Should Lutheran Pastors Chant the Words of Institution?

Holy-Eucharist-IconThe English verb, ‘to chant’ derives from the Latin word, ‘cantare,’ which simply means to sing.  Some form of singing or chanting existed in the Christian Church since its inception.  Various forms of chanting in Christian worship evolved during the Middle Ages (c.600-c.1400).  Gregorian chant became the most common form of plainchant in the medieval Christian church as it replaced or synthesized with early forms of chanting, such as, Roman chant or Gallican chant.

Unfortunately, chanting bothers many American Lutherans.  The most common criticism is that chanting is “too Roman Catholic,” and therefore good Lutherans should not do it.  First, I do not question anyone’s motivation for being wary of chanting in the Divine Service.  Most have a genuine concern that worship services not contain faulty practice.  However, their apprehension regarding chanting rests on a deficient knowledge of history.  My hope is to correct this misunderstanding so that they can praise God through participating in and hearing a beautiful form of singing.

Dr. Martin Luther loved music.  He marveled at music as God’s gift to humanity and exhorted Christians to ceaselessly praise the triune God in song.  He believed that God had endowed creation with musical qualities.  He wrote hymns and played the lute at home with his friends and family.  Music played a role in Luther’s education and his life in the church both before and after the Reformation began.  (For a short introduction see Carl F. Schalk, Luther on Music, St Louis: CPH, 1988, and the quotes at my blog.

When Dr. Luther initiated reform of the late medieval liturgy in the 1520s, he did not reject the church’s traditional services or music.  He tried to retain songs, tunes, and practices from the early and medieval church that did not contradict Scripture or promote false teaching.  While Luther and his colleagues did write new hymns and tunes they kept the basic form of the medieval liturgy.  Even when Luther wrote new hymns, he based the tunes on the late medieval chants and other existing religious songs, not on tavern or secular songs (Joseph Herl, Worship Wars in Early Lutheranism, Oxford 2004, pp. 21-22.)

Although Luther retained the main elements of the medieval liturgy, he significantly changed how the Words of Institution were pronounced.  When performing the medieval mass (and the Roman Catholic Mass until the 1960s) priests spoke the Words of Institution quietly over the bread and wine.  The ringing of bells and the elevation of consecrated bread and wine indicated that the consecration had taken place.  Luther believed that these sacred Words of Christ were a Gospel proclamation (Luther’s Works 36: 288-89).  Therefore, when Dr. Luther introduced liturgical reform, he instructed that the Words of Institution should be chanted so that the entire congregation could hear them.  For example, in 1523 he wrote, “I wish these words of Christ…to be recited in the same tone in which the Lord’s Prayer is chanted elsewhere in the canon so that those who are present may be able to hear them…” (Luther’s Work’s 53: 28. Emphasis added) When Luther translated the liturgy into German in 1526, he included tunes so that the readings and the Words of Institution could be chanted (Luther’s Works 53: 80-81).

Lutheran pastors and congregations are not obligated to chant or sing the Words of Institution.  However, it is simply historically inaccurate to state that it is a Roman Catholic practice.  Martin Luther specifically introduced the chanting or singing of the Words of Institutions.  Congregations should rejoice in hearing Christ’s Words of Institution chanted loudly!

About Dr. Matthew Phillips

My name is C. Matthew Phillips and I am Professor of History at Concordia University, Nebraska. I completed my Ph.D. in medieval European history at Saint Louis University in 2006. My research has focused on medieval monasticism, preaching, devotion to the True Cross, and the Crusades. Additionally, I have interests in medieval and early modern European education and the writings and life of Martin Luther.

At Concordia I teach World Civilization I, World Civilization II, Europe Since 1914, Early and Medieval Christianity, Renaissance and Reformation, The Medieval Crusades, The History of Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union, and The Modern Middle East.


Should Lutheran Pastors Chant the Words of Institution? — 50 Comments

  1. They didn’t have microphones. Chanting carries better than speaking. Now we have microphones.

  2. Hello all BJS,
    I will chime in on this (back just for this from my hiatus)…

    I have done both, I do believe I chant well. But many times, I lean toward speaking.

    Why? I want to do this part of the service, slowly, with good pauses as needed, a decent tone and decibel level so Grandma can hear it (now, I do not shout though). I also pay special attention to making good clarity in my speech.

    And I still stare down at the words, even though I know them, just so I do not make a mistake.

    In fact, there was a big deal at our NID and the President came down on those that use “words of institution” that are not in the liturgy.

    A Pastor in my opinion cannot, should not have license with the words.

    As the President exhorted, “read what is printed.”

    Also, I speak, because even though I am a good singer / chanter; I do not want them to say “oh nice job chanting.” No, listen to the words, not the fact the Lord gave me a good voice.

  3. It is no secret that teaching goes best for little children through song and rhythm. If we learn the words through chanting, I believe they will be ingrained in our memory more than speaking. This is personal opinion only. However, this is up to each pastor to decide, based on what he believes is the best way to lead his flock. I love the chanting, but I do know it offends some, especially the elderly who did not grow up with it.

  4. Please do chant! I love it, and I think it sets the Words of Institution apart from other prayers. It has a tone of the sacred. (Please also chant the proper preface, but that is another article…). 😉

  5. @LadyM #3
    Dear M,
    But remember, chanting is really not singing, not rhythmic and flowing the same. I know what you mean though.

    This is one portion of the service where “the ox” simply recites (or chants) what we have been given, so you all know that the Lord’s Meal is now prepared and ready for joyful consumption.

  6. An adiaphoron.

    No true Lutheran makes Luther’s preferred liturgical practice law, unless confirmed by clear Scripture passages or logical deductions based on the same.

  7. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #2

    Thank you for –

    ‘and I still stare down at the words, even though I know them, just so I do not make a mistake’.

    I witnessed a young pastor, although not right out of the seminary, try and say the Words of Institution by memory. The first time he messed up he didn’t go immediately to the altar book and read, but tried again to do it by memory. The second time wasn’t any better than the first. He finally got it right the third time. As a member of the congregation, it became uncomfortable and I felt empathy for him. Pastors should read/chant what’s printed in the altar book. There’s nothing wrong with just reading what is in the hymnal. ‘Read the black, do the red’ – Rev. Paul T. McCain.

    In Christ,

  8. @Diane #9
    Dear Diane,
    Perhaps to some, this sounds crazy, but when I am consecrating the Divine Meal, even though I “stand in for Christ” as the Pastor, He (Jesus) is still leaning over my shoulder as I prepare the Eucharist for His flock. No, I have no special revelation or such, it is just so important that we do it right at this point. It kind of gives you a tingle. How special for me that I can be part of “heaven on earth” in such a special way.

    OK, sort of sounds goofy I bet. I just think, “Jesus wants me to get it right at this point.”

  9. I like the chant and our former pastor chanted beautifully. I can’t really sing, so I empathize with those who really can’t do it. Spoken is fine.

    I do have question about chanting. As I understand it, what we now have came to us through translation. It was originally in Latin which has a very different intonation pattern from English that could make chant hard for many to listen to, whereas it fits perfectly with Latin. Those who know more about it, let me know what you think.

  10. Things that matter least , should not come before things that matter most. Really ? Why do we fuss over a matter of reading or chanting, when the truly important thing is the Words themselves. What is there to fear ???I love the chanting myself, as I believe it to set apart the Divine Service from all the nonsense that takes place in the rest of the world. People often treat their favorite ball team with more awe and reverence than they do the triune God. They wear their teams colors, they chant and they display their mascots flags on their homes and cars. This entire discussion is silly in light of “Who” we are talking about! If one is afraid of Rome then it is time to sit down with the Book of Concord and study our Lutheran Heritage.

  11. Sometimes I chant, sometimes I don’t. It really depends on whether or not I am able to find the tone (it’s not a matter of practice, as it is numerous other external factors for me). I do prefer to chant the Verba primarily so that the young may hear and remember it.

    An observation I made while attending a service at Grace Lutheran Church in Stockton, MN was that the children in the service snapped to attention when they heard the Verba being chanted. What ever other reasons may be given for chanting or not, this is one that really made an impression on me. Even a toddler knows that hey, now something important is happening, pay attention.

  12. Our Pastor may chant the liturgy, but when he comes to the words of institution he speaks them slowly, reverently and very distinctly. He does this in an effort to highlight them.

  13. “It was originally in Latin which has a very different intonation pattern from English that could make chant hard for many to listen to, whereas it fits perfectly with Latin.”

    @Mrs. Hume #11 Mrs. Hume, I am no expert, but for any of the “experts” who think they are going to take us down the Latin path and start chanting (or speaking) the DS in Latin, will be the day I leave this church.
    Incidentally, our pastor chants. It is rhythmic and beautiful. If someone is doing it poorly, this can cause it to seem broken. Regardless, it is still the Lord giving us His Words, whether spoken or poorly sung.

  14. My Pastor chants the Words of Institution and it is wonderful! I can’t imaging going back to the practice of monthly communing and “3 hymns & out the door” that we had in the “Bronze Age”….
    I refer to it as the 3 C’s (chausibles, chanting, & crucifixes), which drives some crazy. Personally, I believe it is part of what makes us Lutheran.

  15. Now the question is does a pastor have the the authority to insist that it needs to be that way? (Especially if the congregation has no history of this) Should he be wary of the change to keep peace within is called church?
    So called luturgical purists wants no input and make the change equating it to a confessional matter which it is not. That reeks of le’turdgical nonsense. (Spelling correct)

  16. A good rule of thumb I tend to follow is that whenever there’s white on the altar it’s time to chant the Proper Preface and Words of Institution.

  17. @curt poe #18
    Hi Curt,

    I would say that if a pastor insisted on it without any instruction and it had never been done in that church, he’s in big trouble. The Words of Institution are not adiaphora, however, whether one chants or reads them is an indifferent thing. Klemet Preus’ book ‘The Fire and the Staff’ is an excellent resource on changes in church practice. It must be done with lots of teaching before changing practice.

    In Christ,

  18. Dear BJS,
    Some final thoughts:

    01) As Diane stated, chanting or speaking, adiaphora.

    02) If a pastor chants, my opinion, do it well; and some pastors should just refrain. Sometimes, God gives other gifts to all of us; practice does not always make perfect.

    03) Interesting notes on “the Words” themselves. I state, use what is written in the LSB or other setting that we all in good practice and tradition agreed on.

    Use the sermon and other places to put that “personal touch.” The Words of Institution are not that place or that time.

    04) I once went to another Church (the service many years ago for our NID conference), and in reality, the Words of Institution were some historical mumbo-jumbo. In reality, I was not sure the Meal was really consecrated, so I did not partake.

    This caused much debate the next day, good debate.

    Yes, I think this is Law, the proper Words to use. Yet, if done wrong, the Eucharist loses that Gospel touch, Eucharist IS Gospel.

    This is what makes us different than the Radical Reformers who make the Eucharist a mark of Law, not the sweet Gospel of forgiveness that we, as our Apostolic Fathers and Church taught and knew well.

  19. Dear BJS,
    Some final, (haha) final words on this:

    01) I once went to Sanctuary 10/10 (look it up, NID plant from a fellow Church a Circuit over); they do have different musical practice, albeit, as I took notes, the service was LSB, spot on. Yes, yes, praise band one Sunday, in a movie house; not “my cup of tea”.

    But when Holy Communion was celebrated, reverence, oversight, proper Words of Institution used. Spot on. I dined at HIS table.

    02) I have gone to a supposed confessional, liturgical Church, that “made up” their own words of institution (notice small case).

    To me, this is worse than many of the errors spoken with BJS.

    I am hoping it was a bad day, and the pastor learned from his error, and took the rebuke of the President of NID to heart.

  20. @CMP #13
    Yet the title suggests it is an either/or when it uses the word “should”. Perhaps to clear up confusion the title and emphasis might be, “May Lutheran Pastors Chant the Words of Institution (without fear of being labeled as Roman Catholic)?”

  21. @A Layman #17
    I refer to it as the 3 C’s (chausibles, chanting, & crucifixes), which drives some crazy. Personally, I believe it is part of what makes us Lutheran.

    I didn’t hear a sung/chanted service until I got to college. I prefer it now.
    Some Pastors can’t/prefer not to sing so saying the words is certainly an option.

    @Rev. Matthew Lorfeld #14
    An observation I made while attending a service at Grace Lutheran Church in Stockton, MN was that the children in the service snapped to attention when they heard the Verba being chanted. What ever other reasons may be given for chanting or not, this is one that really made an impression on me. Even a toddler knows that hey, now something important is happening, pay attention.

    So do adults, unless they’ve been “carefully taught” a prejudice.

    The church needs more music, not less. We lost the chanted service with TLH, I’ve been told, (although the rubrics are still there for it).

    @Rev. McCall #23

    Pr. McCall, when I looked at that title, I thought it ought to read, “Lutheran Pastors should chant…”, (but should is not “have to”). 🙂

  22. @helen #24
    Now there is an idea for an article! “Top 10 things a Lutheran Pastor MAY do (but doesn’t “have to”) that don’t make him a Roman Catholic in disguise.”

    1. Chant
    2. Elevate the consecrated elements
    3. Wear a chasuble
    4. Read the Gospel reading from the middle of the sanctuary
    5. Move the baptismal font to a more visible place in the sanctuary
    6. Preach from behind the pulpit
    7. Introduce every Sunday communion (after much teaching and preparation with the congregation)

    Any others? 🙂

  23. @Rev. McCall #23

    The fact that many Lutherans (and many who love the liturgy otherwise) have a hang up with chanting the Words of Institution indicates something else to me. First, they don’t know the history of Reformation or Lutheran liturgy. The purpose of this post was to inform them (partially) of that history. Second, they were probably taught erroneously that chanting was a bad thing or Lutherans “should not” do it. So I apologize for the imprecise title, but that was the reasoning behind it. Third, the fact that this particular topic engenders more discussion and more views than my other posts tells me it’s an issue that needs to be addressed. I really do wish people wanted to learn as much about Reformation era politics.

    In my mind, the default position should be chanting and we should allow speaking. However, most importantly, pastors should get the Words correct and rightly teach what they mean to their congregants.

    (*I will comment no further here.)

  24. Absolutely!! This happened in one of the LCMS churches in my community. Since when does “someone else” have the right to change another’s Last Will and Testament? It is not legal in our society so why would a Lutheran Pastor change the Words that belong to my Savior? And then many times forgetting to even say the Words at all. There is great value in Tradition and consistency, even if it’s not commanded. It is beneficial to both Pastor and his flock! By the way , I use music to teach my Sunday Sunday school children scripture.

  25. @Rev. McCall #25

    8. Have a procession with crucifix, candle lighters and Bible on festival Sundays.

    [Preach in the pulpit?] 😉

    By the way , I use music to teach my Sunday Sunday school children scripture. –Lorna
    [Lorna, your other comment is separated from the post intended for it. Define “this” ? ]

    Excellent! They learn what they can sing. Rev. Fisk once had a clip of his two year old, who didn’t quite have all the words yet, but could sing liturgy. Beautiful!

  26. @CMP #27
    I appreciate where you are coming from. I don’t have a hang-up with chanting I have a hang-up with the word “should” because it implies you are wrong if you don’t.
    The default position should be to say the Words of Institution as given by Christ without modifying them in any way. Christ did not institute chanting, however good, right, and beautiful it may be nor did He prohibit merely speaking them instead. By making chanting the default position it again, implies that chanting is, at the least, somehow “better” than speaking the words. I think what needs to be discussed, which you do very well by the way, is that chanting is OK and good and should be acceptable to Lutherans without Roman Catholic charges being thrown about. 🙂
    Also, history is important, but whatever Luther’s preference he was very wise in recognizing that it was merely adiaphora and never enforced his views on chanting as liturgical law. 🙂

  27. Rev. McCall: The default position should be to say the Words of Institution as given by Christ without modifying them in any way.

    I agree with the sentiment, but we should acknowledge that the Words of Institution appear in four places in Scripture – Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, and 1 Corinthians 11 – and there are non-trivial differences among them. The specific form that is found in the two Catechisms – as well as LSB and other Lutheran hymnals – is a reasonable composite that results from combining all of these, and is not identical to any of them. The one part that is 100% consistent is, “This is my body.” Also, Matthew and Mark both have, “This is my blood of the covenant”; while Luke and 1 Corinthians both have, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood,” which is pretty close.

    My point here is not to cast doubt on the exact words, but rather to emphasize that they do not constitute some kind of magic incantation that is completely invalidated by the slightest error in reciting it; what really matters is whether we assign the same meaning to the words that our Lord Himself intended. As FC SD VII:32 says, quoting Martin Luther (emphasis added):

    For it does not depend upon the faith or unbelief of men, but upon God’s Word and ordinance, unless they first change God’s Word and ordinance and interpret it otherwise, as the enemies of the Sacrament do at the present day, who, of course, have nothing but bread and wine; for they also do not have the words and appointed ordinance of God, but have perverted and changed them according to their own notion.

  28. @Rev. McCall #25
    Rev. McCall,
    Actually, your second item, “Elevate the consecrated elements” does have special meaning for the RC, does it not? I have been told that it is part of a practice that offers again the body and blood of our Lord because His death on Calvary only took care of original sin. That is why we have pastors and they have priests – right? To do this then as a Lutheran, would, to me at least, imply that we believe we are re-sacrificing our Lord’s body each Lord’s Supper. (He must be lifted up.) I know that is not what we want to show! If this is incorrect, I do know that it is something many laypeople have been taught. That may be why some of the pastors are getting some objections to this practice.

    As far as numbers 3 and 6, it seems to me that they bring unnecessary attention to the man, rather than the Word that man brings.

    But, alas, I am very happy in my little church, with my dear chanting pastor who wears robes and stoles, preaches properly Law and Gospel from a pulpit we have prepared for him, and sees no need to elevate the consecrated elements but rather faithfully distributes them to the worthy and well prepared who come to the table to eat and drink. 🙂

    I understand that people have differing opinions, but we must be careful to teach, teach, and teach some more before we make changes even for those practices that do not affect our doctrine.

  29. I’m not saying it has to be spoken or it has to be chanted. For me, chanting is distracting and I have to concentrate extra hard when the pastor chants. Of the three pastors serving our congregation, I would rank their chanting skills as excellent, great, and adequate. Preparing for communion is not a good time to be distracted; spoken Words of Instution have never been distracting to me.

  30. @Rev. McCall #31
    @helen #29
    9. Have a crucifix with Christ on it.

    I had a crucifix in ‘8.’. A crucifix has Christ on it. Without Christ, it’s a cross.

    (One more because you have one more in mind, or because it’s a perfect number?)

    [9/10. Consume the remainder in the chalice before finishing the service.]
    (Another reason to omit [trays])

    @LadyM #33

    As far as numbers 3 and 6, it seems to me that they bring unnecessary attention to the man, rather than the Word that man brings.

    3. The Chasuble is meant to show that the Service of the Sacrament is going on. (It actually conceals the man.) [We are still discussing “may” here; many congregations cannot afford them or don’t choose to have them.]
    6. Pulpits were originally built to allow the preacher to be seen and heard. They still are, (since at least some people are assisted by lip reading) as well as to indicate that God’s Word is being spoken here.

    If you think your Pastor errs toward the “formal”, try to be thankful!
    (Consider that he might otherwise try “Mr Greenjeans with jacquard suspenders” some Sunday in Trinity!)

  31. Regarding the elevation of the host. No, it is not meant to confess anything of a re-sacrifice. Consider the following:

    “Fourth, the seal or token is the sacrament, the bread and wine, under which are his true body and blood. For everything that is in this sacrament must be living. Therefore Christ did not put it in dead writing and seals, but in living words and signs which we use from day to day. And this is what is meant when the priest elevates the host, by which he addresses us rather than God. It is as if he were saying to us, “Behold, this is the seal and sign of the testament in which Christ has bequeathed to us the remission of all sins and eternal life.” In agreement with this is also that which is sung by the choir, “Blessed be he who comes to us in the name of God,”10 whereby we testify how [in the sacrament] we receive blessings from God, and do not sacrifice or give to God.”

    Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 35: Word and Sacrament I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 35 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 86–87.

    “The same thing happens when the priest elevates the bread and the cup immediately after consecrating them. By this he does not show that he is offering anything to God, for he does not say a single word here about a victim or an offering. But this elevation is either a survival of that Hebrew rite of lifting up what was received with thanksgiving and returned to God, or else it is an admonition to us to provoke us to faith in this testament which the priest has set forth and exhibited in the words of Christ, so that now he also shows us the sign of the testament. Thus the oblation of the bread properly accompanies the demonstrative “this” in the words, “this is my body,” and by the sign the priest addresses us gathered about him; and in a like manner the oblation of the cup properly accompanies the demonstrative “this” in the words, “this cup is the new testament, etc.” For it is faith that the priest ought to awaken in us by this act of elevation. And would to God that as he elevates the sign, or sacrament, openly before our eyes, he might also sound in our ears the word, or testament, in a loud, clear voice, and in the language of the people, whatever it may be, in order that faith may be the more effectively awakened. For why may mass be said in Greek and Latin and Hebrew, but not in German or any other language?”

    Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 36: Word and Sacrament II, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 36 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 53–54.

    “Therefore these words, as a short summary of the whole gospel, are to be taught and instilled into every Christian’s heart, so that he may contemplate them continuously and without ceasing, and with them exercise, strengthen, and sustain his faith in Christ, especially when he goes to the sacrament. And this is what the minister is indicating when he elevates the host and the cup. He is not referring to any sacrifice with as much as a single word, which is what would have to happen if it were a sacrifice. Actually, it would make no difference if there were no elevation, for that is something men have invented; Christ did not institute it.

    It may well signify, however, that just as this pledge of the promise of Christ is elevated in order that the people may thereby be inspired to faith, so the Word should be preached publicly to the people in order that everyone may hear the testament and see the pledge, and through both be attracted and aroused to faith and strengthened in it.”

    Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 36: Word and Sacrament II, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 36 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 183.

    In fact, Luther criticizes Karlstadt in “Against the heavenly prophets” (LW Vol. 40, p. 127ff) for foolishly asserting that the elevation is signifying a sacrifice and thus forbids it. Luther strongly says that this is in the realm of freedom, and we best let it remain within the realm of freedom. The same goes with chanting, as the original post made abundantly clear. We neither command nor forbid it. There are reasons to chant or not that fall within the realm of decorum, teaching, good order, and pastoral care.

  32. One of the memory work items I have the confirmands recite, in class and at their examination, is the Words of Institution. A few years ago a couple of boys who were great kids and very bright but just had trouble memorizing and would stumble over the words and get twisted around asked, “Can we sing it the way you do?” “Sure,” I said—and was amazed when they intoned it perfectly and beautifully, without missing a note or a word. “Golly,” I thought, “they really have been listening all these years!”

    It seems chanting was widely practiced, and judging from the reminiscences I have heard from elderly members over the years I would venture to say perhaps even prevalent, in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod until The Lutheran Hymnal in 1941 did not include the Pastor’s parts in order to save space, though they were included in the companion volume The Music for the Liturgy. I was told by an older Pastor, who well remembered that hymnal’s introduction, that they didn’t think it necessary to include the Pastor’s parts because, “everyone already knew them by heart.”

    The first time I chanted the Liturgy at Bethlehem, Sylvan Grove, Kansas some 25 years ago I wondered what kind of reaction I would receive. Shaking hands afterward one elderly woman approached in tears and I feared the worst. But it turned out they were tears of joy. “Pastor that was so wonderful,” she said. “All the Pastors chanted just like that when I was a child. It took me back to my Confirmation. But, when we got the new hymnal [TLH] they told us the Synod didn’t allow Pastors to chant anymore—because it’s too Catholic.”

    I’ve heard versions of that last comment from several elderly members in different congregations, who would have grown up in widely diverse areas, so apparently that erroneous idea was widespread at the time TLH was introduced. Over the years I’ve been told variations on this theme, regarding crucifixes (“We used to have one, but Pastor said Protestants are supposed to use an empty cross to symbolize Jesus’ resurrection, because we worship the living Lord”), Communion chalices (“I thought we got away from all that Catholic stuff? Aren’t Protestants supposed to use the little cups?”), stained-glass (“We don’t want this to look like a Catholic church”), paraments (“I know the Catholics spend a lot on stuff like that, but is it really something we bother with in a Protestant church?”), and pipe organs (“Isn’t it better stewardship to get an electronic that costs a lot less and doesn’t have to be tuned? Do you really think God wants us to spend that much money on an organ?”).

    Having been the Pastor when a couple of congregations built new sanctuaries, the pièce de résistance I’ve heard is about entire church buildings: “Didn’t Jesus say, ‘Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name there I am among them?'” I actually had one person tell me that whether or not God was pleased with our new church building would depend entirely on one thing: the price per square foot. He said God is repulsed by anything “fancy,” and the cheaper we could drive down the cost, the more pleased God in heaven would be

    Though it is quite possible to have been reported to me incorrectly, I am very sorry to say that the common thread in most of these stories was that at some point along the way it was a Pastor who supposedly planted these ideas.

  33. Well, although I know chanting is a valid option, I believe (as a church musician and voice teacher) that, should a pastor chant he should be able to carry a tune in a bucket. I know of a pastor who overdoes his pronunciations because “that’s how he was taught” and the words are unintelligible. Perhaps, should a pastor desire to chant any part of the service he should first learn how to chant. It is not something we all can do well.

  34. @David Dahl #38
    Perhaps, should a pastor desire to chant any part of the service he should first learn how to chant. It is not something we all can do well.

    Undergraduate choir helps toward that end.
    [But CTX doesn’t think music is important, especially liturgical music. We must have more like that.] 🙁

  35. Another thought on this subject:
    why is the discussion around speaking or chanting, when the greater issue that I’ve experienced; is around those Lutherans who do not want communion “too often.”
    More than once or twice a month being an offense to them.
    Lord have mercy on us!
    I believe despising the Lords Supper and gifts to us, is a greater concern.

  36. @Jon Alan Schmidt #32
    Thank you, and I agree. 🙂 What I was meaning was indeed not a magic incantation, but rather a limitation on pastors getting “creative” with the words beyond what is given in Scripture.

  37. @Lorna Osborne #41
    Dear Lorna,
    I must chime in here. Yes, having it weekly is wonderful, good, great; but do not say to all those that think less than weekly is OK, “they despise it.”

    In fact, weekly, wrongly done, as anytime; the Eucharist can become Law obeyed, not Grace received. I think this an important notion. Whenever you come to the Table of the Lord, you should come prepared, ready to receive the Gift of Jesus to the lips, into the body, to strengthen the soul and forgive sins. Back “in the day”, you needed to see the pastor before communing.

    In fact, why stop at Sunday only? St. John’s Wheaton Illinois celebrates the Eucharist daily (OK, not Monday, I believe that is their day of pastoral rest).

  38. Of course. I understand your point . However, when a Christian says “again????” , I believe they are despising the gift as Luther himself said. If you do not want to take of it, you do not have to. However, whenever it is made available, is to be joyful in the opportunity.

  39. >>he should be able to carry a tune in a bucket

    A friend with whom I went to college now serves at a Synodical educational institution, and I know that in college he was tone deaf and could not “carry a tune in a bucket.” So I was amazed 25 years later to attend a chapel service at which he officiated and he chanted beautifully. I inquired about the transformation and he said he had actually taken professional voice lessons for the purpose of being able to chant properly, since he is often put into the role of leading chapel and other services in the position he holds, and at the institution chanting is de rigueur and he found it embarrassing not to be able to chant properly. I always thought the ability to carry a tune was something you had or didn’t have, and if you didn’t have it, you couldn’t be taught it. His singing was previously so out-of-tune I would have never thought it possible, but apparently even the most tone deaf have hope. Perhaps the seminaries already do something of the sort, but I think it would be very helpful for them to identify men who need help in this area and arrange such lessons for them.

  40. Dr. Phillips,

    Thank you for your excellent historical treatment of the issue. It is an honor to serve as your pastor.

    In Christ, Clint

  41. @Rev. Matthew Lorfeld #36
    Thank you for those insights from Luther. I think I may have been a bit unclear whenever I was referring to the elevation. At my cousin’s RC church, the priest walks around with the host elevated, singing in Latin and making a spectacle of it. I found it very disturbing.

    I thought Luther was defending the proper practice of raising the bread as it is consecrated, and the wine as it was. Or perhaps raising them both right after they are consecrated, as our pastor does. Or do you think he is defending the Roman practice of parading it around? Perhaps we should define “elevating the host” for those of us who may not understand. I admit I am ignorant of the specific reasons for many of the practices being discussed. But I am learning much. Thank you all for the patient instruction!

  42. @Lorna Osborne #45
    What I have noticed is that those who do not desire it weekly get preferential treatment over those of us who do – as if offending them is more important than feeding us who desire it. I do not understand why it cannot be offered more often and if some do not want it, let them refrain from it. It bothers me to miss one Sunday due to illness or such, and not be able to receive it for nearly a month.

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