Wisdom from Marilee, by Pr. Rossow

Over on the post about the Divine Service at Christ Lutheran, Stevensville, Michigan, a BJS commenter named Marilee offered the following which deserves a wider hearing.

As a returning Lutheran (away for way too long) I expected to come back to the liturgy I left.  What a surprise!  Instead of “In the Name of The Father…” I got “Welcome to so and so Lutheran Church.  For our worship this morning, please refer to your insert, then go back to page 203, then back to your insert…..”  My head was on a swivel, I could not concentrate, I could not pray.  Kids were running up and down the aisles, people were coming in quite late (after the Confession) and others were loudly writing checks and ripping them out of their checkbooks.  Then, in the middle of it all, “Announcements!”  Another distraction.  And, “Don’t forget to sign the sheet that is being passed around” (during service).  What happened to my beloved Liturgy, the form of which took me to God and kept me there for an hour.  I don’t want to talk about Communion.  The only times that I felt I was truly being offered the Body and Blood were those quiet Wednesday nights during Lent, when apparently there was enough time to kneel at the Rail, and we didn’t have to listen to praise songs accompanied by the guitar.

I don’t want to sound like an old meanie, unwilling to change, but what example are we setting for our young people if we just change things on a whim or somebody’s idea.  Easter’s service was completely out of the insert and hardly reccognizable.  If I wanted to go to an emergent church I certainly would not have chosen the LCMS!  I have not been back since Easter, have been reading my Bible, praying a lot and reading everything I can find.  Heavenly Father, Restore Your Church!  In Jesus Name I pray…..

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.


Wisdom from Marilee, by Pr. Rossow — 25 Comments

  1. We’re not all like that in LCMS. Find another church.

    [Easter seems to bring out the bulletins! But ours seemed to be self contained except for some of the hymns, for which we used the hymnal.]

  2. Some advocates of CoWo use the “stumbling block” line to get rid of the Liturgy and implement the worship practices of the sects. Has anyone ever thought that it would be a stumbling block to God’s already called elect to do such a thing? Not only a stumbling block, I’d say, but poison directly fed to the faithful.

  3. @Justin Schaefer #2
    Sure, but whenever we say that we are told that that is a spiritually immature stance. Thankfully I’m long past believing that, but it did shut me up for a while. Unfortunately.

  4. Sounds like a “blended” service that outdoes a CoWo for confusion.

    A much better way to guide a visitor through the liturgy is for those who are familiar to help the visitor, not ignore their dilemma. Unfortunately, we instead often tend to try to ignore the distraction of the visitor who is totally lost, and stay in “our own space”.

    I hope many pastors out there recognize that it is less distracting to those worshiping to simply print in the bulletin “If you see visitor today struggling with our worship practice, please help them out.” That is the fastest way to make the visitor comfortable, AND introduce them to a new friend AND raise the chances that they will return.

  5. Give me a hymnal and a bulletin with some references as to hymn numbers (which are on the board up front anyway) and the order of service used that day. Sometimes that extras get in the way to often. Oh, that is probably to simplistic I suppose.

  6. @revaggie #5
    I guess I stare at screens of all types during the week (computer, cellphone, T.V., etc.) that it’s actually kind of nice to not stare at one more screen on Sunday morning as well.

  7. @Sue Grabe Wilson #4

    Oh, yes! Blended worship. Like “Blended Doctrine.” There are some things that should not be blended. Like a fine single malt and Dr. Pepper. Or filet mignon and pizza. But it is several magnitudes worse than even those examples: it is the worship equivelant of the Prussian Union, that is, ecclesiastical cohabitation.

    I hope this isn’t too understated.

  8. You should care deeply about screens, bulletins, liturgy, hymnals, etc, for the service you attend.   Why do you care at all about what happens elsewhere?  Helen is precisely correct.

  9. @John Rixe #10
    Helen is precisely correct.

    Thanks, but Helen didn’t say, “Find another church” because she believes LCMS should be a stew of Lutheran and non-Lutheran practice. As a pewsitter, we may be able to move to where we’re comfortable, but that doesn’t solve the problem of a “synod” that betrays its name.
    (Both names: “Lutheran” and “synod”)

  10. @John Rixe #10
    But reasonable uniformity of practice in Sunday worship would be really helpful in our Synod. I care about that–and I have GROWN to care about it, over time, by observation. I used to think that it was merely a matter of preference, but I don’t any more.

    John, you remember the TLH uniformity, don’t you? There was a value to being able to walk into churches all over the country and know roughly what would go on in the services. There was a value to being able to memorize things and have other believers to worship with who know them, too. There was a value to continuity. We don’t have to be identical in worship, but when ‘LCMS Lutheran’ conveys no reasonable expectation of predictability in worship from one church to another or even from one service in a congregation to another, we are fragmented by that.

    Furthermore, moving away from hymnal-based worship has become such a CAUSE for people, so identified with outreach; and those who value and wish to retain it have been falsely accused so strongly for decades of wanting to avoid outreach and diversity that our walk is horrendously separated and even hostile.

    John, don’t you see, THIS IS WHY ULC IS BEING BULLDOZED.

    We should all care deeply about this issue, if for no other reason than that, but for all of these other reasons as well.

  11. Rev. McCall :
    @revaggie #5
    I guess I stare at screens of all types during the week (computer, cellphone, T.V., etc.) that it’s actually kind of nice to not stare at one more screen on Sunday morning as well.

    that is so true

  12. Worship in LCMS churches outside of your home church is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates-you don’t know what you are going to get. And that is truly sad…..

    I debated last week on this site the value of liturgical worship, and this post just confirms my thoughts.

  13. She never said, “why was she away?” Perhaps she was in a Church of poor confession, or none at all. Was she “fallen from the Gospel?” Perhaps distractions yes, but did she hear the Gospel that day, preached properly?

    Don’t always use the liturgy as an excuse. And yes, then go to another Church that fits.

  14. @Old Time St. John’s #12
    moving away from hymnal-based worship has become such a CAUSE for people, so identified with outreach; and those who value and wish to retain it have been falsely accused so strongly for decades of wanting to avoid outreach and diversity that our walk is horrendously separated and even hostile.

    And yet, if you analyze the congregations over time, many of those who claim to do “entertainment church” for “outreach” are actually smaller than when they started that game. The preachers known for CG, often start in growing areas and jump to another growing area as the first one peaks. If what they leave behind them shrinks, whether because it was built on personality or the growth is going somewhere else in town, they are disassociated from the decline.

    Being asked “Where’s the growth?” makes some particularly “hostile.”

    See Pr. Fiene’s comment on “Magic Beans”!
    [“If it doesn’t work, I will blame all my fellow pastors who refuse to support my “magic bean” ministry.”] The blame will be generous, in Minnesota….

  15. Try coming from a congregation that has used the TLH all their lives. Many times in our travels my wife and I go to different LCMS congregations, and the confusion it ensues. Many times I just sit in the service and sing the hymns and try to follow the /liturgy/service/bulliten. I’ve been to CW, TLH, LSB, Hymnal supplement ’98, and something that was inbetween all of these. The truth is that if it confusses a long time Lutheran, can you imagine what it does to a visitor? Like I siad in the beginning I mostly just sit and listen because it’s to much of a hassle to follow. I can’t really WORSHIP.

  16. Forgot to mention that when we have visited RCC churches with relatives because of FIrst communion, weddings, etc. we have found more recognizable services than the LCMS churches. Except for some of the obvious the RCC liturgy is a lot like the TLH.

  17. @John Eberhart #19
    That is because the TLH liturgies are the ancient forms. They are ‘cleaned up’ versions of the Mass liturgy that was extant for centuries before Luther. I find the same similarities in Anglican churches, and to a lesser extent in Orthodox ones.

    I found this out, to my surprise, when I joined a community (secular) symphonic choir, and realized that some of the liturgical pieces in Mozart’s Requiem, the first piece we studied, were the same as in the page 15 liturgy of TLH. Looking back on it, it’s kind of too bad that I didn’t understand this earlier. We certainly didn’t teach it very well for a long time in the LCMS, which is one of the reasons that worship has become perceived as complete adiophora.

    Once I did find it out, it reminded me of the description of the Church in “The Screwtape Letters”. I don’t remember the exact quote, but it was something like ‘marching through the centuries, with all it’s banners flying.’

  18. Just as an aside, I always find it very odd when a church has pews or chairs with hymnals, yet never uses them and instead has a screen. I always wonder why they spent the money to buy all those hymnals. In case of a power point failure?

  19. Rahn Hasbargen :
    Worship in LCMS churches outside of your home church is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates-you don’t know what you are going to get. And that is truly sad…..

    Personally, I don’t mind not knowing exactly what I am going to find. Each visit is partly an adventure of sorts — an opportunity to learn something new even as I worship. When I occasionally head for another church I look forward to finding joy in the Lord among people whose practices are different than what I am used to. Together the baptized of God form a grand mosaic:

    “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'” (Rev. 7:9-10)

  20. Carl,

    That’s really bad proof-texting on your part. The ethnicities are different but the liturgy is the same! That text and the whole book of Revelation makes the point that worship is to be liturgical. Almost every facet of traditional worship is found in the Book of Revelation: candles, stoles, bowing, responsive singing, white robes, etc.

    I agree in part with your adventuresome spirit. It is fine for each parish to have a few different local custums but the difference between COWO and liturgical worship is not a difference within a kind but is a difference of kind.

  21. @John Eberhart #18
    “I can’t really worship.”
    Therein lies the rub. I am paranoid enough to think that this is a ploy to gradually take the worshipper away from Our Lord. And, I have done enough research to know what is happening in all churches. We are in trouble, not because of a lack of faith, but because that faith is being perverted by you-know-who. And, we who sit in the pews need to study our Scriptures and catechism. Let’s get back to basics, and I think they will be pounding on the doors to get in. According to my research, cowo, etc have not produced long-term increases in congregations. In fact, the opposite is true.

    The LCMS had better tighten up or change the website where all our beliefs are stated. This “ain’t” your grandfather’s church any more.

  22. I’ve always suspected that using a screen (or a worship folder exclusively) is to control what the worshiper is seeing/hearing. If you expect to be seeing on the screen/bulletin everything you need to know for today’s worship, you probably will bypass all of the other “goodies” that you’ll find by paging through the hymnal.

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