Historic Liturgy: Affirmations Prompted by Putdowns

Recently two friends went out of their way at the same school event to issue putdowns towards liturgical worship in the Lutheran church.

One was raised Lutheran. She is a member of a Lutheran church and attends regularly. She had visited a local congregation of an Evangelical denomination. She told my wife she liked the worship there, whereas in her Lutheran church, “The liturgy is just man-made.”

The other is an Elder in an Evangelical church. Following a glancing reference to my wife’s and my LCMS church, he said, “You might as well say ten Hail Marys.”

These putdowns prompt me to affirm four simple things about the historic liturgy.

  1. Everyone has liturgy.
  2. The historic liturgy is scriptural.
  3. The historic liturgy enacts Law and Gospel.
  4. The historic liturgy moves from God to sinners before it moves from saints to God.
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From these we will be able to see that this is not a matter of style. It is a matter of substance. The Divine Service is about Jesus serving us, delivering forgiveness of sins. That’s what we’re risking when we depart from the history liturgy.

 

1. Everyone Has Liturgy.

There is no choice between having liturgy or not. Everyone has liturgy. The choice is which liturgy to have.

So-called non-liturgical denominations traditionally had established orders of service. Those orders are their liturgies. The fact that they are not the historic liturgy does not stop them from being liturgies.

In the 1960s, newer forms were developed from which much of what we call “contemporary worship” sprang. While at first, they might seem freewheeling, they are forms. Watch from service to service, and you’ll see patterns. There is a mini-industry of worship leadership for so-called non-liturgical worship. Patterns taught there may be seen not only from week to week in a congregation, but from congregation to congregation across the country.

So the question is not whether to have patterns, forms, orders, or liturgy. Instead, the questions are:

  • Where do the patterns come from?
  • What do the patterns say? What do the patterns do?

 

2. The Historic Liturgy is Scriptural.

In the historic liturgy, the patterns and forms come from both:

  1. Particular Scripture texts, and
  2. The overall narrative of Scripture.

When I grew up in the American Lutheran Church, the Service Book and Hymnal did not explicitly state in the settings where the elements of the liturgy came from. That was partly because it didn’t need to. Much of it was obvious because, in those days, from our youth up, we memorized many verses of Scripture. We could recognize the source of the historic liturgy as being the Bible without anyone having to point that out.

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That’s why it surprises me when people from Bible-believing churches visit a confessional Lutheran church and don’t seem to recognize Scripture in the liturgy.

The creators of the Lutheran Service Book in today’s Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod wisely print the Scripture references at the right margin of the pages.

The historic liturgy is one sure-fire way to hear God’s Words and speak them back to him. This is basically how communication between God and man happens: we hear God’s Word and speak it back to him.

 

3. The Historic Liturgy Enacts Law and Gospel.

For all the details, biographies, events, names, dates, places, and precepts in the Bible, it is not a mass of confusion. The Word not only says things. It DOES things. The overall story of the Bible is what the Word does. The Word does essentially two things, which is simple.

Following the Word, the historic liturgy not only says things. It does things. The historic liturgy enacts what the Word does. Since the Word does essentially two things, the historic liturgy does essentially two things, which is simple.

The Word does things to creation in general. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Genesis 1:3. “He spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” Psalm 33:9.

Jesus’ Word does things. “He awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” Matthew 8:26, Mark 4:39, Luke 8:24. “The centurion replied, ‘ … only say the word, and my servant will be healed.” Matthew 8:8. The man who had a withered hand could not stretch it forth because that’s what withered means. But when Jesus said, “Stretch out your hand,” because of the Word, he could stretch it. Matthew 12:13, Mark 3:5, Luke 6:10. “Jesus rebuked [the unclean spirit], saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.” Mark 1:25-26.

The Word does things to us. “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12.

God does things to us by speaking two essential Words: the Word of the Law, and the Word of the Gospel.

The Law is the Word of God telling us what we should do, and pronouncing judgment and condemnation when we fail to do it. The Law in oral, written, and sacramental forms kills us. “All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death.” Romans 6:3. Christians are, “buried with him in baptism.” Colossians 2:12. “The letter kills.” 2 Corinthians 3:6.

The Gospel is the Word of God telling us how Jesus fulfilled the Law for us, including paying our wages of sin, which is death, and setting us free of the Law’s condemnation. The Gospel resurrects us and makes us alive.

“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:4. That verse speaks the Law, then the Gospel, and the Gospel predominates. It shows what the Law and Gospel do to us.

Buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. [Colossian 2:12-14]

Those verses speak the Law, then the Gospel, and the Gospel predominates. They show what the Law and Gospel do to us.

The historic liturgy makes sure that in every service, this essential story of what God does to us by Law and Gospel is retold. In this way, the Word is deployed to again and again do what God wants it to do.

The Invocation begins the Divine Service in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Why? Because that is the Name into which we were baptized, and in Baptism, the Law buried us with Christ, and the Gospel raised us with Christ. Next are Confession and Absolution, which continue the Law-Gospel story. In them, the Law tells us, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us,” 1 John 1:8, and the Gospel tells us, “But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9.

This pattern of Law and Gospel is repeated throughout the liturgy, with the Gospel predominating.

 

4. The Historic Liturgy Moves from God to Sinners before It Moves from Saints to God.

The direction of the service must be from God to us first before it can be from us to God. In the hymn, “Now Sing We, Now Rejoice,” we sing: “Come from on high to me; I cannot rise to Thee.”

The shape of the action in the Divine Service begins on high and descends to us. Then in response, we rise to repeat God’s promises back to him, to thank him, and to praise him. This bidirectional action, beginning with God, not us, is repeated throughout the service. So the shape of the service is like a W, not like an M.

God does not need anything, and we have nothing to give God. Sometimes pietistic lyrics say that because we have nothing to give God, we give him our hearts. But the Bible says our hearts are full of sin, and that out of our hearts come all kinds of iniquity. Our hearts are no prize. What God prizes is faith that receives gifts from him.

The difference between this faith and the righteousness of the Law can be easily discerned. Faith is the latreiva, which receives the benefits offered by God; the righteousness of the Law is the latreiva, which offers to God our merits. By faith God wishes to be worshiped in this way, that we receive from Him those things which He promises and offers. (Apology of the Augsburg Confession, IV.49)

A service having the shape of an M begins with us trying to rise to God and offer him something. That is a Law-based, works-righteous attempt at a worship service. The right service properly is called a Divine Service because in it, God is active serving us again, as when Jesus washed Peter’s feet.

This sounds self-centered at first, but we always must bear two things in mind. First, we pass by sin too lightly when we think we can begin by serving God before He serves us. Second, serving us is what He wants to do, and the rejection of his service to us is like when Peter tried to reject having Jesus wash his feet. “Peter said to Him, ‘You shall never wash my feet!’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.’” John 13:6. We must not think we can be more worshipful than receiving his gifts, his washing away our sins.

 

Conclusion

The shape of God’s Word – the shape of Law-Gospel – shapes the historic liturgy. In this way the substance and the form of the service align. Therefore this is not a matter of style. It is a matter of substance.

The liturgy is not a style of worship. The liturgy is the substance of justification being delivered to sinners through the means of Law and Gospel in written, spoken, and sacramental forms. “The crisis over the liturgy is a result of confusion over the forgiveness of sins.”1

The liturgy is … divine service, the Lord’s service to us through the proclamation of His Word and the giving out of His body and blood. … God is the subject not the object of liturgical action. The trajectory is from the Lord to His Church and then from the Church to her Lord. In Luke 22, just after He had established the supper of His body and blood, the Lord says, “I am among you as one who serves” (v. 27). This verse embodies the Lutheran understanding of the liturgy; it is the service that Jesus renders to His church, given by grace and received by faith.2

________________________

1. John T. Pless, “Divine Service: Delivering Forgiveness of Sins,” Presented at the South Dakota District Lay/Clergy Conferences, Rapid City, SD, May 6, 1995, Sioux Falls, SD, May 7, 1995, there are no page numbers.
2. Ibid.

About T. R. Halvorson

T. R. Halvorson was born in Sidney, Montana on July 14, 1953, baptized at Pella Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sidney, Montana on November 8, 1953, and confirmed at First Lutheran Church in Williston, North Dakota in 1968. He and his wife, Marilyn, are members of Trinity Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Sidney, Montana. They have three sons and six grandchildren. T. R. farms at Wildrose, North Dakota, and is Deputy County Attorney in Sidney, Montana. He has been a computer programmer; and an author, conference speaker, instructor, and consultant to industry in online legal information. He is among the authors of the religion column in the Sidney Herald at Sidney, Montana. He is the Editor of LutheranCatechism.com.

Comments

Historic Liturgy: Affirmations Prompted by Putdowns — 133 Comments

  1. @Matt Mills #48

    Sorry I have not been attentive to this thread for a little more than a week while traveling. Came back during the noon hour today. You can imagine how my desk looks. AS to the question about where to talk, I still think the discussion is useful for the readers in general and could just as well be carried on here.

  2. @Michael L. Anderson #34

    Dr. Anderson, along those lines, having now read over half of F. R. Webber’s, Practical Studies in the Liturgy, I cannot believe the mathematical computation that says so small a portion of the historic liturgy is scripture. The methods of counting must be quite different. And, the LSB does not mark with citations everywhere it could.

  3. @T. R. Halvorson #50
    Before Nav School I was a Missile Launch Officer at Minot for two and a half years. My dear wife was earning her Masters Degree at UND, so I also knew Grand Forks well. I kept my NoDak residency until I moved to Alaska. The state did tax their military folks, but the rates were low, and the forms were simple.

    @T. R. Halvorson #1
    Thanks for the go-ahead to continue this discussion here, but I’m not optimistic that it will continue. Again, this is historically the question the innovators will not answer directly.

    Cheers,
    -Matt Mills

  4. @Matt Mills #46
    Sorry, I have not been ignoring this blog or the questions. Life has gotten a little carried away with Convention and running back to Illinois for a funeral. I’m glad to continue the conversation. I would never say that the items in LSB are sinful, I will say they can be burdensome. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am NOT saying God’s Word is burdensome. I am saying that the way we deliver God’s Word can be burdensome. It’s why we don’t do services in Latin anymore. It’s our job as Christians (and pastors) to deliver God’s Word (which I recognize is powerful on it’s own) in a way that best resonates with people so the devil doesn’t come and snatch it away (Matthew 13:19). So yes, I feel a burden to help people understand God’s Word and remove barriers to that understanding, not because I despise God’s Word but because I despise the devil. If LSB is helpful for you, praise God! But for some it can be a burden, and the Gospel should be re-packaged and delivered in a way that resonates with them.
    But you must recognize the following:
    – Traditions are real snares for the conscience.
    – The Formula of Concord (written to settle disagreements with those who subscribe to the Apology and the AC, such as we are having) states clearly “the community of God in every time and place has the right, power, and authority to change, reduce, or expand such practices according to circumstances in an orderly and appropriate manner… (FC SD X 9). I am free to change them, and I don’t need the burden of someone condemning me for having different practices than them.
    – If someone in the community of God finds another way to communicate His truths OUTSIDE the historical forms…PRAISE GOD: THAT’S LUTHERAN!
    – You CAN NOT judge another person for having more or less ceremonies. Yes, AP XV encourages uniformity, but where that uniformity does not exist you CAN NOT force that upon other believers within or outside of our denomination. “…forcing human commands upon the church as necessary–as if their omission were wrong and sinful–already paves the way to idolatry (FC SD X 15).
    – Where there is not uniformity in practice there is UNIFORMITY IN TEACHING and the proclamation of the pure Gospel and administration of the sacraments.
    – You keep asking me what benefits I find from making changes to the historic liturgical services. I find all the benefits of the Gospel as stated in the Introduction to the Explanation of the Small Catechism: “forgiveness, faith, life and the power to please Him with good works.” Those are the benefits I see. I see the Gospel resonate in people’s hearts, I see that they “get it,” I see that they hear it in words they understand, I see that they are still able to learn and grow, I see that they still depend on God’s gifts of grace and salvation, I see that they want to bring other members of their family and their friends into this community where God’s word is proclaimed purely and vibrantly.
    – If someone replaces or changes a rite (a choice that is completely justified according to the Confessions) are you not able to imagine that they can replace it with something that is able to communicate God’s Word clearly?
    – I have answered your question that I’ve been accused of not knowing how to answer. Now please answer mine: do you find no love and harmony that I preach Christ, and Christ crucified? And that I administer the Sacraments according to Christ’s own institution?

  5. @Jon Alan Schmidt #49

    Can you provide references for the following quotes you used:
    “special and urgent cause”
    “for the sake of peace and unity”
    “united in teaching and in all the articles of faith”

  6. Andy Busch: It’s our job as Christians (and pastors) to deliver God’s Word (which I recognize is powerful on it’s own) in a way that best resonates with people so the devil doesn’t come and snatch it away (Matthew 13:19).

    This is simply false, and frankly unsupportable as an alleged interpretation of the cited Scripture. What was Christ’s point in telling the Parable of the Sower? What made all the difference in what happened to the seed? It was certainly not a function of how the seed was cast – in fact, there is nothing in the text to suggest that the sower changed anything about his delivery. If we take your approach, I could simply point to the next two verses and argue that merely “resonating with people” is the same thing as receiving the Word with joy, but having no root and being in danger of falling away as soon as tribulation or persecution arises; so that would make it something to avoid. No, it is our job as Christians (and pastors) to deliver God’s Word, period. Nothing that we add can somehow increase its life-changing power; if anything, we can only subtract from it by not staying faithful to it.

    Andy Busch: If LSB is helpful for you, praise God! But for some it can be a burden, and the Gospel should be re-packaged and delivered in a way that resonates with them.

    Or perhaps it is just a matter of catechesis, of teaching people how to understand and use the historic liturgy in general and LSB in particular. And where exactly is the Scriptural requirement for the Gospel to “resonate with” people, anyway?

    Andy Busch: But you must recognize the following:– Traditions are real snares for the conscience.

    Some traditions can be snares for the conscience; no one is disputing that, and those are the kinds of traditions that we legitimately would have a compelling reason to discontinue. However, it is certainly not the case that all traditions inevitably are snares for the conscience.

    Andy Busch: – The Formula of Concord (written to settle disagreements with those who subscribe to the Apology and the AC, such as we are having) states clearly “the community of God in every time and place has the right, power, and authority to change, reduce, or expand such practices according to circumstances in an orderly and appropriate manner… (FC SD X 9).

    FC was indeed intended to help clarify the AC and Apology, and to apply them to issues that had become controversial later, but certainly cannot be invoked to contradict either one of them. I think that this whole debate hinges on whether the historic liturgy as a whole properly qualifies as an adiaphoron per FC X.

    Andy Busch: – If someone in the community of God finds another way to communicate His truths OUTSIDE the historical forms…PRAISE GOD: THAT’S LUTHERAN!

    How so? Where exactly does the BoC support this assertion? Our whole point here is that it is UN-Lutheran to change or abandon the historical forms without a compelling reason.

    Andy Busch: Yes, AP XV encourages uniformity, but where that uniformity does not exist you CAN NOT force that upon other believers within or outside of our denomination.

    But how did it come about that “uniformity does not exist”? Our point is not so much to force anything upon other believers now as to question why there was an intentional deviation from the historic liturgy in the first place, without a compelling reason, contrary to Apology XV.

    Andy Busch: – Where there is not uniformity in practice there is UNIFORMITY IN TEACHING and the proclamation of the pure Gospel and administration of the sacraments.

    Distinguishing practice and teaching is making a false dichotomy. If there is not uniformity in practice, then there simply cannot be complete uniformity in teaching. The liturgy itself – historic, contemporary, whatever – is part of the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments.

    Andy Busch: I see the Gospel resonate in people’s hearts, I see that they “get it,” I see that they hear it in words they understand, I see that they are still able to learn and grow, I see that they still depend on God’s gifts of grace and salvation, I see that they want to bring other members of their family and their friends into this community where God’s word is proclaimed purely and vibrantly.

    Hmm, another mention of “resonate.” Is there any reason to assume that these other effects would somehow be less likely occur in a congregation using the historic liturgy? The underlying assumption seems to be that God relies on our worship forms to ensure the effectiveness of His work in people. We reject that assumption categorically.

  7. Andy Busch:
    “special and urgent cause”
    “for the sake of peace and unity”

    Both of these are from Apology XV:51b in the German version that we find in the original 1580 Book of Concord:

    Darumb leren auch unsere Prediger, das one sondere und one bewegende ursachen, an den Kirchen breuchen nichts geendert sol werden. Sonder umb friedes und einigkeit willen, sol man die jenigen gewonheiten halten, so man one Suende und one beschwerunge der Gewissen halten kan.

    Henkel translation: “Our preachers teach therefore, that without special and urgent cause, no change should be made in church usages, and that for the sake of peace and harmony we should observe the customs that are not in themselves sinful or oppressive.”

    Literal translation: “Therefore, our preachers also teach that without special and without moving causes, nothing should be changed in the church usages. Rather, for the sake of peace and unity, one should keep those customs that one can keep without sin and without burdening of consciences.”

    Andy Busch:
    “united in teaching and in all the articles of faith”

    I was actually quoting you here; specifically, your citation (without giving the reference) of FC Ep X:7. Apology XV is doctrine, so congregations that abandon the historic liturgy without a compelling reason are no longer “united in teaching” with those that maintain it.

  8. @Andy Busch #5
    Pastor Busch,
    First things first: you are misusing FC SD X 9 when you equate “the community of God in every time and place” with your own congregation, and by doing so you’re setting up a dichotomy between AP XV and FC SD X 9 that does not exist. It is crystal clear from 16th Century visitation records, and the totality of the confessions that Chemnitz et al. defined the community of God in their time and place as the Lutheran territorial churches, not individual congregations. Ditto for Luther, though he was dead before the FC was written. In our case this community of God in 21st century USA is the LC-MS. The LC-MS executed their confessional “right, power, and authority to change, reduce, or expand such practices according to circumstances in an orderly and appropriate manner” when they published the LSB. What you are doing is breaking unity w/ the community of God in your place and time contrary to AP XV.

    Additionally, when you assert that it is NECESSARY for you to do so in order to “help people understand God’s Word and remove barriers to that understanding” you are the one breaking FC SD X 15 and in fact “…forcing human commands upon the church as NECESSARY–as if their omission were wrong and sinful.” The entirety of AP XV stands against you by asserting that specific human traditions are NOT necessary to “help people understand God’s Word and remove barriers to that understanding.” We are not “…forcing human commands upon the church as necessary–as if their omission were wrong and sinful.” but holding you to your vow to change nothing in customary rites that can be observed without sin or without great inconvenience, out of Love, and in order to cherish harmony.

    I try to avoid multiple points as it’s too easy to latch onto one misstatement or side issue and ignore the real point of contention, but I need to make the point that I, and the others that agree w/ me, are not holding to, and requiring, the historical Western liturgy because the “LSB is helpful for [us]” and neither does AP XV. AP XV starts by absolutely demolishing the idea that ANY human traditions are necessary for justification. God does not need specific human traditions (new or old) to reach or save His elect. It is because we have His promise that He will use the weakness and foolishness of the cross to reach and save His elect that we are FREE to cling to our external unity w/ the Bride of Christ throughout the ages and throughout the world. If you fear that there are sinners who are going to hell because the historical Western liturgy is a barrier to their understanding of and belief in the Gospel and our Lord, then we are not unified in doctrine. To answer your direct question: how can I find love and harmony in your witness if you are teaching a divergent doctrine of worship and yes, justification? Lutheran churches that break the external unity of practice because they believe that their new human traditions are “necessary” to reach and convert the lost, are teaching contrary to AC IV and V.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  9. @Jon Alan Schmidt #7
    “It was certainly not a function of how the seed was cast – in fact, there is nothing in the text to suggest that the sower changed anything about his delivery”
    I’ll grant you that, and that’s a great point. I should be careful to not misuse that parable. It’s about the power of God’s Word. But the point that the devil will snatch away the Word where there is no understanding remains. In the parable that fault lies on the soil. But in life that can fall on the preacher/worship leader. And I am not saying I can add to the power of God’s Word, but I have a responsibility to proclaim it clearly. Walther’s Law and Gospel is built off that point: I need to kill and to raise up. But your point and correction is valid.

    “where exactly is the Scriptural requirement for the Gospel to “resonate with” people, anyway”
    – Among many other passages, 1 Corinthians 14 speaks very clearly about this. “If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me…try to excel in the gifts that build up the church(1 Cor 14:11-12).” And later “But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.”

    “it is certainly not the case that all traditions inevitably are snares for the conscience.”
    I agree, not all traditions are snares for the conscience.

    “How so? Where exactly does the BoC support this assertion? Our whole point here is that it is UN-Lutheran to change or abandon the historical forms without a compelling reason”
    – “We believe, teach and confess that the community of God in every place and at every time has the authority to alter such ceremonies according to its situation, as may be most useful and edifying for the community of God (FC Ep X 4)”

    “The underlying assumption seems to be that God relies on our worship forms to ensure the effectiveness of His work in people. We reject that assumption categorically.”
    I agree. He works effectively through historical and non-historical forms. He does not rely on our worship forms to ensure the effectiveness of His work in people. And it is un-Lutheran to assert otherwise.

  10. @Andy Busch #9
    I assume I’m next Pastor, but again, “Our Savior, Minot ND” is not the community of God in your place and time from the perspective of FC Ep X 4. The community of God in your place and time from the perspective of FC Ep X 4 is the Luthern Church Missouri Synod. You’re exercising license not Christian freedom.

    -Matt Mills
    BA, Early Modern European History, w/ a Minor in German Language and Culture, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis 1985

    @Jon Alan Schmidt #7
    Thanks, great work.
    Cheers,
    -Matt Mills

  11. @Andy Busch #10
    FYI, my response to your request for the quote references is awaiting moderation, probably because I included several links. Short answer: the first two are from German Apology XV:51b, and the third one is from FC Ep X:7 exactly as you quoted it previously.

    Andy Busch:
    “where exactly is the Scriptural requirement for the Gospel to “resonate with” people, anyway”
    – Among many other passages, 1 Corinthians 14 speaks very clearly about this. “If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me…try to excel in the gifts that build up the church(1 Cor 14:11-12).” And later “But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.”

    I must say, I have never seen anyone previously equate use of the historic liturgy with speaking in tongues! Paul is not addressing “worship style” here, he is clearly talking about the speaking of intelligible words. The historic liturgy consists entirely of intelligible words; after all, many of them are God’s own words! No one here is advocating the use of the Latin mass or even the German mass, let alone speaking in tongues. On the contrary, consistent repetition of the historic liturgy is a wonderful way to develop “the pattern of sound words” (2 Timothy 1:13) in the members of a congregation. I still see no Scriptural justification for talking about “resonance.”

    Andy Busch:
    “How so? Where exactly does the BoC support this assertion? Our whole point here is that it is UN-Lutheran to change or abandon the historical forms without a compelling reason”
    – “We believe, teach and confess that the community of God in every place and at every time has the authority to alter such ceremonies according to its situation, as may be most useful and edifying for the community of God (FC Ep X 4)”

    Having authority at every time does not entail that it is good, right, or appropriate to exercise it at any time. On the contrary, Apology XV:51 states unequivocally that we should not change church usages without special and urgent cause, and that instead we should keep any and all customs that we can keep without sin and without burdening of consciences, for the sake of peace and unity. Note also that the very next sentence of FC Ep X states, “Nevertheless, that herein all frivolity and offense should be avoided, and special care should be taken to exercise forbearance towards the weak in faith.” So we voluntarily refrain from altering ceremonies, out of love – not compulsion.

    Andy Busch:
    “The underlying assumption seems to be that God relies on our worship forms to ensure the effectiveness of His work in people. We reject that assumption categorically.”
    I agree. He works effectively through historical and non-historical forms. He does not rely on our worship forms to ensure the effectiveness of His work in people. And it is un-Lutheran to assert otherwise.

    Excellent! This is our whole point: If God works effectively through historical forms, then there is no compelling reason to change them. If there is no compelling reason to change them, then we should not change them, per Apology XV. In fact, it is perfectly valid to translate the German verb sollen as “shall,” rather than “should”; it is the same verb used in German Bibles for the Ten Commandments. So if God works effectively through historical forms, then we shall not change them; i.e., it would be un-Lutheran to change them.

  12. I find it hard to believe that Luther, who went through such a painstaking task as to translate the Bible into the language of the people, and not merely into German, would reject the notion of allowing/encouraging variance in worship “forms”. I find it even harder to justify outright condemnation of it when I read the Tenth Article in the Epitome of the Formula of Concord.
    Just curious, what is gained by “winning” this debate?

  13. @Srsly? #13
    An argument from history against the historic liturgy? I suspect that if you do some careful historical research, you will find that Luther and the other 16th-century reformers committed to the Unaltered Augsburg Confession rather unequivocally did “reject the notion of allowing/encouraging variance in worship ‘forms’.” The church orders that they developed – and carefully enforced through visitations – were a lot more restrictive than LSB.

    As for what is gained by “winning” – peace and unity, just like Ap XV states. Case in point – we would not even be having this particular debate if all LCMS congregations had voluntarily maintained the historic liturgy.

  14. @Srsly? #12
    You need to read Luther’s short treatise on the elevation of the host, and the Saxon visitation, and then chat w/ us about Luther’s acceptance of variance in worship. I’m getting a touch tired of pointing out that the term “community of God in their place and time” from FC X did not refer to individual congregations, but to Lutheran territorial churches (synods).

    More research and fewer feelings please.

  15. @Matt Mills #8
    Could you please provide evidence for your assertion: “It is crystal clear from 16th Century visitation records, and the totality of the confessions that Chemnitz et al. defined the community of God in their time and place as the Lutheran territorial churches, not individual congregations. Ditto for Luther”
    It is obviously not “crystal clear” from “the totality of the confessions.” Can you show where they explicitly state that a local congregation is NOT included in “place and time?”
    You still have not answered MY question: I preach Christ and Christ crucified and administer the sacraments according to His words. Do you find no peace and harmony through that?

  16. @Matt Mills #10
    And we are talking strictly about the LCMS now. Earlier you had accused me of the following “You are currently not only breaking the purely sectarian unity of the LC-MS in our time and place, but the unity of the one holy catholic and apostolic church, the Bride of Christ, throughout the world and throughout the ages.” Are you still accusing me of breaking unity with the church of Christ?

  17. @Matt Mills #8
    Where did I “assert that it is NECESSARY for you to do so in order to “help people understand God’s Word and remove barriers to that understanding”

  18. @Jon Alan Schmidt #11
    For some, the historical forms are effective. For others they are not effective.
    I sense more compulsion in these comments than love.
    If you don’t accept 1 Cor 14 as speaking against being as clear as possible so people can understand the Gospel then look at Matthew 28:19. As you probably know the only imperative here is “disciple.” Discipling means effective catechesis using all my 1st article gifts so that the Gospel can resonate in both the mind and the heart.

  19. @Jon Alan Schmidt #13
    I completely disagree. Peace and unity never come through conformity. Our Lord was quite passionate as a man on Earth, as was Luther. I think the idea of removing “feeling” from Worship would probably seem bizarre.

    I think there is danger in demanding that an entire Synod of over 6000 churches all practice the same “style” of worship, considering how diverse many of these churches can be. Keep Christ at the center, yes. Keep the sacraments, yes. Keep the same patterns and hymns? Why? Because that is how it was done after the Reformation? Those men were only using the means of their time. They never imagined the instrumentation and instruments that we have today. Who is anyone to judge that a skilled drummer isn’t making a sacrifice of praise to God in response to what He has done in giving him his talents, etc., but to claim that the organ (which, by the way, only made its way into the Western church a good 800 years after the birth of Christ) or the piano (invented AFTER the Reformation) is most pleasing to God? Every Biblical example I can find of people worshiping is incredibly exuberant, raucous, and even, in David’s case, embarrassing to others. How about THAT historical model? Or is someone’s treatise on what they understood worship to be in the 16th century more weighty than the Bible itself?I take my first authority from the Word of God, then the Book of Concord. Please demonstrate where in the Bible it commands a single “style” of worship, and I will be happy to consider your “unity through conformity” theory.

  20. Andy Busch:
    Can you provide references for the following quotes you used:

    My response to this is still awaiting moderation, so here it is without all the links. Just click on my name at the left if you would like to see the Henkel translation of the German Apology.

    Andy Busch:
    “special and urgent cause”
    “for the sake of peace and unity”

    Both of these are from Apology XV:51b in the German version that we find in the original 1580 Book of Concord:

    Darumb leren auch unsere Prediger, das one sondere und one bewegende ursachen, an den Kirchen breuchen nichts geendert sol werden. Sonder umb friedes und einigkeit willen, sol man die jenigen gewonheiten halten, so man one Suende und one beschwerunge der Gewissen halten kan.

    Henkel translation: “Our preachers teach therefore, that without special and urgent cause, no change should be made in church usages, and that for the sake of peace and harmony we should observe the customs that are not in themselves sinful or oppressive.”

    Literal translation: “Therefore, our preachers also teach that without special and without moving causes, nothing should be changed in the church usages. Rather, for the sake of peace and unity, one should keep those customs that one can keep without sin and without burdening of consciences.”

    Andy Busch:
    “united in teaching and in all the articles of faith”

    I was actually quoting you here; specifically, your citation (without giving the reference) of FC Ep X:7. Apology XV is doctrine, so congregations that abandon the historic liturgy without a compelling reason are no longer “united in teaching” with those that maintain it.

  21. @Andy Busch #15
    @Andy Busch #16
    @Andy Busch #19
    ‘Could you please provide evidence for your assertion: “It is crystal clear from 16th Century visitation records, and the totality of the confessions that Chemnitz et al. defined the community of God in their time and place as the Lutheran territorial churches, not individual congregations. Ditto for Luther”’

    Well Pastor, I guess I’d start with the fact that the main authors of the Formula of Concord, Chemnitz and Andrae, also wrote Church Orders for Lutheran Territorial churches that mandated fixed liturgical forms, prayers, readings, vestments, times of service, et cetera. They also mandated visitations of local congregations w/in the territories to enforce those church orders and in fact removed parish pastors who refused to follow the orders that the territorial church in their place and time promulgated. Again, Luther was dead by the time the FC was written, but I’d suggest his open letter to the Hussites on the elevation of the host, the Saxon Visitation Articles, and the Preface to the Small Catechism as low-hanging fruit (all in the AE) written by Luther on the non-negotiability of “uniform, settled texts and forms” (Preface to the SC).

    As to not answering your question, I don’t know how I could be clearer than what I wrote in number 8 on this page: “how can I find love and harmony in your witness if you are teaching a divergent doctrine of worship and yes, justification?” The doctrine of Justification is the article on which the church stands or falls, and in your case, it falls. You are teaching that the Word of God PLUS your liturgical modifications saves. Yes, of course you are breaking unity w/ the historical Christian Church, and not just the LC-MS, but that’s is a rabbit trail I’m not going to pursue for now. I’d rather discuss your synergism, because it’s the smoking gun that highlights the impossibility of Lutheran substance w/ [Neo]Evangelical style.

    I want to answer your most important question:
    ‘Where did I “assert that it is NECESSARY for you to do so in order to “help people understand God’s Word and remove barriers to that understanding”’?
    You did that when you wrote “You keep asking me what benefits I find from making changes to the historic liturgical services. I find all the benefits of the Gospel as stated in the Introduction to the Explanation of the Small Catechism: “forgiveness, faith, life and the power to please Him with good works.” Those are the benefits I see.”

    You are asserting that “forgiveness, faith, life and the power to please [God] with good works” are all contingent, for some people at least, on your “making changes to the historic liturgical services.” You reiterated that belief when you wrote to Jon that: “For some, the historical forms are effective. For others they are not effective.”

    How can that not be an assertion that your new human traditions are “necessary” to save those sinners for whom the historical forms “are not effective”? It is you Pastor who is asserting that your human traditions are necessary for salvation, not us. It is you who are breaking FC SD X 15 and “forcing human commands upon the church as necessary–as if their omission were wrong and sinful.” You are saying that w/o your innovations there are sinners who would not receive the Gospel, and so we must accept your breaking the external unity of the church. That Pastor is soul poison, and a direct rejection on your part of AC IV and V, AP XV, and yes, FC X as well, because this stopped being Adiaphora when you made the claim that your traditions are necessary to reach some sinners. That puts us in FC X’s a “state of confession.”
    KE+,
    -Matt Mills

  22. @Matt Mills #22
    I didn’t see anything in your response that indicates the “totality of the confessions…defined the community of God in their time and place as the Lutheran territorial churches, not individual congregations.”
    I need to apologize profusely if I gave the impression that the benefits of the Gospel come about in synergistic ways. I did not assert that “forgiveness, faith, life and the power to please God with good works” are contingent upon making changes to the historic liturgical services. I recognize fully that those can happen through historical liturgical services. I want you to recognize they can happen also through non-historical services.
    I am confessing freely that YOU ARE FREE TO USE HISTORICAL LITURGICAL SERVICES. I am free to not.
    If you feel the Gospel can only be proclaimed through historical liturgical services, I feel sorry for you. I hope some day you can come to see the power of the freedom that is in Christ, and the power that the Word of God has to work through various means.

  23. @Andy Busch #23

    Wow Pastor, you must read very quickly to have rejected my evidence (Luther’s Open Letter to the Hussites on the Elevation of the Host, the Saxon Visitation Articles, and the Preface to the Small Catechism, plus the history of Chemnitz and Andrae’s Kirchenordnung and visitations) in under 30 minutes! Still, are you saying that although Chemnitz and Andrae clearly rode roughshod over parish pastors who rejected their (very detailed) church orders, that FC X (which they wrote) was intended to support those pastors’ rights to defy their Territorial Churches? ‘Cause that’s kinda nuts from an historical perspective.

    If you do not assert that “forgiveness, faith, life and the power to please God with good works” are contingent upon making changes to the historic liturgical services, then we’re back to square one I’m afraid. At your ordination, through your quia subscription to the BOC 1580, you made a vow to change nothing in customary rites that can be observed without sin or without great inconvenience, out of Love, and in order to cherish harmony. Because the confessors asserted that they knew of no benefits to changing customary rites that can be observed without sin or without great inconvenience that outweighed the love and external harmony to be gained by keeping them, I asked you: What benefits have you found (which the confessors obviously missed) that DO outweigh the love and external harmony to be gained by keeping customary rites that can be observed without sin or without great inconvenience? The question still stands.

    If there’s a third option, please share it with me, but either you’re rejecting AP XV because, as you originally answered: ‘I find all the benefits of the Gospel as stated in the Introduction to the Explanation of the Small Catechism: “forgiveness, faith, life and the power to please Him with good works.” Those are the benefits I see.’, or you are doing it just because CoWo blows your skirt up, and the historical liturgy does not. You either believe that CoWo is required to save the lost, in which case you are a synergist, or you’re allowing a frivolous preference to offend against love, and rend the external unity of our Synod, and the Bride of Christ throughout the world, and throughout the ages, in which case you’re a self-centered jerk. Again, if there’s a third option, please share it with me.

    Finally, you’re trying to make a set of bookends out of our positions, but it won’t work. I fully reject the statement that “the Gospel can only be proclaimed through historical liturgical services.” It is because the Gospel CAN be effectively proclaimed in the way the Church of the West has historically proclaimed it though, that we are FREE in Christ to hold fast to the external unity that a common worship fosters. AP XV does require external unity, but not because the Gospel can only be proclaimed through historical liturgical services, but because that’s how brothers in Christ act. They are willing to share, and love, and follow. Love doesn’t insist on getting its own way, and it doesn’t break unity over frivolous preferences.
    KE+,
    -Matt Mills

  24. Andy Busch: For some, the historical forms are effective. For others they are not effective.

    But what justification is there for assuming that the problem in the latter cases is with the method of sowing – the historical forms, in this case – rather than with the soil, as the parable of Jesus clearly teaches? How many people will end up in hell, because historical forms were maintained, who would have ended up in heaven, if only contemporary forms had been used instead? We already agreed that God “does not rely on our worship forms to ensure the effectiveness of His work in people.”

    Andy Busch: I sense more compulsion in these comments than love.

    There is no compulsion here. I am not arguing that we must maintain the historic liturgy, or that anyone’s salvation depends on our doing so. I am arguing that we should maintain the historic liturgy, for the sake of peace and unity. In other words, I am not saying anything other than what Apology XV already states very clearly, which all members of the LCMS purport to accept without reservation.

    Andy Busch: If you don’t accept 1 Cor 14 as speaking against being as clear as possible so people can understand the Gospel then look at Matthew 28:19.

    Huh? I said above that 1 Cor 14 is speaking in favor of being as clear as possible so that people can understand the (Law and) Gospel – but simply by using “intelligible words,” not as a matter of “worship style.” The words of the historic liturgy are very intelligible.

    Andy Busch: As you probably know the only imperative here is “disciple.” Discipling means effective catechesis using all my 1st article gifts so that the Gospel can resonate in both the mind and the heart.

    Actually, the imperative is “make disciples”; “disciple” as a verb is a fairly recent innovation. And how does Christ command us to “make disciples”? By “baptizing them … and teaching them”; i.e., Word and Sacraments. Where in Scripture is this particular definition of “discipling”? I am also still looking for a Scriptural basis for this notion of “resonating.”

  25. Srsly?: I completely disagree. Peace and unity never come through conformity. Our Lord was quite passionate as a man on Earth, as was Luther. I think the idea of removing “feeling” from Worship would probably seem bizarre.

    Okay, so I guess we agree on the first part of my previous comment – Luther and the other 16th-century reformers committed to the Unaltered Augsburg Confession rather unequivocally did “reject the notion of allowing/encouraging variance in worship ‘forms’.”

    As for the second part – where did I say that peace and unity come through conformity? What I said – actually, what Ap XV says – is that we maintain the customs that have been handed down to us for the sake of peace and unity. We do so voluntarily, not out of compulsion. And who said anything about removing “feeling” from worship? As should be evident, I am quite passionate about the historic liturgy. The point is that worship is not, fundamentally, about our “feeling.” In fact, it is not about us at all; that is why Lutherans call it “the Divine Service.”

    Srsly?: I think there is danger in demanding that an entire Synod of over 6000 churches all practice the same “style” of worship, considering how diverse many of these churches can be.

    Again, no one is “demanding” anything; and we are not talking about “style” of worship, but about substance – and in any case, the two cannot be divorced. The diversity of congregations is precisely why consistency of church usages fosters peace and unity. Talking about specific musical instruments is completely beside the point.

    Srsly?: I take my first authority from the Word of God, then the Book of Concord. Please demonstrate where in the Bible it commands a single “style” of worship, and I will be happy to consider your “unity through conformity” theory.

    That sounds like setting up a false dichotomy between Scripture and the BoC. We accept the BoC without reservation because it is a true and unadulterated exposition of the Word of God. Anyone who thinks otherwise should not call themselves Lutherans; and it is simply un-Lutheran (per Ap XV) to change customs without special and urgent cause, such that it would be sinful or conscience-burdening to maintain them.

  26. Andy Busch: I didn’t see anything in your response that indicates the “totality of the confessions…defined the community of God in their time and place as the Lutheran territorial churches, not individual congregations.”

    Really? Randy provided historical evidence based on the actual practice of the people who wrote the confessions. What more is needed?

    Andy Busch: I want you to recognize they can happen also through non-historical services.

    No one has claimed otherwise, and this completely misses the point. We maintain the historic liturgy for the sake of peace and unity, not because we think that God only works through it and not through alternatives.

    Andy Busch: I am confessing freely that YOU ARE FREE TO USE HISTORICAL LITURGICAL SERVICES. I am free to not.

    And we are confessing, in accordance with Ap XV, that being free to modify or abandon the historic liturgy does not entail that one should do so; on the contrary, for the sake of peace and unity, we should not do so without a compelling reason. If the historic liturgy is just as “effective” in delivering God’s gifts as contemporary worship forms, what compelling reason is there for choosing the latter?

    Andy Busch: If you feel the Gospel can only be proclaimed through historical liturgical services, I feel sorry for you.

    One more time: No one has said or implied this. Our point is that there is no compelling reason to deviate from the historic liturgy. “Because I am free to do so” does not qualify as “special and urgent cause.”

  27. Matt Mills, Jon Alan Schmidt, please allow me to commend you gentlemen on your patience.You have done some excellent work here, and your ability to continue, when Pastor Busch has provided no logical, historical, Scriptural, or Confessional support or reason for his deviance from the historic liturgy is praiseworthy.Thank You.

  28. @Andy Busch #5
    – If someone replaces or changes a rite (a choice that is completely justified according to the Confessions) are you not able to imagine that they can replace it with something that is able to communicate God’s Word clearly?

    I can imagine it, but I haven’t seen it happen. What I have seen is a church whose membership is down by half after a decade or more of such [district encouraged] fooling around. And a mission, which closed a couple of years after Lutherans there asked for one of two services to be formal and vested, were refused by the district VP and told to leave the congregation.

    If “changes” work so well to “attract the non-church goer”, why aren’t those groups vibrant and growing?

    (I ignored your version of ‘justification’ purposely; I don’t believe it but I don’t want to waste time on it either.)

  29. Here’s what this comes down to: Lutheran Pastors who abandon the historical Western liturgy are breaking their ordination vows (AP XV) but I assume they are doing it for a reason.

    If that reason is “to save souls” then they have a non-Lutheran doctrine of justification, because we believe, teach and confess that human traditions (whether new or old) are not necessary for the justification of the sinner.

    If that reason is “because we like the new stuff better” then that seems like a frivolous and frankly selfish reason to break external unity, offend their brothers and sisters, and create hostility to the Gospel (AP XV 51 & 52.)

    What’s left? Well, sheep stealing, but I hope I don’t need to come up w/ a reason why it’s bad to care more about butts in pew (or stadium seating) and bucks in the plate than love of and unity w/ your Lutheran brothers and sisters. Just in case though I’ll throw out Philippians 3:19.

    Again, this is an open invitation, what possibly acceptable reason for breaking love and unity am I missing?

    KE+,
    -Matt Mills

  30. @Srsly? #21

    Luther prepared forms of the mass. He removed legendary elements that had crept into the Latin form. He removed everything that smacked of the Sacrament being a sacrifice that we offer to God, and made sure it was clear that the Sacrament is a gift from God to us. What he liked about the regularity of the mass is that, one can be sure through it to show the divine service, that is, the service of God to sinners.

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