the author of this thread was–and it certainly is not inappropriate to leave. When you get the inkling that things are going south, why sit there and judge everything? It’s even worse when you go to church knowing what is going to happen. You are better off not going–analogous to cutting off one’s hand or plucking out one’s eye. What could be worse than going to church and sinning?

    Jane (19) –your post was frankly embarrassing, but you make a valid point–how will the high schoolers react to such a sermon? And I have another question: Why are you still up in the wee hours–2:45 A.M? Amazing!

    Johannes

  19. @Johannes 20- I had just gotten back from New Years Eve party and did the only thing a normal 20-something NYE partier would do- I checked out the latest on Steadfast Lutherans!

  20. Norm, you may want to read more of the “Fearsome Pirate’s” posts. This person with whom so many of you are feeling a kindred spirit regarding his Christmas Eve experience also has some other very strong opinions:

    “I don’t hate or despise people who don’t do the liturgy right, or don’t do missions right, or don’t agree with me on everything pertaining to the Bible and the Confessions. I mean, I’ll argue, but there was a certain set at CTS that sank to a certain level of viciousness that really rubbed me the wrong way. It’s hard to describe. I saw a certain mentality that prefers to tear down and destroy rather than build up. So if someone’s doing ministry in, say, a rough part of town, and being relatively successful at it, there’s a certain group of Lutherans that would prefer to ostracize or (if possible) destroy his ministry if and when they find some fault in the way he does things. I think it’s part of the “Crusader of Purity” mentality. If one of them is reading this, he probably sees this paragraph as an invitation to post a comment about the need for “doctrinal purity” and how “compromising with false doctrine is no way to save souls,” and I’m going to tell him to can it.”

    Although I can’t say I disagree with most of the above quote…I would also find the “no way/Yahweh” thing cheesy, but not to the point of walking out, unless I let satan work on me to the point of distraction since he knows that “cheese” is a weak spot for me. I would prefer to think that the pastor knew who he was talking to that night and God had a plan to give someone a new perspective through that particular message. Sometimes not everything is about me. If God’s Word was read and the truth of the birth of Jesus proclaimed, there were Christmas hymns, and holy communion was served, sounds like Christmas Eve to me. No reason to be pious and leave.

  21. The worst part of the sermon is that Pastor Kevin noticed that the name of God sounds kind of like “Yeah way,” so he said at various points in the sermon, “When life says ‘no way,” God says ‘Yahweh!’”

    I think someone owes a royalty fee! Back in the late 90’s, a CCM group called Echelon had a song called Yahweh, and this was pretty much the chorus of the song.

    I couldn’t find the lyrics with a quick Google search and I haven’t been able to track down the CD to quote the exact text, but as I recall, each verse described a situation that could get you down or serve as an obstacle to living a “holy” life, but then you say (start chorus here): “Yahweh!” (and repeat that word a few dozen times for the chorus).

    (Yes, I bought some of their CDs… I found them an enjoyable source of entertainment. But anyone who knows me knows that for me, “enjoyable music” is quite the eclectic mixture – everything from chant to sacred harp to jazz to soft rock to hair bands, and everything in between.)

  22. @Carol #11

    I plug into my MP3 player during the children’s message each Sunday. I have about ten minutes of white noise (static) which I turn up just enough to drown out the schlock.

  23. For the pastors reading this, you ALL give crappy sermons occasionally. Would prefer that I simply walk out on your bad days?

  24. @Rich #25

    Yes, that is true; no one is perfect. The big difference is good pastors give crappy sermons occasionally. Crappy pastors give crappy sermons most of the time. I am transferring congregations because my “former” pastor preaches this methobapticostal sales pitch garbage every week. After three years I cannot and will not take it anymore. And there is no way I will let my new baby daugther be exposed to this ambiguous at best schock. If she is to be raised up in the ways of the Lord, then she needs clear teaching and preaching. Otherwise, when she is not in the mood, she will conveniently not make the effort to attend church.

    And after years of preaching, a good Lutherans pastor wouldn’t have an off sermon this off. More likely this is his normative preaching style, to be so at ease with the sales pitch.

  25. @Rich #25

    There is a difference between a poorly executed sermon and a poorly conceived sermon. Faithful Law and Gospel preaching should render the second almost nonexistent.

  26. @Rich #25

    Hee Hee, True….sometimes clinkers do happen. However, what I have noticed is that a clinker to one person can often be most meaningful to another.

    Many pastors, I think, have had the experience where they know that their sermon wasn’t up to snuff, but after it’s preached someone who never comments on anything will come up and say “Pastor, thank you…that helped me a lot.”

    I always take these little comments as messages from God to me: “It’s not about your wonderful oratory, your wit, or your fabulous delivery pastor Trask, it’s about my Son’s presence in the Word and sacrament; it’s about my Spirit that I pour out.”

    So what often happens when I preach what I consider a clinker, God will often give me my own little Elijah in the cave moment…. IT’s not in the fire, the wind, or the earthquake…. but the still, small voice.

    To keep my head on straight, I have slightly re-written Luther’s explanation to the third Article. When I start thinking I’m just so very clever, I say to myself:”I cannot by my own reason or strength CAUSE SOMEONE to believe in Jesus Christ the Lord, but the Holy Spirit calls them by the Gospel…. enlightens them with his gifts….etc.”

    This underlying truth about preaching is what has always made Lutheran preaching so good on the whole. Lutheran preachers understand that it’s really not about them.. It’s about the creative Word of God and his life-giving spirit. And we, we pastors, we band of brothers, if we are faithful to the Word, get to be in the middle of it all!

  27. @Rev. Jody Walter #16
    That is not only true for Creeds, but also true for whatever words the pastor, the worship committee or the praise team decides to put in the congregation’s mouths.

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