Sunday, July 7, 2013

We don't make this up as we go along. . .

While cleaning out some things from a stack on my desk (only one of many, I am sad to admit), I came across the newsletter of a Greek Orthodox parish where former Lutherans attend (a guy a year ahead of me in elementary through high school years and his wife).  I could not help but resonate with the words the parish priest had written in December of 2011.

We Orthodox Christians don't "make it up as we go along," either in our corporate worship or in our personal Christian lives.  Neither do we conduct constant liturgical experiments or offer Sunday morning entertainments as some others do.  Rather, following the Apostle's instruction that in our worship "all things be done decently and in order" (2 Cor. 14:40), we strive to be faithful to the sound pattern of worship that has been handed down to us by the saints...

The priest is making a needful and salutary complaint against the worship has become an activity in which spontaneity, experimentation, novelty, and entertainment value are the chief criteria for success.  As one who has grown up with the constant (and, in my mind degrading and false) joke about how many Lutherans it takes to change a light bulb -- what change?!?!?!  Why it doesn't take anyone to change a light bulb.  We don't change.  That light bulb was good enough for Opa and Oma so why would we change it now?  I am sad to say that the mythology of no change has given way to one in which some Lutherans come to church every Sunday awaiting, anticipating, expecting, or dreading "what'll it be this week?" idea of worship.

Liturgical experimentation is generally the realm of those who believe that nothing is sacred and nothing is all that important, either.  Change has become its own by-word.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it has become instead if it is working, break it and break it so often that nobody will recall how it was...  Seasonal and festival differences are just not enough for us; we want more.

The claim of Lutheranism is that this faith believed, confessed, and taught is not the realm of trend, fad, or novelty but that which was and is believed.  We are not merely Christians, we are catholic Christians whose faith and practice was, is, and ever shall be the same -- not in some mechanical sense but in the familial sense as something that cannot but bear the strong family resemblance of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ the chief cornerstone.

In worship and in piety, the orthodox Christian faith is timeless (note there I am saying orthodox and not Orthodox).  It is as comfortable in one age as in any age and does not have to be re-invented for every generation, culture, or era.  It must simply be faithful.  The particular Lutherans who sent me this newsletter (should I say former Lutherans) were Augustana folk who suffered through one merger after another the church they are bore no more than a hint of resemblance to the church they were.  But it does not need to be this way nor should it.  It is to our poverty that too many have given up on Lutheranism only because Lutheranism as it claims to be is not practiced.  Ample evidence again that the problem was not that we tried being Lutheran and it did not work but that we have yet to try being Lutheran....




14 comments:

Rich Kauzlarich said...

Pr Peters: Thank you for this especially "...the problem was not that we tried being Lutheran and it did not work but that we have yet to try being Lutheran...."

Janis Williams said...

I forget who it was who said, "It is not that Christianity (read Lutheranism) was tried and found too difficult, but that it was found difficult and never tried." Not the exact quote, I think, but sufficiently similar.

Too many of us need to read Jude, who talks about the "Faith ONCE delivered to the Saints..."

Unknown said...

The fact is that Lutherans have changed a lot of the faith and praxis over the past 100 years, especially here in America. The problem is when people object to changing the change they already made. Change only satisfies the persons making the change. They will then fight tooth and nail to stop any others.

If Lutherans wouldn't give so much power to individual churches and individuals in those churches, the changes in Liturgy and Praxis would probably never have occurred.

ErnestO said...

Prayer first in everything brings one to be permeated by the love of Christ, to let oneself be led by the Holy Spirit and to graft one’s own life onto the tree of life, which is the Lord’s Cross.

If you ever attend Messiah Lutheran in Silver City, New Mexico you can expect to hear the same message every Sunday, year after year, all you will ever hear is the GOSPEL over and over and I thank God.

Anonymous said...

Actually, there is liturgy change abounding in the church that Pastor Peters serves. Case in point, we recite a different version of the Nicene and Apostles Creed than what is printed in the Lutheran Hymnal.

This is provided in the 8-10 page bulletin every Sunday. Those of us that disapprove of the word "catholic" instead of "Christian" suffer in silence. Those of us that have a hard time reciting the Nicene confession as "we" instead of the "I", suffer in silence. I personally have a difficult time understanding how I can confess the Nicene Creed for someone else by using the word "we."

Also, Eucharistic liturgy is recited differently than that in the Lutheran Hymnal. Again, very disturbing, but tolerated.

I don't understand why hymnals were purchased at the cost incurred, if those in charge were just going to re-write the liturgy every Sunday. And, I might add, incur additional cost in the printing of an 8-10 page bulletin each Sunday to make sure every one is on the same page.

Pastor Peters seems quick to criticize the use of snare drums, electric guitars and other non-organ instruments in the worship service. However, he becomes silent when there are kettle drums, brass instruments and wind instruments utilized in the service, again, at extra cost to the church.

Just my observations.

David Gray said...

Why would someone have a problem with "catholic"? That's the proper translation into English from the Latin.

Anonymous said...

@David Gray...again, a subtle change from the Lutheran Hymnal and a change from the creeds recited in days gone by.

David Gray said...



Certainly a change from the Lutheran Hymnal but it brings the creed in line with historic Christian practice, from which the Lutheran Hymnal was a deviation.

Janis Williams said...

Anonymus, LSB isn't the Bible, and the Liturgy has seen changes since the 1st century.

In that 8-10 page bulletin is also a sidebar with an explanation of what's going on. That has been appreciated by those of us not familiar with any liturgy but : hymn/song, prayer, hymn/song, announcements, hymn/song, joke, 3-point "sermon", prayer,, etc. I have also heard lifelong Lutherans who visit speak positively of it..

And do you refuse to understand "catholic" as meaning "universal" not Roman Catholic?,

Remember LSB and pastor Peters aren't the originators of these things. There are also LCMS churches out there that make ours look "loose."

If you are suffering in silence, understand there are also those of us who would "suffer" if there were a praise band, team, and jumbotrons up front.

Anonymous said...

@Janis Williams...I too would suffer in silence if there were a praise band, team, and jumbotrons...I don't need or desire any of the above. I was just pointing out the difference in how these are objected to and the lack of objection on other instruments in church.

As far as the use of the word "catholic," yes, I understand its meaning of "universal." However, I find it ironic that during a church funeral, whether conducted in the church or in a funeral home, the word "Christian" is used in place of the word "catholic."

I have to wonder why that is? Could it be that to use the word "catholic" might confuse those in attendance?



Janis Williams said...

@ Anonymus again; I am sorry you are suffering. Truly. Please don't take my comment as being snarky. I have understood since I arrived there are those who disagree. What church doesn't have that?

I am sorry, and I truly don't know how I would react if the shoe were on the other foot. I wouldn't likely be able to sit there and "take it" for 21 years (don't know if you've been there as long as Pr. Peters)."

Paul Becker said...

Thanks to computers, my people can say to me "and with your spirit" regardless of which liturgy in LSB we are following that week. Also, they can hear from me the old Aaronic benediction, "The LORD lift up His countenance upon you..." Just two examples of how "change" actually results in greater consistency within the hymnal as well as with the church catholic.

Janis Williams said...

@ Anonymus; I suspect you are right about the inconsistency. Funerals bring out of town family. If they are Lutheran, it is possible they are accustomed to "Christian."

Once again in defense of "catholic:" it is not a synonym of "Christian." It certainly has reference and relation but is not the same.

Concerning the "we" in the Nicene, I don't believe you are confessing the creed for someone else. It is the corporate, communal confession of the Church. To say "we" is connecting you with every saint alive or asleep who has ever confessed the Nicene.

I know of other LCMS churches who say "very God of very God" rather than "true God..." Some say, "Our Father, which art..." and others say "who art." Words are important. I'm all for recovering words lost to the Church over the millennia. I don't want to strain at gnats, though.

When we have Thursday communion and the district pastors join in, some say "Christian" while others are saying "catholic." Would that not be a solution? You don't have to vocally stress the different word, but if you are more comfortable with one than the other, I don't think you will disrupt the Divine Service saying it. Isn't it somewhat like the fact that some of us cross ourselves and some don't? My husband standing next to me doesn't, I do. He's never chided me, nor I him.

Also, music is very powerful emotionally. Some instruments simply fit better in worship. If we have to pay musicians, I consider it to be like David in the Psalms: "I will not offer God that which costs me nothing." I know that is not the context of the verse, but worship should be costly to us. We are responding to God's gifts in Word and Sacrament. He has given far more lavishly than we ever could.

Pastor Peters said...

Watch for a longer post on the comments on this thread... soon to come...