The Form of the Liturgy is not in the Bible! Oh Really? by Pr. Rossow

It is a fairly common assertion amongst church growthers and confessionals alike that the liturgy is not in the Bible. Actually the liturgy shows up in the Bible in many places. Of course, ninety percent of the liturgical texts are biblical (thank you editors Vieker and Grime for putting those Bible references in the LSB) but that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about the actual format of the liturgy. It is not as biblically scarce as we think.

First of all consider Jesus at the synagogue in Nazareth. As we learn from Art Just in the excellent video series on the liturgy from Lutheran Visuals,* the basic form of the liturgy comes out of the practice of the Jews and is what Jesus was practicing at Nazareth – first the readings, then the commentary/sermon on the readings. What a powerful sermon that was – “I am the one Isaiah is talking about.”

But what I want to point out today is the liturgy in the book of Revelation. A few years ago I ran across a book by Scott Hahn, a protestant turned Roman Catholic in which he shows how the book of Revelation flows like the liturgy and how so much of our liturgical practice is found in the book of Revelation. (From what I could tell, Dr. Hahn was formerly a straight-forward sin and forgiveness guy when he first went over to Rome but has since, sadly in my estimation, become a sort of gobbledy-gook-speaking, liberal, semi-gnostic, neo-Thomist. Also, sadly, this gobbledy-gook has found its way into the LCMS via the University of Notre Dame and is at the heart of the erroneous contextualization argument supporting the praise band at the seminary in St. Louis.)

The book of Revelation in great part flows like the liturgy. It starts out with the presence of God, approximating the invocation with Jesus meeting John (chapter 1). It then continues with the hymn of praise at the throne of the Father lauding the Lamb who has been slain from which “This is the Feast” is derived (chapters 4-5). After that is a sort of service of the word (readings and sermons), the cycles of sevens (trumpets, bowls, etc.) in which the end times are described, the end times having started when Jesus said “It is finished” (chapters 6-16). Then follows the service of the Supper with the great feast in heaven (chapter 19) and then finally there is the benediction (chapter 22).

On this liturgical path in the book of Revelation we see Jesus dressed like a liturgical pastor wearing a white robe and a gold sash (chapter 1). (Sorry church growthers, he is not wearing a polo short or a flowered Hawaiian shirt.) Behind Jesus are seven candles lit, just like in liturgical churches. During the Revelation hymn of praise we hear responsive singing and throughout the book everyone is bowing and prostrating on nearly every page. There is no hint of “the great fun party” in heaven that the false teacher Rob Bell and the church growthers like to talk about. Instead, everything is done in fear and reverence. (I have written a small pamphlet that goes into greater detail that is available at Blue Pomegranate Press if you are interested in further reading on this.)

For sure, worship has a noticeable element of adiaphora to it (neither commanded nor forbidden) but there is no need for us to cave and say that the form of the liturgy is not Scriptural. It’s right there in the last book of the Bible – the book that gives us the clearest picture of worship life at the heavenly Divine Service.

*Lutheran Visuals has a new video out on the liturgy by The Rev. Dr. Daniel Brege titled Eating God’s Sacrifice which I have not had time to review but from what I understand, is quite good.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.

Comments

The Form of the Liturgy is not in the Bible! Oh Really? by Pr. Rossow — 45 Comments

  1. Dear Pastor Rossow,

    Thanks for this insightful overview of Revelation and how it pertains to worship. I not only like this idea, but I think it is true. I think there are two questions: 1) how did the earliest church pattern its worship, and did the book of Revelation bear some influence? 2) has the book of Revelation had any influence on the subsequent development of the liturgy? It would be interesting to see Scott Hahn’s arguments and evidences for this. Can you let us know the title and publisher’s data on the book, if you have it handy?

    Regarding your comment about how in Revelation “Instead, everything is done in fear and reverence” I have been reading the following: Paul Woodruff, “Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue” (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2001). Woodruff is a philosopher, and looks at the subject from the standpoint of the ancient Greeks and ancient Chinese. I think he overlaps the ideas of reverence and respect, but nevertheless it is a thoughtful study. To quote the back-cover blurb, “Woodruff shows how absolutely essential reverence is to a well-functioning society,” and I would add, “a well-functioning church.”

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  2. Liturgy has always been a big part of church history and especially the Lutheran church. We should not use things permitted in Lutheran theology (adiaphora) as a way to get away from things that are Lutheran.

    If folks don’t like liturgy why come to a Lutheran church? Please, go to a church that doesn’t understand or have liturgy–and don’t let the door hit you one the way out!

  3. @Lloyd I. Cadle #3

    It is a given that the unchurched do not understand liturgy. No one unfamiliar with the liturgy will like the liturgy initially. It is peculiar and uses unfamiliar words. The music is new and os often difficult to sing. We stand for some things and sit for others. And rarely, more likely never, has the reasoning for the form or content of the liturgy been explained or taught to the congregation.

    But your attitude of “love it or leave it” is abominable. If your congregation has any visitors who are either unchurched or from non-liturgical denominations, you would understand this.

    I am not saying we should do away with liturgy. But I get the impression from some people who post on this site that they actually worship the liturgy rather than worshiping God. Just check out some of the posts. Look at your own!

    And if I should happen to be a person who is not enthralled by 16th century hymns then I am less than your equal. People who are hurting, or are feeling the pain of sin in their lives, come to a Lutheran church because someone has told them that they will hear the clear Word of Christ’s forgiveness.

    Read what you wrote….and repent!

  4. @Lloyd I. Cadle #3

    Well stated Lloyd. I think we need to do a better job of teaching those folks new to Lutheranism the reason why liturgy is important to the church. As Rich says, we need to teach ourselves and the newcomers to the Lutheran Church why the liturgy is important.

    However Rich is overboard in his admonish on not loving people who are unchurched or from non-liturgical churches. A solid Lutheran Church will explain in its literature and teachings why the liturgy is used and have elders and pastor(s) whom can speak about the liturgy. I think that those here on BJS rightly defend the liturgy and are from Lutheran Churches that can speak to the unchurched and non-liturgical visitors about the liturgy.

    Rich’s impression of the people on this BJS board is incorrect.

    Thanks BJSers for continuing to teach correctly about this important topic.

  5. @Rich #4

    People who are hurting, or are feeling the pain of sin in their lives, come to a Lutheran church because someone has told them that they will hear the clear Word of Christ’s forgiveness.

    Exactly! They’ll hear it in our liturgy. Or am I not understanding you correctly?

  6. @Rich #4
    You puzzle me Rich. We, as Confessional Lutherans, have a “worship style” (in quotes because the liturgy is much more than that) consistent w/ our doctrine, consistent w/ God’s Word in Holy Scripture, and consistent with the AC’s claims to be truly ”catholic.” Do you think we need to vary it to appeal to every hurting sinner in the world’s worldly aesthetic sense? If so, what makes you think that?
    Is the LCMS the “only saving church?” Will every hurting sinner who stomps off to find a congregation with a worldlier liturgy be damned? Walther says “no” on both counts, and I’m guessing, so do the folks whose opinions you find so abominable. Are we fighting for market share or doing our best to be faithful to the Word of God interpreted IAW the BOC 1580?

  7. Rich – 16th century hymns are not the liturgy and the liturgy is not 16th century hymns.

  8. @Rich #4

    worship the liturgy rather than worshiping God

    Let’s all admit that anything can be turned into an idol, especially the best things. The Devil does not make a regular practice of appearing in a red cape with horns and a fork. While the Evil One and evil things can be made into idols, so can good things. Nothing is so sinful as piety.

    So, Rick, I concede the possibility of the Liturgy being turned into an idol, and I concede that some people actully do so. Whether this person or that person has done so is for God alone to say. Will you concede that latter point?

    If your congregation has any visitors who are either unchurched or from non-liturgical denominations, you would understand this.

    While I do not believe in designing so-called seeker friendly services, I have been heard on BJS to encourage practices of common courtesy and common sense that show hospitality to visitors. (The reason I don’t believe in seek friendly services is that I don’t believe in the existence of seekrs. God is the Seeker.) Where the Liturgy is concerned, there are things we can do, and in fact congregations are doing them. Many congregations post helpful explanations of the Liturgy on their websites, and some divide those explanations into parts that can form a series of bulletin inserts. Here are a couple examples:

    http://www.goodshepherd.nb.ca/liturgy/
    http://www.mightyfortress.us/index.php?p=1_410_The-Lutheran-Liturgy-Its-Biblical-Roots

    So, Rick, I share your concern about visitors, and I think there is something constructive we can do to bring visitors and the Liturgy together. We can contribute to the development of explanations like the examples linked above, and we can contribute to the development of a series of bulletin inserts. We could contribute to the development of a pamphet that could be distributed to members, adherents, and regular attenders, and that could be given especially to visitors. After working with it awhile, I am sure that other creative juices would begin to flow, and lots of other ways of expanding the understanding of and meaningful participation in the Liturgy would come to mind.

    This does not have to be an either-or situation, but there are some who make it one. One camp of either-or-ists, is those who continue to regularly attend Lutheran churches and want to substantially reduce or eleminate the Liturgy. As I read his posting, this is the group to whom Lloyd was referring, not to visitors. Lloyd’s posting sounds like an either-or position, but that might be only because the group to whom he is responding have taken up and either-or posture themselves. Whoever answers an either-or posture runs the risk of sounding either-or himself or herself. Look how much labor I have to expend in this posting to avoid sounding either-or to either you or Lloyd!

    Let’s get to both-and. Both Liturgy and visitors. Let’s share the Liturgy with as many people as the Lord give us opportunity to do.

  9. The following three quotes are pertinent to liturgy and the substance of Pr. Rossow’s posting. The first one is highly practical and it’s by C.S. Lewis and needs repeating. The second quote is by Bp. Bo Giertz on the literal timelessness of liturgy and is right on target and right to the point of this posting. Then I close with Fr. Luther:

    C.S. Lewis:

    “There is no subject in the world (always excepting sport) on which I have less to say than liturgiology. And the almost nothing which I have to say may as well be disposed of in this letter.
    I think our business as laymen is to take what we are given and make the best of it. And I think we should find this a great deal easier if what we were given was always and everywhere the same.
    To judge from their practice, very few Anglican clergymen take this view. It looks as if they believed people can be lured to go to church by incessant brightenings, lightenings, lengthenings, abridgements, simplifications, and complications of the service. And it is probably true that a new, keen vicar will usually be able to form within his parish a minority who are in favour of his innovations. The majority, I believe, never are. Those who remain—many give up churchgoing altogether—merely endure.
    Is this simply because the majority are hide-bound? I think not. They have a good reason for their conservatism. Novelty, simply as such, can have only an entertainment value. And they don’t go to church to be entertained. They go to use the service, or, if you prefer, to enact it. Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best—if you like, it “works” best—when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.
    But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about worship is a different thing from worshipping. The important question about the Grail was “for what does it serve?” “‘Tis mad idolatry that makes the service greater than the god.”
    A still worse thing may happen. Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude it, the question “What on earth is he up to now?” will intrude. It lays one’s devotion waste. There is really some excuse for the man who said, “I wish they’d remember that the charge to Peter was Feed my sheep; not Try experiments on my rats, or even, Teach my performing dogs new tricks.”
    Thus my whole liturgiological position really boils down to an entreaty for permanence and uniformity. I can make do with almost any kind of service whatever, if only it will stay put. But if each form is snatched away just when I am beginning to feel at home in it, then I can never make any progress in the art of worship. You give me no chance to acquire the trained habit—habito dell’arte.”

    Bp. Giertz:
    “The need for awakening will one day cease. It belongs to this world, where men still sleep the sleep of death. When Christ has awakened His own on the last great day, there will no longer be any need for awakening. It will be just as obsolete and unnecessary as hospitals and the agencies of social service. But liturgy will remain. What the Scriptures permit us to imagine concerning the ineffable splendor which will then begin includes a picture of a heavenly liturgy, a holy service before the throne of God, with hymns of praise and thanksgiving making music like the sound of great waters, with golden chalices full of incense, and throngs falling down in worship before the God Who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
    Liturgy in the church is a foretaste of the eternal song of praise, an earthly expression of that which is the content of eternity and the basic melody of creation, a never ending thanksgiving to the Creator and Father of all things. Within its earthly poverty liturgy contains something of the beauty of the heavenly, the blessed sense of the nearness of the Eternal, and the joy of being privileged to sacrifice everything in order to be one with Christ.”
    “There are people who find it difficult to feel at home in the liturgical forms. All liturgy demands the submerging of self.

    Luther:

    “For I have been hesitant and fearful, because of the weak in faith, who cannot suddenly exchange old an accustomed order of worship for a new and unusual one, and more so because of the fickle and fastidious spirits who rush in like unclean swine without faith or reason, and who delight only in novelty and tire of it as quickly, when it has worn off. Such people are a nuisance even in other affairs, but in spiritual matters, they are absolutely unbearable. Nonetheless, at the risk of bursting with anger, I must bear with them, unless I want to let the gospel itself be denied to the people.”

    “And to train the young and to call and attract others to faith, I shall–besides preaching—help to further such public services for the people, until Christians who earnestly love the Word find each other and join together. For if I should try to make it up out of my own need, it might turn into sect.”

  10. @ T.R. Our nation and the world is actually filled with “seekers”. Like the Gentiles of Jesus’ time, they have left their religions and philosophies behind, not knowing what they are seeking, but knowing that there is something needed in their lives.

    Yes, God is seeking them with the truth, but when the Holy Spirit nudges them into the local Lutheran church, we need to realize that they do not know why they are there, except that they want something that they do not have. We need to treat the human at the door as a seeker, deal with him as Jesus did. Jesus did not begin by sitting them down at the synagogue for formal worship, though I am sure that after His personal compassion and caring, they came to love the true gospel and true worship.

  11. “It is a given that the unchurched do not understand liturgy. No one unfamiliar with the liturgy will like the liturgy initially.”

    Rich’s post reminded me of someone who said, in this context, that people don’t understand a baseball game the first time they go, but with a little tutoring, new baseball fans are formed every day.

  12. @Pastor Phil Spomer #14
    “No one”? I must be the only exception in the whole world. Love it the first time I heard it. So do the non-Lutherans I invite to church; they are struck by its reverence and how it engages them and (as a close friend said) “how it drew me in”. And I’ve always loved baseball, Canuck that I am 😉

  13. @Rich #4 ,

    No one unfamiliar with the liturgy will like the liturgy initially. It is peculiar and uses unfamiliar words. The music is new and os often difficult to sing. We stand for some things and sit for others. And rarely, more likely never, has the reasoning for the form or content of the liturgy been explained or taught to the congregation.

    That is not correct. Perhaps some people who are unfamiliar with the liturgy will not like it initially, or perhaps even many people, but I was completely unfamiliar with the liturgy and the first time I encountered it (as a visitor from a very contemporary church in a extremely non-liturgical denomination) I not only did not dislike it … I loved it. I find it hard to believe that I’m the only person in that boat.

    Sure, the music was unfamiliar, and the standing and sitting was unfamiliar, but it clearly was taken from Scripture and pulled no punches about my sinfulness, yet clearly pointed me to Christ.

    People who are hurting, or are feeling the pain of sin in their lives, come to a Lutheran church because someone has told them that they will hear the clear Word of Christ’s forgiveness.

    That’s exactly where I was, and I did hear the clear Word of Christ’s forgiveness … in the sermon, and it was underscored by the liturgy. In fact, I heard it so clearly that I did not go back to my non-denominational church.

  14. A Methodist college student, who’s mother is charismatic, became a Lutheran and one reason was she told me that she heard “the clear Word of Christ’s forgiveness” in Confession and Absolution.

    Living where we do is the home of the Virginia Military Institute. In my previous parish, I was in Norfolk VA with the largest naval base on earth and a congregation filled with active and retired USN. I went to many military “rituals” both there and here. My experience is that people love them! They show respect and honor to the flag and the country. I just can’t imagine a few guitars and a pep rally at a military rite. The rite-stuff shows dignity, from the Latin, “dignus”: worth/worthy. I asked one VMI cadet what he thought of the liturgy and his answer was on par with C.S. Lewis’ observation I posted above: “I don’t have to think about what we are doing: I can pray.” (and this was after his beloved Grandfather died while B. was at VMI). I had a marginal Lutheran from Washington and Lee, after coming for months to Liturgy, wanted to talk with me. He did not like going to the Reformed University Fellowship because, “Pastor, I get the feeling that I am supposed to be feeling in a certain way.” As a pastor I have seen people weeping at the Altar receiving His Body and Blood and others with such inexpressible joy on their faces. Both can do such but not if a “mood” is imposed. Years before when I was youth minister at a Presbyterian Congregation (semi-long story), years before CW and church growth, one of the youth had the lead in his high school’s production of Oklahoma. The choir director suggested to R. that the service should begin by the student walking up the aisle singing, “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!”! I had never heard of such: the director was sadly years ahead of his time. I railed: If I had a struggle getting the kids up and ready, or my wife and I had a fight, or I found out I had cancer, not such a beautiful morning. But such is the oppression caused by such. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, speaks volumes to both those slain by sin and slain by sorrow and those uplifted in the joy of the Lord.

  15. “Gather the hopes and the dreams of all,
    Unite them with the prayers we offer now”

    Hopes and dreams of ALL? Muslims? Athiests?

    Biblical? I think not.

  16. I was at a LW DS II, setting I parish before I was at my current LSB parish. The liturgy was what drew a retired Presbyterian pastor and several others to Lutheranism.
    Thankfully we use DS III/Pg. 15 at my current parish. Never did care for DS II, I in LW, but I do like the music in DS II, II…

  17. A Lutheran since my baptism as an infant, I stumble over the words of the Te Deum, “All the earth now worships you,” every time they are sung. I recognize Psalm 66:4, but what does this mean? Do we not live in a fallen world where, in many places, worship of the true God is absent?

  18. Redeemed :
    “Gather the hopes and the dreams of all,
    Unite them with the prayers we offer now”
    Hopes and dreams of ALL? Muslims? Athiests?
    Biblical? I think not.

    Agree! But go on – – – “Grace our table with Your presence, . . .” Whose table is this? Ours? Tsk! Tsk!

  19. @Bob Gruener #21

    Bob, the answer might be in the context. Verse 1 begins with the imperative “shout.” Verse 2 continues with the imperative “sing” and then “give.” Verse 3 continues with the imperative “say,” and what the earth is being told to say is quoted from verse 3 through your verse 4. So it appears the speaker is telling “all the earth” (v 1) to say, “All the earth worships you.” All the earth has not done that yet, as you note, but the speaker is telling all the earth that it should. Does help?

  20. @T. R. Halvorson #23
    @Bob Gruener #21

    T.R. and Bob,

    In the lives of fallen man, surely all the world does not yet worship the LORD. But the text is clear: “…all the earth”. I think it is always safer to take Scripture on face value. But still on face value it seems to be a stretch. Yet, is it? Psalm 66 is less a command and more of an invitation to the peoples:

    Come and see what God has done:
    he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.
    6He turned the sea into dry land;
    they passed through the river on foot.

    Come and see what He has done in His freeing of Israel from the house of bondage. When He did so indeed the earth did worship the Lord, sea and river, the forces of chaos bowed to His Word for His people as in the beginning. One Biblical scholar points out that the Hebrew words for “sea” and “river” are yam and nahar. Both,”…are names of the personalized cosmic powers whom the Canaanite god Baal overthrows in the ancient myth of Baal’s ascent to kingship over nature.” (James Luther Mays) So further, the inspired Psalmist proclaims that the nations also do worship the Lord. Maybe this is also an example of synecdoche, the part representing the whole. Sea and river do His bidding, indeed all the earth. After all, The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof! (Psalm 24: 1-2 and note verse 2) In fact Psalms 148 and 150 sing to this. The last verse of the Psalms is everything that has breath praises the Lord. So the Psalmist invites all to this worship. This speaks to Pr. Rossow’s posting: Worship is not about us but the Lord Who’s awesome deeds in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the culmination of the redemption of creation and will be for us and our salvation; this is saving hope(Romans 8: 18-27). Psalm 66 is clearly for the liturgy of Israel to which the Psalmist invites all who have ears to listen. The Liturgy of the Lamb also. The proclamation and invitation is evident in the Apocalypse: see Revelation 15: 3-4. Indeed, come and see what God has done.

  21. Ok: nailing this all down then.

    The form of the liturgy is suggested by Scripture, correct? Or, more correctly, the broad form of the liturgy—there is no example of whether the creed ought to be before the sermon or after the sermon for example.

    Pastor Rossow also states clearly that worship “has a noticeable element of adiaphora to it (neither commanded nor forbidden)” as well, correct?

    So, really the issue for me, personally is, Can a person be a Lutheran and hold to sola Scriptura and insist that someone has to worship in a certain way for them to be called Lutheran?

    That is sorta the clarifying, clear issue that we ought to be dealing with. And I’m sure at the Koin it will be addressed.

    For my intents and purposes, my CoWo service also follows the general outline of Pastor Rossow. Jesus is depicted as wearing contemporary clothes—as do I.

    As to the questions of fear and reverence versus joy and thanksgiving—I’m sure that won’t be settled this side of Heaven.

    So…since CoWo then is also Scriptural, the real question for our Synod is “Can you be a Lutheran and do contemporary worship? If so, why? If not, why not?”

    My own position is that if you want to hold to Scripture (where Christ has set us free) you cannot prohibit Lutherans from doing CoWo any more than you can prohibit people from using purple candles at Advent.

    That’s my call.

  22. @Mark Louderback #25

    Hi Mark,

    As you know from prior threads, I have been collecting for myself passages of Scripture on this subject. Still a work in progress. Here are some further thoughts that this thread, particularly its original article by Pr Rossow and your posting, raise.

    Discerning a liturgical structure from the structure of Revelation is interesting. It presents hermeneutical questions and, as you worded it, it is suggestive, not prescriptive. So, while I think Pr Rossow’s article is interesting and worthwhile, I’m still looking for things more prescriptive.

    While doing this, I note the case of David’s wife, Michal and her reaction to David’s behavior when he brought the Ark home. 2 Sam 6. The outcome of her judgment on David’s worship was barrenness. Not a good omen for anyone who erroneously disdains another’s worship. During the worship wars, every side (there are more than two) should pause to reflect on this.

    We cannot, however, let that pausing forever stop us from trying to get to the right answer about Scriptural prescription of forms and contents of worship. So I press on.

    While any statement comprising only one or a few sentences must be an oversimplification, I will neverthless hazard oversimplification with the following assertions, since, like Vince on TV, you know we can’t do this all day through this medium: In the early church, forms at first were taken over more or less directly from the Synagogue, with Gospel modifications and additions. Those forms in turn were adapted from the worship in the Tabernacle and Temple, as prescribed in Moses’ law, particularly Leviticus. Therefore, by the transitive property, the Church’s early liturgies may be seen as deriving from prescriptive passages of Scripture. Therefore we will not do well in concluding issues realating to liturgy or forms of worship without a thoroughgoing appreciation of Levitical worship.

    For a start, I recommend Joseph A. Seiss, Gospel in Leviticus. This work is well worth the study, although it may contain some important flaws. While Seiss was an ordained Lutheran pastor, helped found the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, was joint editor of The Lutheran and the Lutheran and Missionary, this series of lectures is reputedly founded on Bonar (Free Church of Scotland) and Bush (George, no less, Presbyterian), but with much original material. It is beautifully Lutheran with its Law and Gospel insight.

    Take as an example one chief component of the traditional liturgy, the Introit. Why is entry so important? Consider the courts of the Temple. Consider what was entailed in entering each court. Shouldn’t our worship consider that, and what happened to the veil on Easter? Why did God have the Hebrews conforming to Leviticus for centuries, and then prominently display the rending of the veil on Easter, only to have us forget all about it?

  23. @Mark Louderback #25
    For my intents and purposes, my CoWo service also follows the general outline of Pastor Rossow. Jesus is depicted as wearing contemporary clothes—as do I.

    The problem I have with “CoWo” [besides Mark’s cloyingly cute name for it] is that practitioners of “do your own liturgy” (in polo & khakis) soon start talking about my service.
    “It’s all about me!”
    [I’m not saying that Mark is the first to come across that way; he just happens to be saying it here. Another man was in the habit of writing lengthy litanies which sounded like a confession (of things most of us hadn’t thought of) but when I suggested absolution would be a logical followup, he professed to be hurt that I didn’t appreciate his prayers.]

    The traditional Pastor vests to put himself in the background,
    while we use God’s Words to praise and thank Him, not the Pastor’s.
    A good Lutheran sermon is a message from Scripture; the litany is the prayer of the church.

    To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, I shouldn’t have to think about the form or sequence of my prayers, the point is to be praying them.
    Changing things every week is like improvised theatre;
    you spend too much time wondering where it’s going to go next.

  24. helen
    Changing things every week is like improvised theatre;
    you spend too much time wondering where it’s going to go next.

    [The ‘Preview” button isn’t working for me, so I hope this comes out right.]

    Helen, this is my sentiment exactly! Wouldn’t it be a lot easier on pastors to use the hymnal liturgy? Then they could concentrate on Bible study and sermon prep!

  25. Well, it’s been a week since I last visited this discussion and I see it has gone nowhere except in the normal, predictable circle.

    Let me see if I have this correct….

    John 3:16 tells me everything I need to know about God’s plan of salvation for me. But I must be a Bible scholar, authoritative in testaments Old and New in their original languages, as well as Hebrew history, in order to unearth the foundation for the liturgy that is – in some minds – eternally unalterable.

    Funny that God would make it so difficult for the average reader to identify something so important. Unless, of course, it isn’t.

  26. TRH,

    I do know that you have been collecting Scripture passages! We were going into 500 comments on that other thread 🙂 so it seemed better to break it out here.

    I find it interesting that you think you will find a prescriptive description of worship. It could be there, it could not be there. It is like saying that you are looking for a prescriptive description of what to do with your money. Would you expect to find one and not the other? Or the other and not the one?

    But I think that Pr Rossow has it right about prescription: we are free.

    While doing this, I note the case of David’s wife, Michal and her reaction to David’s behavior when he brought the Ark home. 2 Sam 6. The outcome of her judgment on David’s worship was barrenness. Not a good omen for anyone who erroneously disdains another’s worship. During the worship wars, every side (there are more than two) should pause to reflect on this.

    Well…I don’t know it if was simply how she viewed worship. But even if this is accurate, I myself have nothing but good things to say about traditional, liturgical worship. You will not find me saying “Oh that stinks!” or “You need to stop doing that to be missional.” All not true.

    In the early church, forms at first were taken over more or less directly from the Synagogue, with Gospel modifications and additions. Those forms in turn were adapted from the worship in the Tabernacle and Temple, as prescribed in Moses’ law, particularly Leviticus. Therefore, by the transitive property, the Church’s early liturgies may be seen as deriving from prescriptive passages of Scripture.

    I question this on a few different levels:

    #1: The first thought that came to mind was that Synagogue worship is not temple worship. There is no sacrifice. So, how close to Temple worship were they exactly?

    #2: What exactly is prescriptive in Leviticus? Animal sacrifice that’s what. Many details about the various sacrifices and details about the day of atonement (Yom Kippur) — but details about what is done during the worship service? Could you give me an example of this.

    So I’m not quite sure that anything in the Synagogue worship is based on anything prescriptive int he book of Leviticus. But I’d be open to hearing some examples of this from you.

    For example you say:

    Take as an example one chief component of the traditional liturgy, the Introit. Why is entry so important? Consider the courts of the Temple. Consider what was entailed in entering each court.

    Ok: what was this? What was commanded in Scripture in regards to the entering of the court?

    Why did God have the Hebrews conforming to Leviticus for centuries, and then prominently display the rending of the veil on Easter, only to have us forget all about it?

    Well, I don’t quite see the rending of the veil as a change in the worship as much as a prefiguring of the destruction of the Temple.

    But even granting that, what about circumcision? What about keeping kosher? I mean these were ingrained in the Israelites. Not doing it meant being cut off from the people of God (Gen 17:14). How could that simply be stopped?

    For me, the passage of the freedom that we have in Christ is the defining passage for my worship practices today. I have freedom to do anything, but at the same time I still do what the church has done for years.

  27. Helen,

    The problem I have with “CoWo” [besides Mark’s cloyingly cute name for it] is that practitioners of “do your own liturgy” (in polo & khakis) soon start talking about my service.

    Yeah, I understand that. But as a pastor, it is so much easier to talk about my church, my service, my Bible study, than some more cumbersome. I certainly don’t have the import of “This is all about me” — or at least any more than I usually do.

    But if you would prefer, I could say “The service that God has called for me to preside over” or something like that. Makes no difference to me.

    BTW, I love the term “CoWo”. 😉

    The traditional Pastor vests to put himself in the background,

    That is what is usually said yes—but it simply is not true at all. The pastor stands out. He is distinct and separate—whether he is wearing a stole or not. Whether he is wearing a chasuble or not.

    This argument is simply not convincing at all.

    A good Lutheran sermon is a message from Scripture; the litany is the prayer of the church.

    This is certainly true.

    To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, I shouldn’t have to think about the form or sequence of my prayers, the point is to be praying them.
    Changing things every week is like improvised theatre;
    you spend too much time wondering where it’s going to go next.

    Or not. Our church service is pretty similar week to week. Elements change—and sometimes things are adjusted. But I think there needs to be a bit of stability.

    But I also think that those who like CoWo are comfortable with the differences from week to week. I personally think that those who like Traditional worship are simply more comfortable with keeping things the same week to week.

    That’s it.

  28. Oh, just to clarify one more thing:

    The problem I have with “CoWo” [besides Mark’s cloyingly cute name for it] is that practitioners of “do your own liturgy” (in polo & khakis) soon start talking about my service.

    I don’t wear polos in church. Khakis, yes; polos, no.

  29. Janet,

    Wouldn’t it be a lot easier on pastors to use the hymnal liturgy? Then they could concentrate on Bible study and sermon prep!

    There are many things that are easier to do that are not what we are called to do.

    It would be “easier” for me to download a sermon from the internet—but that is not necessarily the better thing to do.

  30. @Mark Louderback #30

    I find it interesting that you think you will find a prescriptive description of worship.

    I don’t know that I will, but looking to see is a sounder process of mind than to presuppose its nonexistence.

    I find little satisfaction in the autonomous, self-fulfilling, and circular reasoning that goes: I presuppose the nonexistence of prescriptive scriptures on forms of worship; because I presuppose nonexistence, therefore I don’t look; because I don’t look, I don’t find; because I don’t find, that confirms my presupposition that they don’t exist.

  31. @Rich #29

    John 3:16 tells me everything I need to know about God’s plan of salvation for me.

    Funny that God would make it so difficult for the average reader

    He didn’t. Sin does.

    Particularly John 3:16 and its born again context has not turned out to be so simple across Christendom. From it come such things as decisional salvation, Decision magazine, the Hour of Decision radio program, and a host of other Pelagian, Semi-Pelagian, and Synergistic ideas of God’s plan of salvation, not because God made it difficult, but because sin would hold out for a flake of credit, a tincture of freedom, a spark of synteresis. That holding out, not God’s Word, is what makes things difficult.

  32. The Yellow Pulpit. – We have had with us the yellow press for a decade or two. The yellow pulpit is a later growth, but its style of work is increasingly evident in American church announcements. The Lutheran reports that in a Baptist church a sermon was recently preached on the subject: ‘When the Sheriff Plays Second Fiddle,’ and that in the same service the preacher played an auto harp and sang, ‘Molly and the Baby.’ Other subjects were, ‘The Girl and the Barbar Shop’ and ‘The Girl Behind the Bat.’ A large Methodist church in New York City about the same time advertised a ‘Baseball Service,’ a fact upon which the Brooklyn Eagle, which is not a Lutheran church-paper, tartly commented by saying that pretty soon we may expect a ‘Tennis Service’ and a ‘Golf Service.’

    “Rev. Reisner of Grace M.E. Church, New York City, may be regarded as the Pulitzer of the Yellow Pulpit. Recently he had apples distributed in church instead of taking up a collection, and then preached on ‘God and Apples.’ He explained the reference by pointing out the efforts of the apple-grower which have been the means of developing a luscious fruit out of the gnarled and repugnant apples that once were; even so gnarled characters may be made over into something better. We would suggest that a ‘Watermelon Sunday’ be set for midsummer, when people will enjoy carving iced sections of that noble edible while the preacher makes appropriate remarks on the waered condition of latter-day theology which makes necessary ‘yellow’ methods for getting crowds.”

    – Excerpted from The Lutheran Witness, Vol. XXXVI, No. 12, June 12, 1917, p. 182.

  33. @Carl Vehse #37

    This is amazing.  I couldn’t believe the date when I got to the bottom.  Thanks so much for posting it.  I wonder if future generations will still be having the same discussion 94 years from now.

  34. Check out the entire The Lutheran Witness, Vol. XXXVI, 1917.
    After the cover page, there is an Index, in which some of the topics have direct links.

    On p. 182, there is an article, “Liberty Loan Sunday”, which talks about the U.S. Departments of Labor and the Treasury issuing to Lutheran (and other) pastors, sermon topics and outlines to be preached on specified Sundays (in addition to the previously mentioned sports and fruit Sundays). On p. 200, there is an article against editorial cartoons (like one sees today in the liberal press fishwrap). On p. 324 you can print out your own copy of a Romanist “Certificate of Indulgence”, issued in 1455, or one (in English) issued in 1917 on p. 325.

    There’s also The Lutheran Witness, Vol. XXXIV, 1915. In that volume, there is the announcement of my grandfather’s ordination.

    Check out the BJS thread, “The more things change . . .,” down in the comments for more links to other Lutheran Witness volumes and many other Lutheran books.

  35. Ragtime Hymns – “Bishop Edward W. Osborne, of the Protestant Episcopal Church, protests against the setting of classic hymns to modern, lilting, and often ragtime tunes, and he is right. It is distressing to lovers of the good old hymns to have them treated thus, to divorce the words and music that have been married for a century perhaps. But bad enough as the practice complained of, it is even worse to abandon the old hymns altogether. The ‘modernizing’ process as applied to the music at least preserves the beautiful words, so that they are not utterly forgotten, even though they are harnessed to an outrageously incongruous tune. Some time ago President Wilson expressed his abhorrence of the latter-day Sunday-school hymn, citing as a particularly horrible example ‘The Beautiful Isle of Somewhere.’ Clergymen promptly followed his example, and from the extent of the general indignation in church-circles one gained the idea that the doom of the silly Sunday-school song was sealed. But the publishers were not alarmed. They knew that these storms of criticism arise about once in so often, and that the demand for their wares would not be permanently sidetracked. And so it has proved. The children are still singing the senseless words to tunes of the rattle-de-bang variety.”

    A friend out in Seattle lately sent us this clipping [above] from the Pittsburgh Gazette-Times, which was reprinted on the editorial page of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. We pass it on. So long as our organists are parochial school-teachers who have passed through the excellent course in music at our Lutheran normal schools, or otherwise competent musicians, an irruption of the kind of music which gave President, then Governor, Wilson such pain on the occasion referred to need not be feared. But our young people are not entirely immune, in spite of good musical bringing up, against the syncopated nickel-show style of religious songs, and it may help them get over the attack when they read the opinion of the sensible Gazette-Times editor concerning ragtime hymns [go to 1m18s].

    – From The Lutheran Witness, Vol. XXXIV, No. 1, January 12, 1915, p. 12.

  36. I saw Scott Hahn explain his insight into Revelation as the heavenly liturgy recently at the SS Peter and Paul in Naperville. It was very good and enlightening. And not a speck of “gobbledy-gook-speaking, liberal, semi-gnostic, neo-Thomist” ism in the whole presentation. I think Pastor Rossow would have approved.

  37. TRH,

    I don’t know that I will, but looking to see is a sounder process of mind than to presuppose its nonexistence.

    I dunno. This is actually an interesting question. How do we look at Scripture? What is the text that we presuppose when we dive in?

    This probably requires more thought that I am truly capable of—so, go for it, and we’ll see where it goes.

    I would agree that we do need to look to what the Scripture says about anything and everything. But then, it is pretty clear that Paul gives a great deal of freedom to the Christian. So, you know, at some point you are going to have to deal with those passages.

    But do let me know what you find. I’ll be interested in hearing about it, whether it agrees with my thoughts on the subject or not.

  38. @Mark Louderback #34
    Wouldn’t it be a lot easier on pastors to use the hymnal liturgy? Then they could concentrate on Bible study and sermon prep! –Janet

    There are many things that are easier to do that are not what we are called to do. MLoud…

    Actually, as part of your call, you are asked to subscribe to Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions and use the Synodically approved hymnals and worship resources.
    Prior to the last decades embrace of all things non Lutheran, this did not include “CoWo” which was spoken against a 100 years ago, even as now.
    Subscribing to the Scriptures meant following them, not devising ways to work around them in order to scratch your own itches.

    Synod once meant “walking together” which its founders understood as one worship practice out of Lutheran hymnals. (They spoke against the Methodists; we don’t want to be Baptists. In both cases, “let us remain Lutheran” (rather than run after the protestantism of the surroundiing culture) is meant.)

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