Guest article by Pr. Bruce Timm.
Reason #7: The liturgy is one of the most public witnesses of “synod” we can give to our members and the world.
The word “synod” means to walk together. The congregations of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod have voluntarily agreed to “walk together” as Christians, holding to the same confession of the faith. As one part of our “marriage” union we have promised fidelity to one another through the “Exclusive use of doctrinally pure agenda, hymnbooks, and catechisms in church and school” (Article VI, 4., LCMS Constitution).
It is my observation that the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod is divided in both doctrine and practice. That division hurts the faith of our members and our witness to guests who worship with us. That division is most evident on Sunday mornings, because that is where our various practices are on public display. There is a great variety of practice on Sunday mornings within our Synod. Sometimes it is hard to tell if you are in a Lutheran, let alone LCMS congregation. Via the wonderful world wide web I have witnessed a Caucasian pastor nearing 60 years of age come out to rap music dressed in hip-hop fashion to deliver his sermon. I have also heard “the band” warm up the congregation with some AC/DC music – “Highway to Hell.” I’m sure that is not in the hymnal and I believe most of us would consider that outside the realm of “sacred.”
To be sure those examples are extreme, but division can happen within the same congregation through much less extreme measures. Some churches divide their own members among “Contemporary and Traditional.” If we divide among musical tastes, shouldn’t we also be willing to divide between married and singles, or old and young, or male and female? But dividing is contrary to the faith, especially in worship. We are a congregation, who comes together, to receive the same Christ, the same forgiveness, the same Supper, to bear one another’s burdens. We are united not because we all have the same tastes or experiences, but because we have “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Eph 4:5
I believe that Lutheran Service Book has done much to unite us as a Synod. I believe it is being used by the majority of our congregations, either with the printed edition or the electronic Lutheran Service Builder. The Commission on Worship clearly laid out not only their goals in the publishing of the hymnal, but the goals of Lutheran worship. The style of our worship needs to reflect the substance of what we believe based on Scripture and expounded in the Lutheran confessions. The goal is to serve all who worship by delivering the gifts of Christ, without being sectarian (divisive, each one doing what is right in his own eyes.) By using Lutheran Service Book (or one of our other Synod hymnals) we publicly testify to our oneness, our walk-together. For the unity of all, let us (continue to) pray to the Lord!
Reason # 8: Using the hymnal prevents global warming.