Reasons for Reverence in the Divine Service

Nowadays we hear promoted the idea of “dignified informality” for the services of God’s House.  This nonsensical slogan to promote a casual attitude in attending the Service of Word and Sacrament is quite disjointed from the theological reality of what is going on when God’s people are gathered to receive His gospel gifts in the liturgy.

The “worship wars” are the new Thirty Years War for Lutherans in North America.    And it is on task to go beyond three decades and in the meanwhile, our walking together is being drawn and quartered far beyond what we should endure theologically and in terms of fellowship.   What the founding fathers of the Missouri Synod sought to stop coming in the front door, in a hybridization of Lutheranism and Calvinist theology, we have been welcoming in many and various ways in a hybridization or worse, in the adoption of practices and implicit theology from Wesleyan, charismatic, and Arminian Christians in the name of the Great Commission, ironically, which teaches to “teach all things” that the Lord has given through the holy apostles.   And under the cover of adiaphora (things neither commanded nor forbidden in Holy Writ), the claimed freedom is used not to compose new Lutheran chorales or such, but to adopt the forms and practices and implicit theology of those denominations antagonistic to our confession of Christology, sin, free will, the union of Word and Spirit, and the sacraments.  Such use of freedom fails to realize how such freedom has been wrought and given and undermines it at the source.   What must be said is that such divisions among us must not be tolerated because such are simply of a different spirit and theology.

The way we pray, worship, and implement liturgy influences our beliefs and theology (lex orandi, lex credendi) and vice versa.   No theology will stand for long that is not manifested liturgically and reinforced catechetically to instill the “whole counsel of God,” the unchanging faith in all its articles.  Microwavable catechesis (membership “information classes” sic!), hardly fits the bill to “make disciples.” As a recent collection of Robert Preus’ writings puts it aptly, “doctrine is life.”  This is not to say simply a way of life, but the source and substance of our life in Christ.   “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”   Catechesis is to deliver Christ Jesus to us just as the Divine Service is this as well for the whole flock of God in a particular location.

Not only do sin and grace inspire a fear of God (reverence) because we condemned sinners live only from what we receive in the holy Word and Sacraments in utter divine mercy, but also the entrance into the presence this holy and merciful God through Christ puts us into heaven on earth, a foretaste of the heavenly banquet (see Revelation 5).   Through catechesis, through the preaching of the Word, through our Baptism, we come to realize that this crucified, risen, and ascended Lord is with us in the flesh, ruling His Church in a hidden way in the here and now, with His mercy seat and throne among us wherever two or three are gathered in His name hearing His Word of grace.    This is great cause for reverence which goes far beyond any mere ritualism or mere aesthetics out of some kind of overdone romanticism.

The way of our worship is received and we are joining in to something that has been going on a lot longer than we have been around or even our congregation or synod.   We are heirs of a tremendous treasure that we see through a glass darkly in this life but which will be made clear to us in heaven when there will be no more evangelism or church budgets or even need for repentance.   But we come to understand what is going on among us, whether in a sanctuary of great grandeur or a humble rented space, because Jesus the crucified and risen Lord is among us in the flesh coming to feed and forgive and sanctify us (Isaiah 6:1-7).   This inspires tremendous joy and reverence as we have that reality shown us by what comes to our ears.   And we come humbly into that assembly seen and unseen to receive the blessings of the wounded and glorified One who is there among us as the One who serves (Luke 22:27; Acts 1:1-2).

Those who have sold their birthright for the sake of outward success and “effective ministry” are losing this insight and depriving the flock of the treasures that Christ wants to give them.  It is evangelism at the expense of the evangel.   It also compartmentalizes them from the faithful cloud of witnesses to be spiritual lone rangers and consumers for things that are matters of grace to the spiritually dead.    The loss of our Christology (read Formula of VIII!) and the downplaying of original sin (and therefore monergism of grace), and the separation of the Word and the Holy Spirit (John 3:5-7) are robbing us of the certitude of faith and the certitude of Christ’s exalted humanity with us and within us to be replaced only with engineered worship experiences, personal messages from the leader, and an a-historical and uncatholic church.   Too often the time-tested meaty, cross-focused and mercy delivering chorales of our Lutheran heritage are exchanged for the shallow and anthropocentric.

Reverence or the lack thereof is simply a leading indicator of things happening below in the depths of texts and forms and the attendant music and ceremonies.   As Lutherans who still subscribe to Augsburg and Apology XXIV (and which are not negated by Formula X!), we know that the early Lutherans understood that they were not a new church or and that freedom was used for the sake of justification by grace and not simply recruitment or to indulge the fallen self and its programs.   The pastoral reforms of Luther, Bugenhagen, and Chemnitz of the Mass order and other related aspects of the liturgical life of the church were carefully done to let the Word of the Gospel ring clearly and to exhibit the truth that the one church does indeed continue until the end of the world under suffering and cross.   This was true also for the churchly confessional renewal of Lutheranism in the 19th century where they went back to what was better before Pietism and Rational took their toll on the Church of the Augsburg Confession.   Reverence for the Gospel of cross-purchased mercy, reverence for the act of reform, reverence for ecclesiology are all at work there and it is evident (see Hebrews 12:22-29).   For the Church, this does impact the rite (the the words), the ceremonies (the how, the rubrics), the music, and our hearts and minds by the words of Jesus that are Spirit and Life.


About Pastor John Frahm III

Rev. John A. Frahm is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Boulder Junction, WI. He has previously served parishes in Colorado and the Midwest. He is a 1998 graduate of Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada and was ordained by Dr. Ray Hartwig in 1998. He was editor of the former website Reformation Today, and has published articles in The Bride of Christ, Logia, and The Lutheran Witness magazines and was a charter member of The Augustana Ministerium and helped write study materials for the ACELC. He has also served as a circuit visitor in the LCMS and has taken an interest in civil liberties He has also been a guest on Issues Etc. In college years, he was active in Lutheran campus ministry activities and was the first president of Region 4 of Lutheran Student Fellowship, helping to organize the first LSF national gathering for college students. Pastor Frahm was born in Arlington Heights, Illinois and was raised in southern Minnesota. He is married to Jennifer, a Michigan native. Jennifer currently works as an instructional designer. Pastor Frahm believes our biblical, confessional, and liturgical heritage is an asset to be boldly and forthrightly applied and used for the mission of the church.


Reasons for Reverence in the Divine Service — 47 Comments

  1. I think I might have to send this article to my pastor to explain why I have to leave his congregation. I can no longer bear the informality, which isn’t always dignified, in the services there. I plan to be attending a different church tomorrow.

  2. I unfortunately hear this argument used “in context”. In other words, “Well people from around here wear flip-flops and khaki shorts to dress up, so really they are dressed up.” The sad truth is indeed that we have let this all go on for too long. I often wonder if there is any hope to ever go back to our theology and the Scriptures and truly “purge” all the false teaching and practice from out midst.

  3. Let’s be just a *bit* careful here. “Reverence” is very much in the eye of the beholder and is very much is defined by cultural customs and understanding.

    For instance, you can join a group of Africans using TLH liturgy and dancing and singing and clapping up a storm…are they being reverent? Of course they are.

    You could sit in one of St. Augstine’s congregations in Hippo and hear the great Bishop preaching to a congregation that routinely would burst out in tears, or laughter or wild applause. The preacher would have to quiet them down to continue, or urge them to pay attention.

    Where they reverent? Of course they were.

    So, let’s be very careful we not impose a certain kind of Germanic/Stiff/Cold/Midwestern stodginess on the definition of “reverence.”

    For your consideration.

  4. @Rev. Paul McCain #5
    First definition of “reverence” in my dictionary: “a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe; veneration”. I don’t consider laughter and wild applause to fit this definition. And as regards to Germans, I’d ask you to please be very careful with your portrayal of them. We are not all stiff, cold, and stodgy. Perhaps you were using humor, to put the best construction on your words.

  5. Gisela, you’ve made my point for me, thank you. “You don’t consider” … your consideration is defined by your personal tastes, mores and culture. We can not impose on other a definition of “reverence” that is more a reflection of our personal tastes, than objective definitions.

    As for Germans….I’ve been around them my whole life. I know of what I speak.

    : )

  6. @Rev.Paul T. McCain #7
    I have been around Germans my whole life, too, and I am older than you are. Not all Germans are alike. As for “worship style”, I am fortunate to be able to attend a church that “I consider” to be reverent. Not everyone has that opportunity.

  7. @Rev.Paul T. McCain #7
    Yet most of how we should perhaps view the reverence of worship is laid out by God Himself to the Hebrews. That seems to transcend German or African or anything else since it was defined by God. So to simply say, “Well the African’s like to clap” is still making a culturally relevant bending of the definition. What does God say? How did He describe the reverence of worship to His people? That’s a better starting point.

  8. Clap your hands, all you nations;
    shout to God with cries of joy. 
    How awesome is the Lord Most High,
    the great King over all the earth! (Psalm 47:1, 2)

    Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
    burst into jubilant song with music; 
     make music to the Lord with the harp,
    with the harp and the sound of singing, 
     with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
    shout for joy before the Lord, the King. (Psalm 98:4-6)

    Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
    let the people of Zion be glad in their King. 
     Let them praise his name with dancing
    and make music to him with tambourine and harp. (Psalm 149:2, 3)

    Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre, 
     praise him with tambourine and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and flute, 
     praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals. (Psalm 150:3-5)

  9. “Praise” does not = “worship”

    When you actually read the prescriptive worship as given by God it includes all these “crazy” things, like vestments for the priest, a set apart holy place, and sacrifices that seem to be very reverent and solemn.

  10. When is it appropriate for Lutherans to praise Him with clapping, shouting, tambourine and dancing, strings, resounding cymbals?  Saturday night?

  11. We should praise God at all times and in all places. I’d look to Exodus or Revelation or anywhere else in Scripture where worship is described or prescribed to see what type of praise is perhaps best suited as part of corporate worship. Just because David or Miriam or anyone else praise God in a certain way and with certain instruments as part of daily life does not mean that that type of praise was prescribed to be part of or included in formal worship. So yes, by all means break out your tambourine on Saturday night and praise God for what He has done for you in your life. Maybe even break into spontaneous song during the week and sing to God. Then on Sunday morning praise Him again with hymns and liturgy as part of the Sunday worship service. And rejoice that we have so many different ways in which to praise our God.

    As a side note, it’s interesting that most of the Psalms are actually laments and yet no one wants to start a “lament band” we only want “praise bands”.

  12. As Pr McCain explains, the African Lutherans commonly use the same liturgy and hymns as we do.  The worship style in the videos shows as much reverence and awe as the stodgy mumbling that goes on in my church.   Mutual respect and encouragement is my only point.

  13. My point is not to fall into the trap of subjective definitions. There is a lot that is objectively described or prescribed in Scripture. Despite Pr. McCain’s objections, most of what is considered reverent is fairly universal in all cultures. You show reverence for God. You bow. You are silent when leaders speak. You give thanks. Etc. If you aren’t sure as a culture how to be reverent, look to God’s Word. Look how the creatures show reverence in heaven around the throne. Look how Moses is told to show reverence. Look at how people show reverence to Christ when they realize who He truly is. To broadly state that reverence is subject to culture is hogwash. God’s Word and how it describes reverence is relevant to all cultures and all people.

    God’s Blessings as you mumble along this morning. I’ll be doing the same. 😉

  14. Despite Pr. McCain’s objections, most of what is considered reverent is fairly universal in all cultures.

    How about Asian, Latin American and African cultures?  You would change your mind if you could only hear “Isaiah Mighty Seer in Days of Old” led by our Saturday night praise band.       🙂

  15. This may be off topic (or maybe not).  Does anyone know how to get a congregation to participate in the hymns on Sundays?  We have an excellent pastor, organist, choir but the congregational singing is awful.    It’s so quiet we can’t figure out what verse we’re on.  If I try to sing, I get funny stares and folks edging away to other pews.  

  16. If you have never had the joy and pleasure of a Divine Service in Guatemala or Nigeria, you just don’t know what you are missing.

    Would, no doubt, send some Germanic types into a fit of the “vapors” but…wonderful to behold.

    One can use the liturgy and sing Lutheran hymns in such a way that it does not feel as if it is a funeral going on.

    ; )

  17. Perhaps taking this in a direction not wanted, but….

    Can we pleeease leave the coffee cups, soda bottles, and water bottles in the narthex? Or better yet in the cup holders in your car?

    One hour? You can’t go one hour without your coffee/soda? Time for a note in the bulletin me thinks.

  18. I have long thought about what engenders reverence in entering a church and during the service. I have considered art, architecture, music, tradition. But I believe that none of these, while helpful, is the key. There has arisen an attitude in recent years that there is nothing special about where we meet God. After all, He is everywhere. Many will say, “It’s not the four walls, it’s the people.” And we do understand that the Body of Christ is the Church. But that overlooks a very important thing, and that is that the focus of the Church must always be on Christ. And where He meets us is holy ground. Just as God from the midst of the burning bush told Moses to take off his sandals, so we cannot enter God’s presence in a casual or presumptious manner without engendering in ourselves an attitude of lége majesté that carries over into our daily lives as well. God, in Christ, has made it possible for us to approach Him, but we must remember that He is Holy. He is our God. And though He is everywhere, it is in the place where we gather to worship Him and receive His gifts that He is present FOR US.

    Therefore, to be aware of our meeting with our God, it is fitting to enter prayerfully, turning our minds towards Him, preparing our hearts to receive His Word and His very Body and Blood. To have a few moments before the service begins to examine ourselves, to pray that we might hear what He speaks to us through our Pastor and that His Word might work deeply within us, to pray for our Pastor and congregation and intercede for others, to lay our burdens down before the Lord and thank HIm for coming to us will so enrich our time of worship. The Lutheran Service Book has lovely prayers inside the front cover for entering a church, preparing for confession and Holy Communion.

    Whether we meet Him in a stone cathedral or a simple chapel, let us remember that we come before the One to whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess Him as Lord, that in His presence we stand on holy ground. Let our hearts be bowed before Him, enter His presence with prayers on our lips and “ponder nothing earthly minded, for with blessing in His Hand, Christ, our God to earth descendeth,” and we worship Him in the company of saints and angels.

  19. @Mary #22
    It may not necessarily be in your best interest to part those of us with substance abuse problems from our morning java. I’m sure the pastor would not be encouraged by a plethora of scowling faces in the pews. 😛

  20. @Mary #22

    @Peggy Pedersen #23
    Good observations from both of you.

    When I was learning to play the piano many years ago, my piano teacher had me learn some of the hymns in TLH. One of the hymns I remember liking to play because it only had one sharp was, ‘God Himself Is Present.’ In stanza one, third line, is the phrase, ‘All within keep silence;’ Habakkuk 2:20 states, ‘But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.’ The Lutheran Study Bible has this note on verse 20, ‘In sharp contrast to dead and dumb idols (cf v 19), the Lord is present in His temple and is prepared to act on behalf of His people. The appropriate response is reverent silence.’

    I am aware of the differences each culture has in regard to worship style and Pastor McCain makes a relevant point. However, in the culture in which I was raised (yes, Germanic, stodgy, etc.) when a person came into church before the service started, you bowed your head and said a short prayer and were silent. Today the culture I live in is totally unaware of this. I don’t believe reverence is being taught by parents, pastors and teachers. Before the service begins in my church, there is so much loud talking going on that you think you are at a basketball game instead of coming into the presence of the Almighty God.

  21. @John Rixe #19
    I think the best way to get everyone singing is to start with yourself. Many years ago I was mistakenly identified once as “that kid” that was off-key in a public school music practice – and my shame carried over to church where I whispered the hymns for years afterwards. I grew up, but not out, of my self-conscious singing; when I noticed my kids barely voicing the words themselves, I realized that I was turning them into non-singers and depriving them of the joy of praising our Lord in this way. Although my voice is not pitch-perfect, I reckon my voice is pleasing to God even if I still need to keep my day job – and everyone around me is singing louder, too (perhaps they are trying to drown me out??!)

  22. Of course in Augustine’s day, the Liturgy of the Word was a time where many outsiders would be there whether Christian or not, pagans, heretics, catechumens, as well as those already gone through the Mystagogy. Everyone but the catechetically and baptismally initiated would be dismissed prior to the start of the eucharistic liturgy. From then on the liturgy would be much more solemn in nature. The liturgy of the Word has always afforded quite a bit more openness. The responsiveness of the people in Augustine’s day was largely during the sermon in a time when even pagans and heretics would come to debate or hear for entertainment. This was a time before radio, tv, and internet and so being in person was the only way to interact in such things. So the the character and make-up of the gathered congregation was not only the congregation properly speaking but also a number of others, especially with Bishop Augustine’s reputation and noteriety. The reaction of the people during the sermon would not only have been that of those baptized and catechized, but also was inclusive the spiritually curious or even antagonistic. But this admonishes us all the more to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us and to be ready in season and out of season, which was a real possibility even during the sermon in Augustine’s day. The pastor must be able to teach on the fly and when planned. He must be able to exhort, rebuke and refute. But Augustine’s time and place are not ours and the Liturgy of the Word in our day has a somewhat different character socially speaking. As I attempted to say in this brief article on BJS, our way of carrying out the liturgy and its concomitants is a way of showing what is believed and taught. The Liturgy of the Word in the early church was particularly a time of encounter with the Word for the visitors and instruction and nurture for those already initiated into the mysteries. But even the Liturgy of the Word maintained its own integrity and was not engineered in order to entice or attract hoi polloi on their terms. The otherness of the Word was allowed to remain such and reverence could only grow out of encounter with the dynamic law and gospel.

  23. Why not just make it all relevant? If African churches like to sway and dance when they sing as a way of showing reverence, I know most young people today like to do the same thing. Perhaps we should adapt out definition of “reverence” to meet their needs. Today for most youth being reverent means texting and giving high fives. Maybe we should take that into account when we are starting a church in South Beach Miami. Or maybe we should just stop playing the “relevant card”. To take you arguments in reverse then, should I then be subject to worship only in a “German” style since I am white and of German descent? or am I free to show reverence in however I feel it is culturally relevant to me? (Hint, this is a trick question)
    When Paul wrote the Corinthians he didn’t ask, “How do your women like to wear their hair? That way we can be culturally relevant in our reverence in worship.” No, he said “Don’t wear your hair like this.” It didn’t matter what their culture was or what their idea of reverence was, Paul told them anyway. Once you play the subjective relevance card you can’t take it back. Then all worship and reverence and whatever else is dictated by the culture and people’s wants and desires, rather than God’s Word. We each do whatever we want and then rebuke others when they don’t respect how our culture does things.

    Being silent before God in His house is not German, it’s Scriptural.
    Bowing before God is not German, it’s Scriptural.
    Confessing your sins and humbling oneself before God is not German, it’s Scriptural.
    Keeping silent while God’s servant speaks to you is not German, it’s Scriptural.
    Wearing your best and giving your first fruits on Sunday is not German, it’s Scriptural.
    Praising God in a way that stresses what He has done, rather than how I feel is not German, it’s Scriptural.
    Using worship styles and songs that make me focus on what God has objectively accomplished for me in Christ rather than making me get a subjective emotional high or boogie in my step is not German, it’s Scriptural.

  24. Yet you and Pr. McCain seem to be belittling “German” reverence and extolling other “types” of reverence. Why?
    “Stodgy, mumbling, blaring organ” all seem to be hardly complimentary. For someone who so often cries “Mutual respect!” it seems as though that applies to everyone but white people of Germanic reverence leanings.

  25. I totally respect stodgy mumbling because it is what I grew up with and contributed toward all my life.  I am the chief of stodgy mumblers.   My point was there is as much awe and reverence in African Lutheran worship as there is in my very quiet church.  Sometimes my little attempts at humor sort of bomb out.  

  26. German reverence includes a great deal of reverent passion. You can see it in the words of the hymns. Jesus, Priceless Treasure. Soul Adorn Thyself with Gladness. O Sacred Head, Now Wounded. Praise the Almighty, My Soul Adore Him. O Holy Ghost, Creator Blest. Isaiah, Mighty Seer in Days of Old. A Mighty Fortress. Awake, My Heart with Gladness. Jesus Christ, My Sure Defense. Silent Night. Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying. Lord, Thee I Love With All My Heart. How Lovely Shines the Morning Star. I Come Oh Savior To Thy Table.

    Not all churches choose these hymns, but the ones that do tend to be churches where reverence runs very deep and where heartfelt, lusty singing is the norm.

  27. @Carol Broome #33

    Your point is excellent.  We do use many of these hymns, and if I were mature I would just focus on the marvelous words.  Instead I find the mumbling to be physically debilitating, but I am going to try harder to ignore it and concentrate on the words.

  28. @John Rixe #34
    I couldn’t sing those hymns, any of them, in a mumbly way. Just. could. not.
    Have you ever tried sitting in the front? Then you can sing as loudly as you want, and no one can hear you, if the organ is playing reasonably loudly and at a higher-than-dirge-like tempo. Better, though, to sit in the back, sing loudly, be heard, and start a trend. Maybe it will catch on! 🙂

  29. In the current WMPL newsletter there are some interesting facts about African Christians:

    Over the last 100 years the African church has grown at unprecedented speed.  In 1900 there were less than 10 million Christians in Africa, now 500 million. Today nearly 1 in 4 world Christians live in Africa.  The church in Africa grows by about 23,000 sisters and brothers every day.

    2 of the 3 largest Lutheran bodies in the world are African Lutheran churches.  The Lutheran church bodies in Tanzania and Ethiopia each has about 6 million members.    The Ethiopian Lutheran church grew by 300,000 members in 2010.

    …..I suspect they don’t spend a lot of time arguing about grape juice and clapping.


  30. John Rixe: clapping is one thing, grape juice is an entirely different thing because we are talking about God’s commandment and his own shed blood. Some things are beyond cultural and we have to identify the scriptural non-adiaphora. Some things are true adiaphora wherein there is Christian freedom, some things are worth arguing about and some things worth dying for.

  31. Respectfully, I do not understand what makes an organ “holier” than a piano or guitar, drum, or harp…and though there are hymns that I love, there are also hymns that do not make sense to me and after 6 verses seem to define “repetitive”. I can say the same about “contemporary” worship music but….again I’m not sure why hymns are “holier” than music written today which often uses scripture to worship God? I’m not understanding where in scripture God said that after a certain time period music could no longer be composed that would be “holy” enough to be sung during a worship service? To me if we start making “rules” concerning musical instruments, styles, what we can wear to church or whether we are allowed to drink coffee during the service…our bulletins will need to become VERY thick so newcomers can learn the rules and become acceptable before they return! I myself think it is very irreverent to blow one’s nose during worship so I would want to include that in the rules… I know I may sound upset and forgive me if I seem disrespectful, but even though I am a Lutheran of German/Norwegian descent, raised in a traditional Lutheran church…I wonder how much of this is “man-made” religion and how much is truly scriptural when studied in context? I think we do not really trust God’s grace or our freedom in Christ…He is God but He is also Abba…and I am His child. I cannot make myself acceptable or pure or perfect enough to come into His presence…I can come freely and joyfully and fearlessly only because I come in Christ under His precious blood. I do not need to do anything or bring anything but come as the sinner I am, needing forgiveness and
    then receive what God chooses to give me through His word and His sacraments. In Christ…

  32. @just a sinner… #38
    I agree. I don’t think anyone advocated rules for reverence in worship but rather as Pr. Frahm states in closing, “For the Church, this does impact the rite (the words), the ceremonies (the how, the rubrics), the music, and our hearts and minds by the words of Jesus that are Spirit and Life.”
    So no one says that one must wear certain things or behave certain ways as a set of man made rules, but certain things certainly do reflect reverence better than others. It’s not a rule that you have to wear a suit on Sunday to worship, but you’d have a hard time arguing how wearing Bermuda swim trunks and a tank top is showing just as good and reverent behavior as said suit. We teach our children this sort of thing all the time. You don’t wear pajama’s to school. You call your teacher “Mr. or Mrs.” and not by their first name. You don’t speak when others are speaking. This are all reverent things that aren’t in any rule book somewhere, but rather perhaps fall more into the realm of just plain courteous and common sense. So if someone isn’t showing proper reverence for what is taking place on Sunday morning then it’s not a matter of them not knowing the rules, I would say it may be more a matter them not actually understanding what is going on.

  33. @just a sinner… #38
    I like to think of it (music and poetry) like visual art. We have a nice Cranach painting in our sanctuary rich in symbolism and profoundly beautiful. Contrast this with a drawing of a stick figure on a cross. Let’s say my 2.5 year-old drew the second piece. We could then say both art pieces are pious, but which should adorn the sanctuary? The Cranach piece conveys so much more visual theology and is among the best we have. As further evidence, Cranach is studied by art scholars, whereas, my 2.5 year old is not.

    Same with music and poetry. As many people these days do not know (understand) and appreciate music, they do not know excellence when they see it. It is not understood how music can convey meaning and work with the text to teach the faith. It is not only emotional, it is intellectual. Bach is studied by scholars, but Brookering is not…for good reason.

    So…put away the candy and eat your vegetables. Eventually you’ll appreciate them and you will be much healthier.

  34. @R.D. #40

    I do indeed enjoy studying, learning, growing and even vegetables (in moderation)…however, are you saying that only the works of art or music that meet a certain “intellectual” criteria are appropriate for worship or church? doesn’t that seem even a little “snobbish”? I find it hard to imagine Jesus and the disciples, including those who were simple fisherman, debating the merits and the depth of the songs they may have sung or the pictures they may have drawn… I am not criticizing “depth” and think that all “levels” of art and music can be used by God to touch hearts and minds… but I also think that includes “Jesus Loves Me” and I wonder if the drawing by your 2.5 yr old of a stick figure on a cross, if hanging in a church sanctuary might not portray the gospel to some who enter better or more clearly then the more complicated (and therefore more “worthwhile”) painting? Each of us is moved and grows both emotionally and intellectually by different styles, different words, different levels of expression… since, as you say, “it is not understood how music can convey meaning and work with the text to teach the faith”… I don’t think we should underestimate the work of the seemingly “simple” to also teach faith. Instead of candy vs vegetables, it might be a case of a single, simple carrot vs a vegetable medley… both are delicious and nutritious. I wonder if we don’t hinder the gospel when we try to set up our own individual “parameters” of what is “worthy” or beautiful or “intellectual”? If it is not clearly defined in scripture… then aren’t we free and isn’t God “able” to use many types of music, art, poetry, and people with their own preferences to spread His Gospel? (and just to be clear… I am all for good taste, respect, reverence, manners, modesty, and consideration for each other… whether this involves a 16th century painting by a “master” or a modern work of art by a 2.5 yr. old.)

  35. What makes one piece of music holier than another? First of all the lyrics. Are they consonant with the Word of God. Do they speak of what God has done for us, or our works for God, our love for Him or His love for us? Do they bring forth gratitude, humility before God, repentance and joy at His kindness to us or turn us to look at our feelings as the source of our sanctity? Holy means “set apart,” so is the music of a kind that is heard in the church or heard in the streets? Does the music calm our spirits or agitate them? Does it please our natural man or feed our spirit? Finally, do the singers/musicians draw attention to themselves by performing? At the end of the music does one want to applaud the musicians/singers or does one want to acknowledge the wonder of so great a Saviour? Is the song (whether sung by a choir, a soloist or the congregation) the song (or prayer) on behalf of the church or is it entertainment?– Just a few questions to ask.

  36. I’m a bit surprised that nobody has made reference to the concept C.S. Lewis talks about called “solemne.” It’s reverence without somberness, with a bit of rejoicing in the mix. It’s possibly to be rejoicing and celebrating in a manner that is not irreverent or trampling the concept of transcendent. Usually, though, in our culture, happy becomes clappy real quick, because the deep underlying reasons for joy go neglected or become cliched. We are suffering from an abundance of jubilation without reverence, but the solution isn’t to get rid of anything emotionally expressive. Rather, let us recover the Christocentric focus that constantly reminds us of the reason for our joy while filling us with the awe that causes respectful behavior. And avoid the rampant iconoclasm of our time that is unparalleled since the radical reformation.

  37. Recently I have returned to the LCMS after a nearly 20 year absence. (Long story that I won’t go into here). Needless to say I came back expecting more reverence. By that I mean people quietly settling down in the pew with a prayerful attitude in anticipation of encountering the living Christ, not carrying coffee cups into the sanctuary, chattering up a storm before and during worship, kids running all over the place – sometimes not only just before the service, but during the worship, and some even talking well above a whisper during the children’s message. It’s as if when the choir sings, it’s time to not be still and respectful of even that, but to begin conversing with one’s neighbor. This includes people in their 70s and 80s who frankly ought to know better. (Am I being too harsh here?) This was like culture shock upon returning to the congregation where I grew up in the 1950s, 60s, where respect and reverence were the way it was done as I recall. It borders on Corinthian. What ever happened in the Lutheran Church to ““the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.”? Habakkuk 2:20. I’ve been attending the adult instruction class with a view to reaffirmation of faith, as I’m baptized and was confirmed years ago, but now I’m thinking twice about this. It seems as if the world has impacted the Church more than the Church has impacted the world.

  38. @John Rixe #19

    Seriously though, I think a lot of times it comes down to song choice. There are great, amazing hymns that you can’t help but belt out, partly because of the melody, partly because they are so familiar. Hymns such as A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, Amazing Grace, Earth and All Stars, etc., come to mind. Other hymns may just be more obscure to us, or may have a very difficult melody. I find it difficult to sing when a hymn changes pitch unpredictably, but that’s me. I always participate, but some songs make it easier than others due to the melody.

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