The One Part of the Liturgy that Keeps My Attention, by Pr. Rossow

One of the four pillars of the Brothers of John the Steadfast is upholding the traditional liturgy. To that end I offer these personal thoughts on the old sinful self’s tendency to sleep walk through the Divine Service. The one part that really grabs me and keeps my attention is the Sanctus.

I suppose Confession and Absolution is right up there as far as an attention keeper. There is no greater hypocrisy than to say the words “I a poor miserable sinner…” without giving them undivided attention. So I will consider that a given, even though Satan has certainly distracted me even from these inherently heartfelt words. But it is the Sanctus that for the last several years has really grabbed my attention.

It may be for personal reasons that my usually drifting attention span is more focussed on the Sanctus but I think it is even more than that. 

Speaking of my often drifting attention span, my favorite Simpson’s moment is when Marge is talking to Homer about his lack of attention as they are driving down the street and he says something to the effect of  “I have a good attention span” and before he can finish his sentence his head darts off and he says “look a blue car!” Sadly that seems to be me too often when I am in the middle of the Divine Service.

Critics of the traditional liturgy use this drifting attention as a reason to move the church to “contemporary worship” because it supposedly engages the worshiper to a greater extent and is more emotionally attractive. If you have ever spent any time around Pentecostals, the experts in emotionally engaging worship, you know that they complain just as much as the liturgical folks about lack of attention or simple repetition of the religious words without heartfelt attention. (By the way, I recently heard a story of a LCMS pastor in Southern California who routinely criticizes his parishoners as fuddy-duddy Lutherans if they do not sway and wave their hands during the service.)

One of the most revealing things I ever read was a couple of books by Pentecostals who admitted that they faked speaking in tongues. They spoke in tongues as young boys only because there was so much peer pressure to do so. They also confessed that they knew of several others who did the same thing and they copped to simply going through the Pentecostal motions in church to be accepted.

The problem is not with the traditional liturgy. The problem is not with the lack of ability for the liturgy to emotionally engage us. There are few words more engaging than the Sanctus. The problem is not with the liturgy. The problem is with us sinners. There is no such thing as a purely emotionally engaging moment, that can be repeated and become useful in a rightly ordered service. Putting together an order of Divine Service that brings God’s objective word to his people and gives them a chance to be lifted up by His word into a joyful response means that there will need to be consistent order and form. The contemporary desire to recast each Divine Service into some unique emotional experience both denies the objective nature of the word of God and is unattainable or at the very least impractical.

Sorry for those “blue car” moments. Back to the Sanctus. Here is the text from the Lutheran Service Book (Setting Three).

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth,

Heaven and earth are full of thy glory.

Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord

Hosanna in the highest.

Like Confession and Absolution, even if you are only paying partial attention, these words grab you. How could they not. The Lord is about to be present with us in His Supper. He, uniquely among men, comes in the name of the Lord. He is holy. He has a whole host of ministering servants around him. The universe is full of his glory. His glory kills but in this holy meal he comes humbly to serve us and his glory gives life.

It may have been a line from Professor Art Just from the Fort Wayne Seminary a few years ago that better focussed my attention on the Sanctus. He raised the age-old dogmatician’s question “At what point in the liturgy do the body and blood of Christ appear?” Being an exegete himself, I gathered that it was in semi-derision towards such a vexing questions raised by dogmaticians with too much time on their hands. That led Just to offer this intriguing answer to the unanswerable question: “The body and blood appear during the Sanctus of course, since we sing blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

That was the first time I really understood and appreciated the Sanctus. I believe Just was half-joking but since hearing his assertion, I have had a much deeper appreciation for the liturgy of the Lord’s Supper. Since becoming a confessional Lutheran devoted to the traditional liturgy, I have also come to realize that many Lutherans do not believe what they believe. Once we understand that the Blessed One comes to us in the Divine Service the need to informalize and pop-culturize worship seems silly. Why would we welcome the Blessed One who comes in the name of the Lord with jingle-type music that is similar to the same light music used to sell McDonald’s hamburgers (my mind is drifting to the scene from the Pink Panther with Steve Martin as Inspector Clouseau trying to pronounce the word “hammm-beargerrrr”)? Why would we not use the rich music from our heritage and similarly rich liturgical music being written in our own generation to welcome God into our midst?

I thank Dr. Just for clue-ing me into the richness of the Sanctus and I look forward to this weekend when once again the liturgy will give me the words and the music to welcome the One who comes in the name of the Lord to join himself to me and forgive my sins. With a modicum of attention on my part, the Lord will once again grab hold of my pitiful life and renew it in His body and blood. I look forward to reading your comments about what parts of the liturgy grab you and why.

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.


The One Part of the Liturgy that Keeps My Attention, by Pr. Rossow — 46 Comments

  1. As a member of the ADD generation, I can entirely relate to this. However, I must say that I pay much better attention to the liturgy than to CoWo services. Structure is very conducive to holding the attention of kids like me. Contrary to popular belief, minds often wander during CoWo worship.

    I’m not surprised kids fake tongues. It’s kinda like the mandatory chapel here at Baylor. You’ll always have the few who raise their hands and sway (no tongues though), but a lot of kids, church-going kids, just stand there while the few people up front sing. Why? My guess is that they aren’t experiencing the emotions of the song at that time, and they’re sick of faking it at their methobapticostal church. They don’t have parents to make them fake it in chapel. Also, a lot of kids don’t know the songs or aren’t familiar with the tiny amount of liturgy the chapel directors actually try to incorporate (generally poorly thought-out antiphonal recitation of Scripture, or mangled “relevant” texts o the liturgy). Hence, mandatory chapel is now considered a very inconvenient class used to study for an upcoming test. If kids actually had real liturgy in their youth, and if chapel used real liturgy instead of CoWo and mangled, “relevant” forms of the Confiteor, there might be a bit more enthusiasm. And while I’m dreaming, I’d like a pony.

  2. Sorry for the double-post, but in the second to the last sentence, I’m using “enthusiasm” in its modern, benign definition, not the one denoting a particular heresy. Far be it from me to say the liturgy encourages that ancient heresy!

  3. I’ve felt the same way for sometime now re: the way the church is changing w/the times. Less formal, less reverent perhaps. I struggled for so long about this and kept in prayer for God to help me with how I felt. I believe God’s answer came in the form of one our teens in our youth group. (We only get to see him on Wed. nights as his family belongs to a different church) He, without any knowledge of my prayers, talked to the group about his struggle to worship at his home church because it doesn’t speak to him. He finds it rigid, uncomfortable, sterile,…He wished he could worhip at our church but his mother tells him repeatedly that he is welcome to do that when he turns 18. Until then, they will continue to worship at her church. I believe that although well intentioned, his mother is stifling her son’s spiritual walk w the Lord.

    When I heard this boy saying these things I realized that God had answered my prayer. I realized that I have heard the Good News, I believe that Christ bore my sins on the cross so long ago. My faith has saved me. But what about him and others like him. If they feel like they can’t relate, the message is stifled. They won’t hear it. They won’t respond to His knock. They won’t open the door to let Christ in.

    I am thankful for our freedom to worship in so many different ways. Worship can look and sound different from church to church but we are his and it it is all done to glorify our Lord. If His message is being heard and hearts are being changed because of it than surely God’s kingdom is being enlarged and that is what God wants of us. To tell others of the Good News, in a way that they can hear it.

  4. The part of the liturgy that holds my attention is the Sacrament.

    Asking the question, “when does the body and blood of Christ appear?” sounds a bit like a Lutheran equivalent of transubstantiation. I don’t think it is consistent with the Lutheran understanding of the Sacrament to even ask that question. But, to the extent we have an answer, would it be with the words of institution?

  5. The Words of Institution are what grabbed my attention. “This is my …”

    “Cool Story, Bro” Time: I was a Pentecostal in high school. When it’s communion time (once a month at the local Assembly of God church), we were required to have a clean conscience and sincere repentance prior to partaking. But I thought: Why when the crackers and grape juice was ONLY a memorial meal? Maybe it was because we are doing a Holy Thing that God commanded and He’d be bloody angry if all of us are not offering our best face forward. Note that the focus was on our obedience and not on His promises that He will forgive us when we eat His body and drink His blood.

    These words are what separate us from the rest of the Protestant world. I listen to the words knowing that I will be forgiven and made whole for another week.

  6. I was well into my 50s before the words of the Nunc dimittis grabbed me: “…for mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation: which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a Light to lighten the Gentiles and the Glory of Thy people Israel.” Simeon is inspired to declare that the eight-day-old Jesus is for me, a Gentile! And then I feel sad that the “people Israel” rejected their “Glory.”

  7. @Carol Rutz #3
    My brother has drifted off into the AOG. While on a trip to visit him in Las Vegas (I am a true Las Vegan, my Dad says they found me under a rock in the desert) I went with him to a home based Bible study. I heard many a confession of “mind drift” from these folks even as I confessed to the same in my Lutheran Liturgies. Many of the younger folks there in their 20s and 30s were quite vocal in their desire for a more “ancient” liturgy. The Pastor leading the Bible class had just finished reading our confessions and was picking my tiny brain regarding all that the confessions and Luther had to say. I walked away with a renewed hope for the AOG when the Pastor said , “after 100 years as a denomination we are finally discovering what the early reformers once knew”. He may be an anomoly but I was buoyed just the same.

    Mind drift is a condition of our sinful nature. We truly find so many other thoughts and things more interesting that God’s Word at times. He loves us anyway, Te Deum. Maybe He even laughs at us just as we laugh at Homer.

  8. I get what Dr Just (didn’t Dr. Scaer, the elder say it first, though?) was saying. I get that it was light-hearted. In that same light-hearted way, I ask —

    Does that mean that Christ isn’t present when we say the Deutsche Messe?

  9. By no means, especially since you assert a false premise.

    “It seems to me that it would accord with [the institution of] the Lord’s Supper to administer the sacrament immediately after the consecration of the bread, before the cup is blessed; for both Luke and Paul say: He took the cup after they had supped, etc. [Luke 22:20; I Cor. 11:25]. Meanwhile, the German Sanctus or the V 53, p 82 hymn, “Let God Be Blest,” or the hymn of John Huss, “Jesus Christ, Our God and Savior,” could be sung. Then shall the cup be blessed and administered, while the remainder of these hymns are sung, or the German Agnus Dei…

    We do not want to abolish the elevation, but retain it because it goes well with the German Sanctus and signifies that Christ has commanded us to remember him. For just as the sacrament is bodily elevated, and yet Christ’s body and blood are not seen in it, so he is also remembered and elevated by the word of the sermon and is confessed and adored in the reception of the sacrament. In each case he is apprehended only by faith; for we cannot see how Christ gives his body and blood for us and even now daily shows and offers it before God to obtain grace for us.” [AE 53, pp. 81-2]

    This is Luther’s discussion of his Detsche Messe. Immediately thereafter, he gives a setting of the German Sanctus (AE 53, pp. 82-3.)

  10. @Rachel A. Miller #3
    I used to think this way. The problem is, if the worship does not speak to him, is that a problem with the church service, or a problem with him? I know many people his age who find CoWo boring, irrelevant, or even condescending. As cruel as it may sound, the boy you mentioned is not shutting Christ out simply because he does not like the worship. He is shutting Christ out because he, like all of us, is a sinner, and sinful natures naturally do that. What he needs is the Word, not CoWo.

    I attend a confessional Lutheran church on the south side of town. There are no college students with me. The pastor does not reference college life in any way in sermons or sunday school. Most of the members there are above the age of 50. This is a Church-Growther’s nightmare, in other words. I don’t care. I’m receiving the Word of God, in the Confession and Absolution, in the liturgy, in the sermon, and in the Sacrament. The means of grace are things I can relate to. I’m thankful the pastor of my church doesn’t stoop to trying to market his church to me or other college students, even if there are 20,000 students within five miles of this church. He’s faithfully preaching God’s Word and administering the Sacraments according to Christ’s institution. The congregation is involved in mission in the surrounding community, but it does not market itself to me or others.

    What that boy needs is not a worship style that “suits” him, but an education in what worship is that will teach him to appreciate God’s gifts. Worship is not there to speak to his emotions. It’s there to speak faith into his soul, and to feed the faith in his soul, by the means Christ has promised.

    I know this has gone on really long, but frankly it kind of bothers me when people use “reaching my generation” as an excuse for CoWo. Maybe they believe these excuses themselves. But trust me, the best way to reach out to my generation is to be a faithful church. My generation is not stupid, we can smell superficial marketing techniques from a mile away. Be real, and be faithful.

  11. All the discussion about CoWo brings this question to mind: “how much time is spent on organizing, writing, rehearsing, and refining a typical Contemporary Worship service? And how many people are involved?” Time and resources, I think, better spent on visiting, teaching, discipling, mercy ministry, etc. not just by the Pastor but by every single person involved in the CoWo service. I have found that when there is thorough shepherding going on in a congregation there are no complaints or rumblings about the historic liturgy and reverent hymns.

  12. I would have to say the Sanctus primarily gets my attention. If I could name a close second, it would be singing Gloria in Excelsis.

    Unfortunately Confession and Absolution gets my attention for another reason: Our pastor likes to create his own liturgy all the time and often tailors the Confession to the sermon topic of the week. On that note, I think I better go fill out my ballot sheet to rank the top 5 of 32 areas my congregation should focus on as it establishes a vision for the year 2020.

  13. My old church (my favorite whipping boy it seems) had three services.

    Pastor would chat with organist for an hour, and then the one organist (and music director, et all, salary of $25,000?) and then he would practice playing for a couple of hours. He would rehearse with the senior and childrens choirs for around 3-4 hours of his time on Wed. Purchased hymnals, and subscribe to Service Builder.

    Pastor meets with leaers for an hour? Pracitce every week for maybe 2 hours? Pay and person for “lead” keyboard at $8000. Need ot pay CCLI for all the Hillsongs material used. Not sure how much “research” is done beyond that.

    RESONATE (rock style)
    Not sure if pastor met with group. Lead singer guitarist salary for around $8000. Very new. Don’t know too many details.

    For the two CoWo’s… something llike $10,000 in 1998 for initialization for all the sound equipment. 2008 did some upgrades to add video for around $5000. 2010-2011 I left while in process of more upgrades and equipment replacement, at $6000+ and not done yet.

    If you don’t print the service in the bulletin (dumbest idea I heard of since the hymnal is right in front of you), oyu need ONE organist and upfront costs fo hymnals, with minimal expenditures afterwards. Mulitple people in a band, same cost to buy equpipment, but periodic upkeep (more often than buy a new hymn book). Oh, and don’t forget the one or few poeple running the computer and soundboard, too. And time spent programming the slideshow every week.

  14. Speaking of contemporary worship, I see no reason for the Divine Service to be in English. The language is merely employed as a convenience or worse ~a means of trying to appear relevant! The traditional language of the church and of the Confessions is German with hard Latin. And if those languages were good enough for Luther & Jesus then they ought to be good enough for us too. Now, I do confess that I, like most members of the LCMS, don’t understand a lick of Latin or German. But, we don’t understand the Divine Service in its current form either. That’s because instead of trying to teach worship to us our leaders are too busy making disparaging anecdotes about those vile CoWoers. We get it! “Traditional Lutheran Worship=good; Everything else=bad”. We’re ready to move on. And so, in this regard I applaud Pastor Rossow’s attempt to open the liturgy a bit. When I hear the Sanctus next Sunday morning it will carry fresh insight.

  15. @#4 Kitty #15
    Sure. Let’s do the Creed in Latin, der Vater Unser auf Deutsch, and the Kyrie in Greek. Connect us in a very easily-seen way with the Church of 2 millenia.

    Kitty, there are *loads* of commentaries on the liturgy out there. A simple, clear and worthwhile book (all of maybe 30 pages) from CPH: “With Angels and Archangels.” Follows the order of LSB Settings 1 and 2.

    If you’d like, I’m sure we could take up this issue right here, though, and you’d learn more about the beauty of the Liturgy and how the Christian finds his Life embedded in it–how the Divine Service has everything we need to make our Home there. Come to think of it, I’d enjoy doing that.

    Maybe we could even throw in discussion of the significance of the various ceremonies and such, like the significance of standing, sitting, kneeling, processions and the order in which they are done and why even something like that can have a good, salutary significance.

  16. Confession and absolution typically snaps me to attention on an early Sunday morning. It is hard for me to coast through confession, although I have done so and will likely do so again. (Reminds me of what Jesus says to his disciples in the Gospels, “Could you not pray with me for an hour?”) The fact that Christ is in the divine service to hear my confession and to give me the forgiveness of sins is what grabs my attention the most.

    Pr. Rossow, you are certainly right about speaking in tongues amongst Pentecostals. I grew up Pentecostal and I not only watched people taught how to mimic the gibberish uttered, but when I was a pastor in a Pentecostal denomination, I also “taught” people to mimic the gibberish I rattled off.

  17. Rachel A. Miller :
    I’ve felt the same way for sometime now re: the way the church is changing w/the times. Less formal, less reverent perhaps. I struggled for so long about this and kept in prayer for God to help me with how I felt. I believe God’s answer came in the form of one our teens in our youth group. (We only get to see him on Wed. nights as his family belongs to a different church) He, without any knowledge of my prayers, talked to the group about his struggle to worship at his home church because it doesn’t speak to him. He finds it rigid, uncomfortable, sterile,…He wished he could worhip at our church but his mother tells him repeatedly that he is welcome to do that when he turns 18. Until then, they will continue to worship at her church. I believe that although well intentioned, his mother is stifling her son’s spiritual walk w the Lord.
    When I heard this boy saying these things I realized that God had answered my prayer. I realized that I have heard the Good News, I believe that Christ bore my sins on the cross so long ago. My faith has saved me. But what about him and others like him. If they feel like they can’t relate, the message is stifled. They won’t hear it. They won’t respond to His knock. They won’t open the door to let Christ in.
    I am thankful for our freedom to worship in so many different ways. Worship can look and sound different from church to church but we are his and it it is all done to glorify our Lord. If His message is being heard and hearts are being changed because of it than surely God’s kingdom is being enlarged and that is what God wants of us. To tell others of the Good News, in a way that they can hear it.

    I must comment on your comment, ‘They won’t open the door to let Christ in.” Please review the explanation to the third article in Luther’s Small Catechism. It states, ‘I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith…’

    Pastor Rossow,
    What always grabs my attention in the Divine Service is when the pastor says, ‘Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Thy glorious name, evermore praising Thee and saying:’ and then we sing the Sanctus. That phrase, ‘and with all the company of heaven’ is very comforting to hear.


  18. Last school year I taught the Pax Domini Press curriculum, “A New Song,” about the liturgy to a group of children in grades 1-4. I think I learned more about the liturgy than the children did; in fact I’m sure of it!

    The one item that impressed me more than any other was the preface to the Sanctus: “Therefore with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You….”

    The curriculum pointed out that “all the company of heaven” includes our believing relatives and friends who are now with Christ in heaven. This made a big impression on my students, especially since three of them had recently lost a close relative. It made a big impression on me, too, as I am now at the age at which many of my friends in church are falling asleep in Jesus. They may have gone ahead, but we still worship with them as we sing the Sanctus!

  19. @Rev. David Mueller #16
    One CPH publication I would highly recommend is, “Heaven on Earth – The Gifts of Christ in the Divine Service,” by Dr. Arthur Just. It’s a well written summary of the development of liturgies over the centuries, beginning with Jewish worship practices. I can assure you that you will find this book to be of great value in providing insight to this topic…. and it’s inexpensive, only $10.31 from Amazon.

    He also deals with the topic of Communion of saints which made quite an impression on me. I quote from his book…

    ” After someone dies, it is good to think of them at the Lord’s Supper, knowing that as we commune here below at the table of the Lamb, and sing His songs, we do join them since they are simultaneously communing at the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom that knows no end, and singing the songs of the Lamb with angels and archangels. In Christ, in that great mystery of our union with Him, we are joined to all who are joined to Him.”

    Absolutely beautiful!


    Rudy Wagner

  20. Kitty @ #15,

    “Now, I do confess that I, like most members of the LCMS, don’t understand a lick of Latin or German. But, we don’t understand the Divine Service in its current form either. ”

    Thanks be to God that none of this is dependent on our understanding. The Word of God is effective regardless of that, otherwise we would not baptize infants. I prefer the Divine Service be delivered in the language I know best. It engages my intellect, but it is not required. God makes His gifts relevant in the ways that He chooses, not the ways I choose.
    That is the starting point for discussion of the relevance of language or anything else in worship. We do not create the context. God is present with us and brings the context with Him. God gives us plenty of ideas in scripture of how one might behave properly in that context.

    The “disparaging anecdotes” are a frustrated response to the large contingent that wish to pretend that nobody has ever heard of such a thing. They have been taught by 2000 years of Church history. They have been taught by the faith of their Baptism if nothing else. They just don’t buy it. They want to create their own context. We need to rail against it. It isn’t like liturgy has not been and isn’t being taught as you imply. Regardless, speaking against error and teaching correctly are not mutually exclusive. They go together. By my reckoning Pr. Rossow does both.

  21. As pertains to “At what point in the liturgy do the body and blood of Christ appear?” I like what Marquart said, that Christ’s presence is in the totality of the sacrament. I think that position is wise and beneficial, because it avoids worry about things that no one can prove. The Roman rings the bell of course, and I remember being taught that the real presence takes place when the sign of the cross is made as the words of institution are spoken. How many older LCMSers get all worked up if they can’t receive the host on their lips. I’ve often wondered whether they’re just dear old LCMSers who are stuck in their ways or closet receptionists.

    My favorite parts of the liturgy are the Sanctus and Nunc Dimittus. How timely that I touched on this very issue regarding the Sanctus last Sunday: “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” What a beautiful way to great our Savior who is coming in His supper. Always surprising how many people have sung this their whole lives and haven’t grasped what is transpiring. The liturgy is truly Christ centered! What a travesty to lose such a confession! I remember singing the Nunc Dimiitis to many a dying saint, and boom, they go within minutes. I hope someone has the opportunity to do that for me when I go.

  22. The Agnus Dei is the part of the liturgy which most especially grabs my attention. It’s a prayer of confidence. In His Words of Institution, our Lord gives His body and blood to His Church to eat and to drink. In the Agnus Dei, we pray that our Lord will distribute these gifts to us also.

    John the Baptizer declared to those standing with Him on Jordan’s banks, “ook, the Lamb of God.” He pointed out Jesus, the final offering, the Lamb of lambs come to die for the sin of the whole world. Now, we pray to that same Lamb who, risen and reigning to all eternity, will richly forgive our sins of thought, word, and action. Then, having prayed the Agnus Dei, we are drawn to take the means by which Christ Jesus gives us has mercy on us and grants us His peace.
    each time we pray the Agnus Dei in the Divine Service, our Lord answers that prayer right. away in the Distribution. How, then can we not burst forth with hymns during the distribution celebrating our Lord’s forgiveness placed in our mouths. Where the Lord Jesus locates Himself, there He distributes His mercy and peace even to us.

  23. @ 4 kitty
    You may be on to something there with the language comment. From what I’ve read, I guess there was quite a brough-ha-ha back in the 1840s as to whether the true gospel could be communicated properly in any language but German. I guess there weren’t a lot of Scandanavians in the LCMS in those days. 🙂

  24. As to what part of the liturgy that holds my attention the most–Holy Communion, even in my church’s CoWo. The unity with my Savior and the coming together of our congregational family is the same, whether CoWo or traditional. I guess we may be a church whose pastor can communicate the holiness and traditional Lutheranism in both venues.

  25. @Nathan #10

    Does not the Spirit “blow where it will” ? If the Spirit and The Word are united and only one is not separate from the other then it stands to reason that the Spirit is always at work where the Word is preached. Just because we do not “experience” this every time the Word is preached or taught does not mean there is something wrong with our Liturgies, which contain far more Word and Sacrament than any CoWo does, the fault lies in us.

    Faithfulness to studying God’s Word is our responsibility, sanctification, growth or even “experience” of the same is God’s job. On any given day I can be moved or unmoved by our liturgy or any other form of “worship”. Most of the time it is my fault if I am not, sometimes God enlightens me on a deeper level. At any rate as Dr Marquart once told me “maintain the healthy habit of attending Divine Service and God will do the rest”.

  26. Let me confess one of my failings-The parts that hold my attention in the Divine Service are the parts where I can actually participate in-From Hymn singing to the reponsive liturgy to my partaking in Holy Communion. The part where I have the most difficult time holding attention is the Sermon. And it is NOT because my pastor is boring (far from it), but because in my full outside life I am lacking in regular sleep, so when I have to sit passively during a sermon given by ANY pastor, my mind tends to wander to the point of making me SOMETIMES doze off for a minute or two. May the Good Lord (and the pastors I have listened to) forgive me for this. I try to sit near the back so If I really need to, I can stand up during the sermon, but that is not always available all the time….

  27. @Rahn Hasbargen #28

    Check and see if you have obstructive apnea. I’m not joking it can rob you of a lot of rest and will kill you before your time. I also have a heavy schedule. I used to experience the same thing you described and I sat in front of some of the best preaching our synod has to offer! Now I use a CPAP, sleep like a baby and stay awake all day.
    God speed and God bless

  28. @mames #27
    I don’t quite know why you directed this to me, as I agree with everything you said… the Spirit is indeed always at work where the Word is preached. I am in favor of traditional liturgy, because I find it to be the best “carrier” of God’s Word to the people, and because there is no legitimate reason for CoWo.

    Baby Boomers have got it into their heads that because the youth of today like attending rock concerts, church should be like a rock concert. My generation also likes facebook; should the liturgy be condensed into status updates? I don’t think so. Just because people have preconceived notions of how my generation thinks doesn’t mean they should mess with church worship to try and reach us. It frankly comes off as insincerity and stereotyping.

    Nobody talks about how cool their CoWo is at my university, where it is the norm. But it’s not uncommon for people in my Latin class to talk about how cool the last Latin Mass in our area was. Students at my university sometimes hold their own worship services in one of the chapels on campus. When students plan it, I guarantee there will be liturgy in it. There will usually be hymns as well.

    In short, my generation is tired of CoWo. We’re excited about liturgy and the possibilities it holds. So the CoWo supporters can’t use us as excuses anymore. That’s what I was saying.

  29. @mames #29
    I do use a CPAP already , and sleep soundly when I can. I try and force myself to bed early on Saturday nights so I can be awake during the sermons, but still experience the occasional wanderings. Usually I get about 90% or more of the sermon, but those occasional lapses just make it “down the list” of the things that keep my attention. I find the whole divine service facinating, and love to hymn sing. I have talked with my pastor about this, and he has declared from the pulpit that, if someone in his congregation happens to sleep during a service, he can forgive it as long as it is not the part of Holy Communion where the actual Means of Grace is received. I truly appreciate his consideration of this….

  30. @Rahn Hasbargen #31

    God bless and remember Luther challenged a man his day saying
    “if you can keep your full throughout the the Lords Prayer I will give you my horse.”
    The man came back to Luther and said,
    “I couldn’t do it. I kept picturing my saddle on that horse! 🙂

    How blessed we are that HE never loses sight of us.

  31. The Gloria! We don’t sing it now during Lent (and Advent), but after this season, when it reappears in the liturgy, the Gloria makes Easter (and Christmas) all the more awesome… amirite? 🙂 The Gloria seems to me the perfect hymn, no matter the tune it’s sung to. It’s all in the the words.

    I also love the Agnus Dei and the Nunc Dimittis.

  32. Growing up ELCA I really remember the older choir men belting out “This is the Feast” – It would echo throughout the whole church. Now as a LCMS member I really enjoy Gloria in Excelsis – I get chills from it – when we sing “have mercy on us jesus, receive our heartfelt cry” I almost can’t make it through that line.

    God have mercy on me because whenever there is a baptism we dont do the gloria i feel bad – happy about the baptism but sad we didnt sing the gloria. 🙂

  33. Hands down, my very best favorite liturgy is the Triduum–Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and The Great Vigil of Easter. I have heard John 3:16 called “the Gospel in a nutshell.” I submit the Triduum is “Catechesis in a nutshell.” The Great Vigil is a very early Christian liturgy wherein catechumens were baptized and confirmed into the faith upon completion of their catechesis. The solemnity, sorrow and joy of this ancient liturgy is difficult for me to articulate. In the Vigil (as in the Sanctus, for that matter), time dissolves–past, present, future and eternal voices sing together.

  34. This is a little off topic, since it doesn’t relate directly to my favorite part of the DS, and I don’t want to start another discussion thread, but I felt compelled to comment here anyway, after having read Elaine’s post #37.

    First, how many times in the history of the world has it happened that God become man! Once… at the Annunciation! With such a significant event in all the history of mankind, why is it that so many people are unaware of the fact that yesterday was the day recognized as the date of the Annunciation.

    Looking at the Lectionaries in LSB, I find the Festival of the Annunciation of Our Lord buried on the pages with many other lesser festivals of the Church, and in my many years as a member of LCMS congregations this great event was seldom emphasized. I find this to be quite regrettable, considering that at the Annunciation God became flesh, a human, through the Word spoken by God’s angel, Gabriel, and the work of the Holy Spirit. Without this event there would be no Christmas to celebrate; no crucifixion; no resurrection! I think the Church has given this event short shrift, and should place a much greater emphasis on its celebration.

    Nathan @#36 relates how he is emotionally affected by the Gloria in Excelsis. I experience the entire service on Good Friday in a similar way. When I was a kid, and too young to fully comprehend the significance of the service, I can remember my father having tears rolling down his face during the service. I didn’t understand, then. Now I understand! I, too, will have the tears on Good Friday…… tears of sorrow for my sins that drove Christ to the cross to die for the sins of all, and tears of joy in knowing that His pronouncement of, “It is finished,” assures me that my sins have been paid for by His death. Without the “It is finished” of Good Friday, there could be no joyous resurrection celebration on Easter Sunday and at my own resurrection. Thanks be to God! So the Good Friday service is of greatest significance to me.

  35. Just to note, since we have another Nathan (#36) on the site, I’m changing my name to Nathan92.

    @Nathan #36
    Yeah, I’ve never understood churches who never do the Gloria. My church alternates the Gloria and “This is the Feast” depending on if it’s a communion Sunday or not. This is the Feast seems to be everyone’s favorite, but the Gloria is not bad (musically) at all, and the text is of course wonderful.

  36. @Walter R Wagner #38
    I particularly love it when the Feast of the Annunciation falls on Good Friday, and, in the Passion acc. to St. John, we hear Jesus’ words from the cross to His mother. It fell out that way not too many years ago.

    Btw, I suspect that the coincidence of those two great Days on March 25 is why JRR Tolkien chose March 25 as the day for the destruction of the Ring and the downfall of the Barradur. (That’s from the Lord of the Rings.)

    Someone might be able to correct me on this, but I’ve understood that there was an ancient idea that the day of a person’s death was also the day of their conception. So, depending upon the various calculations of the the 1st Good Friday (one tradition being March 25, I guess), that’s how Christmas could wind up specifically on Dec. 25. (Or, Jan. 6, if Good Friday is April 6). The date of Christmas in the west has *nothing* to do with the festival of Sol Invictus, btw.

  37. im a first time poster: my LCMS here in Lodi has a ” classic praise” service. the elements are blessed, but the nunic dimintis and other traditonal communion liturgy is sledom used and rarely used on two communion services in a row. i personally asked for the nunic dimintis be added to the end of the communion service. it has been added, but not every time. i dont get it. where is my chruch headed?

  38. I gotta go with the Confession and Absolution part of the Divine Service. Gets me in the right mind I need to be in from there to the start of the Lord’s Supper. What I mean by that is that through the Confession, I’m made aware that I am a sinner and I have the time between then and the Lord’s Supper to reflect on that aspect. And, I use other prompters (i.e. – the pastor’s sermon) to pound home the fact that I am a poor, miserable sinner in need of Christ and the forgiveness offered through him by God. And, I get that in His blood and body!

    I had a friend ask me one time why I was so down looking after service one day. I told him it was because the service reminded me of my sinful ways and how poor and miserable I am as a servant to the Lord. I think it is okay for us to leave service feeling this way every once in a while because it draws us closer to our Lord! There have been times that I have come home and it has taken me a day or two to get back to ‘feeling’ good again. That’s okay, I believe. It helps us draw closer to God by making us examine ourselves and explore His Word a bit more, I think. I know it’s worked for me. I can honestly say that I have never left a CoWo service feeling bad because if you feel bad after one of those services, you’re missing the point. It’s all about feel-good and that’s not always what church is about. I have left feeling empty a lot and that’s a saddness on a whole different level …

  39. I have a lot of ups and downs during worship – law and gospel – the way it should be . usually after communion i am very somber and humbled after receiving christs body and blood – after a few minutes of reflecting i have a big smile knowing what christ has done for me.

  40. @Nathan92 #39
    This is the Feast seems to be everyone’s favorite, but the Gloria is not bad (musically) at all, and the text is of course wonderful.

    Guess I’m not “everyone”! 🙁

    I prefer the Gloria… when I can get it.

  41. The one part of the Divine Service that keeps my attention is the combination of the Kyrie Eleison (Lord Have Mercy) and the Hymn of Praise.

    In the Kyrie, we, like the blind man, the Canaanite woman, and the ten lepers, cry out to Jesus for mercy. Like them, we have nothing to offer to Jesus. We plead for mercy to God through Jesus with our hands of faith outstretched to receive his gracious gifts. This is our posture throughout the entire Divine Service. We eagerly wish to receive the precious gifts that he offers.

    God’s answer to our plea for mercy comes quickly in the Hymn of Praise. Whether you sing the “Gloria” or “This is the Feast,” God’s answer is the same – Jesus. God’s mercy comes to us in and through Jesus. God sent his only Son to become incarnate. Jesus suffered and died as the Lamb of God who “takes away the sins of the world.” He is the Lamb who was slain “whose blood set us free to be people of God.”

    There’s one thing I don’t understand. How is it that “this generation” is different than all the generations that have come before it? By this I mean, the church has used the Divine Service of centuries – generation after generation. It has stood the test of time. Through it God has provided what each generation of sinners need most – the forgiveness of sins. Why isn’t it good enough for “this generation?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.