Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Word of Explanation. . .

A comment on another post brought up the fact that our bulletin does not follow the liturgy in LSB exactly. Okay. That is correct. Since these comments have become a question, I am attempting to respond to the questions raised...

  • The bulletin does not include liturgical options NOT being used on that Sunday.  The bulletin does include a thin column which lists Scriptures and brief explanations of those parts of the service.  
  • The creed used is the text of the Nicene Creed proposed for LSB but, at the last minute, changed by the LCMS Convention to ditto what was in LW.  Since I knew that "catholic" and the plural "we believe" might be an issue, I taught this and introduced it prior to our review of the hymnal -- mostly to separate these issues from the new book so that the new hymnal would NOT be rejected because of these changes.  As I said, this began long before it was shipped in the late fall of 2006.  This is in line with the official text of the creed from the councils more than 1500 years ago and actually reflects Luther's creedal hymn Wir glauben all or We all believe.  The word Christian is a late medieval substitution which was done by some in Germany long before Luther was even born and has become a shibboleth for anti-Roman sentiment among many Lutherans even though it has nothing to do with any Reformation dispute.  In fact, it is NOT a good substitute for catholic since it means something very different.  Funny how Lutherans find it hard to swallow but other denominations, especially those whose confessions (if they have them) and practice never claim to be catholic, use the word without an issue but Lutherans, whose confessions explicitly claim catholicity are uncomfortable with the word in the creed.  As far as inconsistency is concerned with respect to an infrequent funeral bulletin, occasionally I screw up and use a template from an older time -- accidental and not devious and definitely unintentional.
  • We add an "announcement of the day" in which a few sentences about the day in the church year, the theme of the liturgy, and a word about the lessons gives context to folks who have trouble relating to the church calendar.
  • We substitute a Eucharistic Prayer for the naked Words of Institution.  The EP is taken from one of the prayer forms already in LSB (but set as a prayer of thanksgiving apart from the Words of Institution or divided up in the general prayer or hidden in some other way in the book) or in one of the other previously published books by our church (Hymnal Supplement 98, LW, Worship Supplement, Worship in the Name of Jesus, English translation of El Culto Cristiano, among others).
Why do we print it out?  I have been in this parish for going on 21 years.  In the beginning we did not print out the full liturgy.  What I watched from the chancel were the numbers of people who did not open the book AND did not open their mouths.  When we tried printing out the liturgy portion only (not hymns), I found that the participation level increased.  We print out the lessons because people complained about not being able to hear or wanting to follow along.  We print out an outline of the sermon because people desired to have it.  Personally, I dislike outlining my sermons for the bulletin and wish our people knew the liturgy by heart.  But I have acquiesced to the fact that printing out the liturgy portion has increased participation and answered some objections.

Some complain about the cost of it all (actually about the cost of two reams of legal size paper per week or about $15 worth of paper, about $5 worth of ink, and about $40 worth of secretarial time).  So for about $60 per week, the whole bulletin is printed.  We print less than the number of people in worship since the first service folks keep one copy though they used several in worship; they recycle them for use at second service.  We also recycle any leftovers at the local paper recycling center.  We are very green!  So we spend

Are there folks who do not like the practices outlined above?  Sure.  Are there folks who love them?  Sure.  Are there folks, most of them in fact, who have no strong feelings either way?  Sure.

Now for the issue of preference.  The truth?  If left to my own devices I would probably end up doing a pretty bad job of a combo comedy/inspirational monologue each week instead of the liturgy.  What I do is guided not by personal preference but by liturgical conviction born of Lutheran confessional identity.  All through our Confessions we insist that we have not abolished the Mass, we keep all church usages, ceremonies, and traditions which do not conflict with the Gospel, and our practice is guided by our Confessions and not by anything else.  Can I help it that we Lutherans forgot what we confessed for a few hundred years, choosing to live as pseudo-Protestants on Sunday morning?  We Lutherans cannot claim the Confessions as a heritage.  We confess them anew in every age.  They are not theoretical documents but the practical and defining confessions that inform our Sunday morning.  Lutheranism is, as Sasse said, "the lonely way" of those who are neither Roman nor evangelical (modern sense).

Some of us Lutherans prefer to be like generic American Christians who follow a book on Sunday morning.  Some of us Lutherans prefer to be like generic evangelicals who mirror the entertainment and cultural values of the moment on Sunday morning.  Some of us Lutherans prefer all the smells and bells on Sunday morning.  Then we act as if congregationalism means that each Lutheran congregation either chooses to be one of those (or chooses to be all of those but at different times on a Sunday morning).  But our Confessions accuse us when preference is the criteria for worship practices.  Our Confessions accuse us when we are shamed or embarrassed by a liturgical identity that is consistent with our confessional one.

Adiaphora means those things which cannot bind our conscience with respect to salvation (man made rules or tradition or hoops of human creation which we must jump through to be saved) but now it has come to mean personal preference.  Adiaphora does not mean we are free to do whatever we like.  Adiaphora still insists the Gospel is the criteria and what serves the Gospel and is faithful to our catholic identity is what we do.  Our Lutheran Confessions say that the Mass (sacrament and not sacrifice) and all the historic ceremonies, church usages, ritual, and tradition which do not conflict with the Gospel (again not a personal determination in terms of what this means for me but genuine catholic and evangelical and confessional practice) are kept among us. 

Walther, the guy who founded our Synod, insisted that these catholic worship practices (note small c) become our confession when people insist that we cannot or should not use them.  In other words, this is not a contest or competition over wills or preferences but our worship practices are shaped by an evangelical spirit and a catholic identity which says less is not more, ritual and ceremony actually confess the faith in addition to words, and consistency over the long haul (not simply from one hymnal to another) is highly desirable.

I am not trying to insult or demand or offend but to honestly explain the why behind the what we do.  I hope it helps.

10 comments:

Rev. Kevin Vogts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rev. Kevin Vogts said...

While I respect your comments my concern would be that you are making changes not just to the propers — with which there has always been more variation — but to the ordinary which has been adopted by our synod. As a pastor of mission congregations I have always considered it part of my responsibility to introduce, and hopefully instill an appreciation for, our Liturgy among the new Lutherans joining my congregation. Ours is a very transient community and there is no greater joy than when a transfer request to another LCMS congregation comes back from those who have moved elsewhere. But there is no greater sadness when they instead inform me that they visited the LCMS churches in their area but they seemed so different that they didn't feel at home. What is surprising to me is that it is often confessional congregations to which I have specifically directed them that I receive these comments about. I have experienced this myself while on vacation. Several years ago we worshiped at a noted confessional congregation and after the service no one said anything until we got in the car and my teenage son insightfully commented, "There's five services in the front of the hymnal. Why couldn't they just use one of those? I know and can follow along with those services." The advantage of having an ordinary is diminished when we make idiosyncratic changes. The propers allow for enough adaptation to local circumstances, without making changes to the ordinary.

Anonymous said...

It's jarring to hear the plural "criteria" used with singular verbs. As a man who uses his Greek New Testament, I'm sure you know the singular is "criterion"

Janis Williams said...

Thank you for saying this so well. It is about the Gospel. It's not about me or my preferences. It is the Faith once delivered that guides us.

Anonymous said...

Since I guess I am partially responsible for this dialog, I will offer the following thought on this discussion.

The word catholic, whether with a big "C" or a little "c," was ingrained in me from an early age to mean Roman Catholic, the Pope, Cardinals, etc. When it is written in the Creeds that I recite on a weekly basis the word "catholic," again I think of the Pope, Cardinals, Roman Catholic. Right or wrong, that's what happens in my not so feeble mind.

As far as the Nicene Creed, I will never be able to understand how I can confess the thoughts of another by using the "we." But, if the powers that be voted for the use of the "we," at an LCMS convention, then I can only hope they will vote differently at a convention in the future.

Carl Vehse said...

Agenda-shaped liturgy - It's not just for methobapticostals.

Anonymous said...

Changes to the ordinary? There are at least three ordinaries with respect to the service of the sacrament alone in LSB. We have not as a Synod rescinded the previous hymnals or worship books of our church unless I have missed something. I am not a fan of the variety of ordinaries but by the same token it is a stretch to lump what was said in this post with those who follow no liturgy. Unlike Roman Catholics, we do not rescind previously approved orders and even among them they have the Latin and the "new" mass at the same time - with different ordinaries. I might prefer just following the page in the book but I find it hard to label this agenda shaped liturgy. My mind is still out on the subject of the eucharistic prayer but it certainly has history and from what I have read Lutherans have for many centuries included prayers of thanksgiving, exhortations to communicants, and such in the service of the sacrament.

My questions are these. So if we substitute Luther's creed hymn are we messing with the ordinary? If we use the word catholic as is printed in small print in the hymnal instead of Christian are we deviating from the ordinary?

I would much prefer one page number and no deviation with canon law to enforce it all. I would much prefer that all but one hymn (perhaps the sermon hymn) be the same in every congregation everywhere. I would much prefer to be still in TLH. But that ain'g going to happen. I find that when the liturgy is mostly from the hymnal even with additions and added ceremonies I am content. I would rather go to something like what was described above than nearly every LCMS congregation in my town with its praise band, no vestments, no hymnal, no liturgy, etc. I find the outrage over the kind of changes he explained to be a bit over the top in the face of the real problems of worship among Lutherans.

Well there you heard my two cents on the subject.

John Gutschalk (lifetime LCMS Lutheran)

fatherd said...

John said, "I would much prefer one page number and no deviation with canon law to enforce it all. I would much prefer that all but one hymn (perhaps the sermon hymn) be the same in every congregation everywhere. I would much prefer to be still in TLH."

If the LCMS had done as John says, most especially the matter of staying strictly with the TLH, then I would probably be an LCMS Pastor today, instead of being an Anglican Priest.

Fr. D+
Anglican Priest

Pastor Peters said...


Let me put this into a bit of context. I have personally lived through the introduction of five worship books. Worship Supplement (1969), Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), Lutheran Worship (1982), Hymnal Supplement (1998) and Lutheran Service Book (2006). I was part of the introductory workshops for the last four of them. I have experienced extended debate within the congregation because specific texts were changed (the Our Father, for example). Since in the Missouri Synod the congregation votes to purchase the worship book, small details can become HUGE issues in that process.

Look at the historical context. In 2004-2005 all Roman Catholics were saying "we believe..." in the Nicene Creed. This was the proposed text for the Lutheran Service Book. In anticipation of this detail becoming the defining one for accepting or rejecting Lutheran Service Book, I made a pastoral decision deal with the creedal change pre-emptively. When the text of the creed was changed at the convention, just prior to actual publication of the book, the previous text (I believe) was used. I had already introduced the change and made a pastoral decision to continue what we had learned to use. You can argue with my decision but it was not a matter of personal preference.

Since that time Rome has changed back to the singular and I am also considering a similar change. I do have conflicting thoughts on the subject of I or we. However, Lutheran precedent remains with the Deutsche Messe of 1526 and the creedal hymn of Luther "Wir glauben all an einem God" (We all believe in one true God). While this is not ecumenical precedent, it remains one choice within LSB for the ordinary of the Divine Service, Setting Five. So it is not the anomaly that you might think (at least within Lutheran context). I remain confused as to why those who sing the creed in the plural find it such a scandal to speak it liturgically in the plural.

The issue of catholic vs Christian is decidedly confusing to me since the word catholic appears within the text of the creed (footnoted as the original word). We have merely used the original word from the two choices in the existing text (although catholic was the primary choice in the original creed proposed). I can only say that a strange anti-catholic (anti-Catholic, perhaps better stated) is responsible for the angst of some Lutherans with the use of the proper word.

The issue of the filioque was not addressed as part of the proposed creed. I do have strong personal feelings about the change, even though its history in the West is long and well established. As my friend Fr William Weedon has said, it might have been best to include this phrase in the same kind of footnoted format that catholic was placed. But the point here (in my original post) that I have deliberately NOT acted on personal preference but have attempted to use pastoral judgment for a specific instance and need.

I hope this places my actions within a specific context and not merely as one who manipulates the text for personal pleasure.

Unknown said...

Just a few words with regard to the “We” or “I” in the Nicene Creed. Once we decide that it is not necessary to follow the decisions of the Councils which wrote this creed, subsequent decisions become more or less subjective. I realize that this affects the “filioque” as well as the “We” vs. “I” consideration. But with regard to the “filioque” the western Church has found sufficient Scriptural support to legitimize it. Since there are no creeds as such in the Bible it would seem this question would be very much an adiaphoron. But, I think it is also true, as a general rule, that the Bible looks at our religion as a “collective” faith, rather than an individual one. When our Lord gave His Disciples “the Prayer”, it was “give us”, “forgive us”, “as we forgive those”, and so on. Using the “I” in the Creed would tend to further the notion that the point of our faith is to save ourselves, rather than the notion that, inasmuch as our Lord has done everything to save us, we are now able to be concerned about others, the “we”.

I also recall a US Air Force general, whose name I unfortunately forgot, whom our pastor asked to conduct services on a few occasions, when the pastor had to be absent. This general preached wonderful sermons, but I remember him best for what he did when it was time to recite the Creed. He would turn to the congregation and ask, “Brothers and sisters, what do you believe?” And the congregation would respond with, “We believe ….” Somehow our response seemed more meaningful than when we responded to the prosaic, “Let us now confess our Christian faith in the words of the Nicene Creed.”

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart