Where is the Love? Introducing Innovation and Breaking Uniformity

I just finished re-reading one of my favorite papers on liturgy and indifferent matters written by our now Synod President.  It can be found here:


What is striking about this paper is that it points out how we have turned freedom tempered by love into license.  The Bible and Confessions do not specifically require one form of worship, which many will cite for freedom, but the Bible and Confessions actually set uniformity before us as a goal in our worship.  Pres. Harrison points out that Lutheran theology of worship (and the early Lutheran Church) was strongly governed by love and not freedom.  This means that the Lutherans sought uniformity in order to promote unity among Lutherans, even if it meant having to give up some neat ideas of how to do things in worship (if only we desired such uniformity and unity today).

I also find it interesting that adding one letter to a  word of the German of the Triglotta has resulted in pure congregational independence in regards to their liturgical choices (for more on that see the paper).

Mostly from reading the paper I realize that the problems of worship in our Life Together are deep.  We are lacking love to temper our freedom.  What I mean by this is that we do not consider the parish down the street or across the district before we do what we want to do in establishing worship practices.  Instead, freedom is given as the reason why such things are allowable, and freedom is flaunted against whatever was “traditional” before.

Where is the love?  Where is the love in the introduction of innovations in a congregation, campus or seminary chapel?  It seems that no one worries about the offense such things may cause to others.  These things are not good for our Synod as they break the bonds of mutual love and support that we have had for one another.

Those men who have taken up shepherding in congregations where the innovations have become the norm are not to blame for breaking love, but those who first introduced such things have not regarded their duty of love first.

Anyone considering introducing such innovations needs to consider their neighbor pastors and congregations (as well as the neighbor within the Synod) and the bond of love that we are supposed to have for each other before touting their freedom to do what they please.  The fact of the matter is, in our bond as walking together, we are not free to do these things because of our bond of love.

Another difficult thing in this is that the way that we worship affects what we believe, and so as worship becomes more diverse, the actual theological unity we once shared is being torn apart.  Many will try to say that worship forms have no effect on belief, but that is not true at all.  Worship forms flow out of belief and right back into it as well.  For the results, look at the diverse theology in those church bodies who embraced diversity in worship long ago.

I guess the prudent thing would be a call to repent, but what fruit can such repentance produce?  The horse is out of the barn here, and what can be done to bring back some love into our Life Together in worship?  There are entire congregations whose innovative worship is now the congregation’s tradition.  (Maybe that is the 15% of Synod that is not viewed as being able to come into agreement) What can be done in such situations?  Maybe Luther’s gentle reforms of the Catholic Mass could serve as a general guide.  Perhaps a more aggressive program of reform is necessary.  In any case, those given ecclesiastical supervision have certainly been given a monumental task of helping to restore love in our relationship to others within our Synod.  Lord have mercy.


About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.


Where is the Love? Introducing Innovation and Breaking Uniformity — 176 Comments

  1. @Old Time St. John’s #149

    I’ve always thought that the Agnus Dei points us to the great God above and expresses gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice and prayers for His forgiveness, mercy, and peace, along with a reverent, thankful attitude that is triggered by His presence in the Sacrament.

    Old Time St. John’s,

    We sing the Agnus Dei immediately following the Consecration and Pax Domini because there, in the pastor’s hands, and upon the altar, IS the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Likewise, we worship the “elements,” because they are no longer merely “elements,” but the very Body and the very Blood of Christ Himself, as He Himself declares.

    This is most certainly the teaching of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

  2. Anonymous :@John, an Unlikely Pastor #133
    Thanks for the response. Who consumes the left- overs? only communicant members? Would it be wrong for others such as children? I have not heard of this practice.
    @Anonymous #136
    The question of left over bread exists in no small part because I served in a church with willing bakers who made bread that simply won’t keep for more than a few days with out molding.
    There’s an old phrase I’ve heard, “It might be easier for a child to believe that a wafer is the body of Christ than to believe that it’s really bread.” Jesus used the ordinary passover bread and wine. We ought not be surprised by logistical challenges in our congregations that grow out of a desire to do the very same thing, use ordinary bread, in Holy Communion. In that prior congregation the left overs have been consumed by communicants cleaning up after communion.

  3. @Rev. Thomas C. Messer #1
    It’s surprising to me, then, that we have no Communion hymns that explicitly worship the elements and spell that out. We have so much rich Holy Communion theology in our hymns. It’s surprising that we missed that part.

  4. @Old Time St. John’s #3

    I honestly have no idea what you mean. As far as I can tell, all of our Communion hymns confess exactly what I said in my last response.

    What is on the altar after the Consecration? What does the pastor hold in his hands at the Pax Domini? Lutherans answer: Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

    Are you suggesting that we answer: Elements?

  5. I guess that the first verse of Oh Living Bread From Heaven does what I’m talking about. That’s the only example that I can find, but one is sufficient. Thank you.

  6. @Walter R Wagner #6
    Yes, is is outstanding, as are “Soul, Adorn Thyself with Gladness” and “I Come, Oh Savior, to Thy Table.” I was looking for a communion hymn or verses that address the elements directly, though–talking to them rather than about them. I only found the one example.

  7. Just a gentle reminder: The Book of Concord, in particular the Formula, makes it very clear that:

    (1) The Lord’s body and blood are actually and truly present, on the alter, in the pastor’s hand, and given into the mouth of the communicants as a result of the Lord Christ’s words of instituting and consecrating power, not as a result of a human being’s words. Therefore, within the conduct of the Divine Service, reverence and honor is to be shown to the Lord’s body and blood present under the bread and wine.

    (2) After all have been communed, there is no further promise from our Lord that He will remain forever present under the elements that have been consecrated, if they are not consumed. Any such doubt or question about what the status is of the remaining bread and wine should be resolved, as every Lutheran divine counsels, by reverent consumption of the remaining bread and wine.

    The use of a Tabernacle, with the stated intention of storing up and enclosing what is said to be the body and blood of Christ is both unnecessary and not in line with our public confession of faith.

    Ironically, in the congregation most vocally trumpeting their use of a tabernacle, there is such a low Sunday morning attendance at Divine Service and consequently an even lower number of people communing, there is no valid excuse for having left over elements from the celebration of the Sacrament that could not/should not be reverently consumed to remove all questions.

    We do best to follow the wisdom of our fathers and consume the reliquiae so as to avoid all this needless squabbling about what their status is.

    We do not combat “receptionism” by over-doing it on the other side of the equation.

    Christ said, “Take and eat” not “Take, bless, distribute most of it and eat most of it and then what is left store up for next time.”

  8. Rev. McCain,

    I do not find # 2 in the Book of Concord. There is no reason to assume that the elements cease to be the Lord’s Body and Blood at any time, is there? As long as the purpose is still to eat, why impose a time limit when our Lord does not?

    In what way is use of a Tabernacle not in line with our public confession of faith? Is it not a reverent way to deal with left overs for the sake of consumption? Since Christ did not specify a minimum time to consume, then why should we assume it?

    As for our fathers, some of them expressly did reserve in tabernacles. Edward Peters in his book Origin and Meaning documents some of the 16th century churches’ practices, some of which were reserving the elements. So it is not introduction of something new.

  9. The pastor in our Synod who most assiduously strives to put forward the use of a Tabernacle, claiming that when he kneels toward it, he is adoring the Incarnate Lord and describing others who do not follow his opinion as being suspect of being Arians, has no excuse for having left over elements after his communion services. Further, he never has explained, in spite of my repeated questions, why, if he believes it to be the body and blood of Christ he does not institute perpetual adoration at his congregation, further he never did explain why/how he consecrates the elements in a hospital room, merely saying only that to do so is awkward…in other words, his position and pastoral practice is shaky, at best. Now as to why we do not practice such a thing.

    The bottom line/summary: Apart from the instituted use there is no Sacrament. This is what our Confessions teach. They do not teach that the instituted use includes reserving the elements for use at a later time. Period. That is why Luther insisted on consuming all the elements and we should all stop being so sloppy as to consecrate so much bread and wine that we have a lot of remaining elements after the Divine Service. This would end this foolish and pointless and wholly unnecessary debate over the use of a Tabernacle.

    Here’s a longer explanation:

    The fundamental error in this discussion is the assumption that the body and blood of Christ remain under the bread and wine after the conclusion of the Divine Service. There is no warrant in our Confession to believe that it does and any attempt to suggest that it is in such a way that others are made to feel guilty or that they are “desecrating” Christ’s body and blood unless they adore and reverence the elements that remain as if they were the body and blood of Christ is contrary to our Confessions.

    Again, a false understanding of the “nihil” rule is at work in these conversations.

    The instituted use of the Sacrament is not in shutting it up and adoring it as if it were and remains forever the body and blood of Christ.

    Treating the remaining bread and wine with the upmost respect? Of course. They were host to our Lord’s body and blood, but acting and regarding them to be the body and blood of Christ and adoring them apart from the use of the Sacrament is incorrect.

    Otherwise, gentlemen, we should, and must, rewrite our Confessions and stop rejecting and condemning Eucharistic Adoration and putting the body and blood of Christ on display for worship. If in fact what remains is forever the body and blood of Christ, then why would we shut it up in a cabinet, or even a Tabernacle? Why not put it in a monstrance and put it on display for all to worship and adore?

    Do we, or do we not, regard ourselves to be bound to reject, with heart and mouth, as false, erroneous, and misleading the view that the elements or the visible frms of the consecrated bread and wine are to be adored outside the true use of the Sacrament?

    That “use” is not in shutting up remaining elements in Tabernacles, or otherwise, but only when and where the congregation is assembled for the Lord’s Supper, to hear the Word of Christ and to receive the body and blood of Christ, it is in this use, and not in any other, that we can and must declare, and confess, that the bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ, but outside that use we have no reason to believe or teach that what remains is to be shut up in a Tabernacle and treated as the body and blood of Christ.

    Finally, the meaning of SD VII.85 is not as uncertain or wide as some wish it were. Luther’s Wolferinus correspondence is specifically cited by the SD and appealed to for the intention and meaning of the nihil rule.
    But there is more, there is in the Formula a direct reference to a key document by Luther, the so-called Wolferinus conference, it has been called by Pastor Teigen, the “lost Luther reference” because it is omitted in most modern editions of the BoC. And where does this reference appear? Precisely where our Confessions set forth the principle/axiom that apart from the intended, instituted use, there is no Sacrament, the so-called “nihil” rule, from the Latin: nihil, or “nothing.” The phrase is: “Nothing has the character of a sacrament apart from those instituted by Christ, or apart form the divinely instituted action” [FC VII.85]. The Formula appeals directly to Luther.

    Please let us not suggest, or think, that Luther’s writing and teachings on the Supper, and particularly what he has to say on these very issues, have little or no bearing on these questions. Luther’s writings on these issues are not in any way to be regarded as merely personal opinion. No, not at all. They were, by the Formula itself, elevated to confessional status. In fact, they have everything to do with this issue.

    It is precisely in this discussion in FC SD VII that there is a reference to Luther’s Works. Now, here is where it gets really interesting. In modern English editions of the Formula, because they rely on the BKS [sadly, far, far too much!], you do not see the most interesting reference for our purposes. I’m pleased to report that in the Concordia edition the reference has been restored, reflecting the German 1580 edition, the authoritative first-edition of the Formula. The reference that is “lost” (but now found) appears in SD VII.87, which points the reader for more information on the nihil rule by stating it and then saying we hold to this rule “as Luther has explained it.” The BKS incorrectly points the reader to WA 30,11,254,255; cf. Smalcald Articles, Pt. III, Article XV, 4. This is simply, and plainly, wrong. There is nothing here to be found about the instituted use or what, precisely, Luther meant by the actio in the famous “nihil” rule. K/W gets it right, and cites the letter by Luther referred to here.

    A careful look at the original form of the Formula, the German, says that we are to look to the Jena edition of Luther’s Works, that famous edition put together by the Gnesio-Lutherans, under the sponsorship of his Electoral Grace, Duke Johann Friedrich the Magnanimous (my personal favorite Lutheran hero of the Reformation).

    What is to be found in the Jena edition when we look there, in volume IV? That’s a tough one, because the critical edition of the BKS, gives us no idea where to look in any modern edition of Luther’s works for this obscure reference. When one goes to the Jena edition, and looks in Volume IV, what does one find? [I’ve seen this with my own eyes, in the Jena edition in the rare book holdings of Concordia Theological Seminary, how I came to find it, I’ll explain at the end of this post].

    Aha! It is none other than the the famous Wolferinus correspondence! I’ll reproduce it below, then note the point that I believe applies directly to our conversation, since this clearly is correspondence the Formula is pointing us to “for more information/more details/if you want to understand what we mean and believe, here you go” Please read this carefully:

    The fourth volume of the Jena edition volume contains the Latin writings of Luther from 1538 to 1547. Here, folio pages 585 and following are obviously the reference to which the SD VII.87 directs us. It is Luther’s second letter to Wolferinus, 20 July 1543:

    Grace and peace,

    Indeed, why should I not have been disturbed and saddened, my dear Simon Wolferinus, when I saw you two, living together in one town and the ministers of one church, agreeing completely in doctrine, but carrying on between yourselves with such a bitter spirit, because of a matter which you have neither examined closely enough, and which is not that important if it were examined more closely? Look at these propositions of yours, and see whether or not such a terrible outcry is in keeping with charity and brotherly love. I see that Satan is tempting you, by making a beam out of a splinter, or rather a fire out of a spark. You could have solved this by a meeting between the two of you, since it is not a matter of being against the madness of the papists, but against a colleague of yours in the ministry and in religion.

    Indeed Dr. Philip wrote rightly that there is no sacrament outside of the sacramental action; but you are ending the sacramental action much too hastily and abruptly. If you do it in this way, you will appear to have absolutely no sacrament. For if such a quick breaking off of the action really exists, it will follow that after the speaking of the Words [of institution], which is the most powerful and principle action in the sacrament, no one would receive the body and blood of Christ, because the action would have ceased. Certainly Dr. Philip does not want that. But such a decision of the action would bring about inti scruples of conscience and endless questions, such as are disputed among the papists, as, for example, whether the body and blood of Christ are present at the first, middle, or last syllable. Therefore, one must look not only upon this movement of instant or present action but also on the time. Not in terms of mathematical but of physical breadth, that is, one must give this action a certain period of time, in a period of appropriate breadth of time, as they say, “in breadth.”

    Therefore, we shall define the time of the sacramental action in this way: that it starts with the beginning the Our Father and lasts until all have communicated, have emptied chalice, have consumed the hosts, until the people have been dismissed and [the priest] has left the altar. In this way we shall be safe and free from the scruples and scandals of such endless questions. Dr. Philip defines the sacramental action in relation to what is outside it, that is, against reservation of and processions with the sacrament. He does not split it up within [the action] itself, nor does he define it in a way that it contradicts itself. Therefore see to it that if anything is left over of the sacrament, either some communicants or the priest himself and his assistant receive it, so that it is not only a curate or someone else who drinks what is left over in the chalice, but that he gives it to the others who were also participants in the body [of Christ], so that you do not appear to divide the sacrament by a bad example or to treat the sacramental action irreverently. This is my opinion and I know that it is also Philip’s opinion too.7

    We do well simply to heed the wisdom of Dr. Luther and consume what remains at the end of the Supper and be done with all these foolish speculations, arguments and accusations.

    Even if some might wish to assert more on these points, let them, for the sake of love for the brethren, not presume to introduce practices that are alien to our Confession and foreign to our practice.

    Satis est.

    I won’t continue in this for I know that finally little will result, but only Pr. Messer whining about my posts, etc. But perhaps some might find all this useful.

  10. Rev. McCain,

    A man must certainly wade through much language to find your points. I cannot speak to all your points. I also must disregard the personal and perhaps slanderous attacks you have included in your post, as they are not helpful to a calm discussion.

    As for the Luther quote, it is first of all, as Luther expressly states, his opinion. Yes, it is cited in the Book of Concord, but as evidence of the saying (which he did not originate), “nothing is a sacrament outside the use.” To use it therefore as a binding instruction for precisely how to deal with leftover elements is beyond its purpose.

    But ignoring all that, I still do not see where Luther says that the elements cease to be the Body and Blood at any time (which is my main question, you might remember). Perhaps I missed it. You condemn others for assuming it remains His Body and Blood, yet still provide no proof that your position is the valid one.

    The reservationists are also consuming the leftover elements, yet on a different timetable. I choose not to condemn them. I do not see where Luther condemns them.

  11. John 13
    “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”

    This discussion is interesting and informative.  Would it be better to use private emails to exchange personal accusations?  I’m concerned about the witness and how we may be discouraging casual browsers to explore the LCMS or continue membership.

  12. @John Rixe #13

    Would it be better to use private emails to exchange personal accusations? I’m concerned about the witness and how we may be discouraging casual browsers to explore the LCMS or continue membership.

    No, I think people have a right to learn what type of people we confessionals are. And secondly, the entertainment value is top rate. Where else besides this den of vipers blog could one find such salient specimens of irony and black humor?
    “By this all people will know that you are my disciples….” ~indeed!

  13. I agree the entertainment value is top rate, but the personal accusations are not typical of the vast majority of the kind and respectful Lutherans I’ve known (especially pastors).

  14. Kitty and John Rixie,

    You’re both right. I’ve asked Norm to delete my last comment. I beg Pr. McCain’s forgiveness for my snide comments about him, and the forgiveness of anyone else who was offended by them. What a wretched sinner I surely am. Lord, have mercy.

    In Christ,
    Pr. Messer

  15. Colossians 1:22
    “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— “

  16. @Rev. Thomas C. Messer #16

    Snide remarks aside, this exchange has been very helpful for me as a recovering Orthodox Christian who intends to stay Lutheran. While I have no problems with the what you and Pastor Eckert say, it was confusing at first because it just seems so much like the church body that I am no longer part of.

    Oh and the law and Gospel stuff found here is wonderful to see.

  17. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #10

    Could you comment on this quote of Siegbert Becker? http://www.wlsessays.net/node/122

    Does it appear that WELS has a slightly different viewpoint?

    “We do not wish to be drawn into controversy over the question of when the presence begins. This is a dead end street that can only lead to confusion among God’s people. The words of institution and all the other passages of Scripture dealing with the Holy Supper give us no warrant for the conclusion that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ in the very moment that the words are spoken. We only know that the words of Christ spoken at the first Supper will be true and efficacious until the end of time. To say therefore that the body of Christ lies on the altar is to say more than the Scriptures say. And we will be mindful of the prophet’s words, “Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Pr 30:6).

    On the other hand, the Scriptures also do not make it possible for us to assert dogmatically that the body and blood of Christ are not present prior to the reception. This, too, goes beyond the words, and those who insist that the body and blood are not present until the elements actually touch the lips also raise profitless and presumptuous questions which have no place in the holy sacrament.

    Nor do the words of institution in any way indicate that the consecrated elements continue to be the body and blood of Christ even after all have communed. To say, therefore, that the religua must be consumed before the liturgy is concluded is also an addition to the clear teaching of Scripture and is to be condemned. Even to say that they should be consumed because they might still be the body and blood of Christ is to raise doubts and disputes that can only trouble concerned consciences. Moreover, to recommend that they be consumed in order to emphasize the real presence implies that conviction regarding the realm presence is not worked only by the Holy Spirit through the Word but that somehow “the words and works of the fathers” help to establish articles of faith. So long as men believe that in the Supper the true body and blood of Christ are truly present and eaten and drunk with the mouth by both believers and unbelievers justice will have been done to the words of institution, and what more do we or any other Christian need to know and believe?”

  18. @Anonymous #20

    Interesting comments. Would you clarify this sentence citing “believers and unbelievers” for me, however…..

    So long as men believe that in the Supper the true body and blood of Christ are truly present and eaten and drunk with the mouth by both believers and unbelievers justice will have been done to the words of institution, and what more do we or any other Christian need to know and believe?”

    Rudy Wagner

  19. Another relevant essay is “The Biblical and Lutheran Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper” by Assoc. Prof. Seth Erlandsson, Uppsela University. (This essay was translated from the Swedish by Siegbert W. Becker.) The essay discusses the “Saliger controversy” in the 1560s and the response to it by the Formula of Concord and Lutheran theologicans. Erlandsson then states (p.10):

    In later times efforts were made in various places to blow life once more into the Saliger controversy. It is denied that what the FC and its authors describe as unnecessary and presumptuous speculations are unnecessary and presumptuous. On the contrary, they take their place at Saliger’s side and demand, among other things, that all those who do not expressly teach that the real presence begins at the moment of consecration and that no consecrated bread and wine should be left unconsumed must be excluded from an orthodox Christian fellowship. That means that the men behind the FC, Chytraeus, Chemnitz, Andreae, Selneccer, as well as, e.g., Gerhard, Quenstedt, Walther, Hoenecke and Pieper, yes, all the orthodox fathers except Saliger and some others, would have to be excluded from Christian congregations, if they were alive today.

    Erlandsson includes the text of the “A Statement of the Joint Theological Faculties of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and Concordia Seminary, Springfield” (May 2, 1959).

    BTW, here’s a 1963 Lutheran News article, “Why I Left the Missouri Synod,” by Siegbert W. Becker, primarily referring to the Scharlemann heresy.

  20. Becker’s conclusion (the sentence noted in #21 may be understood in the context of the statements Becker makes earlier:

    To say therefore that the body of Christ lies on the altar is to say more than the Scriptures say. And we will be mindful of the prophet’s words, “Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Pr 30:6).
    On the other hand, the Scriptures also do not make it possible for us to assert dogmatically that the body and blood of Christ are not present prior to the reception. This, too, goes beyond the words, and those who insist that the body and blood are not present until the elements actually touch the lips also raise profitless and presumptuous questions which have no place in the holy sacrament.

    Thus, with the added examples in the paragraph of what cannot be doctrine positions (because they lack Scriptural evidence), Becker presents his conclusion, ending in his rhetorical question with its implied, obvious answer.

  21. “To say therefore that the body of Christ lies on the altar is to say more than the Scriptures say.”

    Perhaps I am confused. Once the Words of Institution are spoken, Christ has testified, “This is My Body…This is My Blood.” Therefore, the Scriptures have indeed said that what is on the Altar [post-consecration] is His Body and Blood.

    But like others here, I do not seem to be understanding the flow of the man’s paragraph.

  22. @Carl Vehse #24
    Thank you so much.

    All of the information from Professor Becker, including the series of articles about his interactions with Professor Scharlemann, have been most interesting. I have seen it alleged by ELIM people with an ax to grind (Dr. Tietjen and Professor Danker) that Professor Scharlemann did not truly recant his teachings but only sidestepped the issues in question. I have never seen this corroborated by anyone on the right before reading the articles by Professor Becker. Particularly disturbing were the descriptions of those students who feared for their own faith when they were exposed to changed Bible teachings for the first time, in LCMS universities or seminaries no less! These sounded just like what I have heard from seminary students during the late 60’s. So does anyone know what happened later? Did Professor Scharlemann change his views and his teaching before becoming the president of Concordia Seminary St. Louis in the wake of the Seminex walkout?

    The writing about the Lord’s Supper is much more like what I had thought was our LCMS and Evangelical Lutheran teaching, and it makes perfect sense to me. It’s one of those classic cases of Lutherans stubbornly refusing to take things to their logical conclusion, if that conclusion is not directly supported by Scripture, stopping where Scripture does, no more and no less.

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