Thursday, October 12, 2017

Subtraction and addition. . .

With very few exceptions, Luther’s liturgical reforms were marked by omission, translation, and minor changes -- but not by addition. With very few exceptions, the liturgical work of Lutherans since Luther have been reforms marked by addition, translation, and, sometimes, major change.  Therein, according to some, lie the problems with liturgical change and reform since Luther.  Some insist that what Luther excised must remain forbidden.  Everything from the Eucharistic Prayer (an evangelical form and not a repetition of a Roman one with its overt sacrificial language) to ceremonies once considered non-problematic but later lost to Lutheranism is non-Lutheran.  This is not a principle I find convincing or, for that matter, Lutheran.

Luther was not a liturgical scholar (something both good and bad).  He was a reformer who dealt with the circumstances of his time and no one can diminish the good service to the Gospel that Luther gave to the Lord and to the Church.  That said, the circumstances Luther faced are different from the circumstances we face today.  Luther's chief reform of the Mass, for example, was largely unknown to the people in the congregation since the Canon was inaudible to them and the sacrificial language so objectionable to Luther was not something they heard week after week.  The omission of this part of the Canon went unnoticed to them -- except for Luther's explanation and justification.  Luther's work in offering a reformed form to the Church was considered radically conservative -- even by folks of his time -- though today we find Lutherans all over the page and hardly anything that happens in the chief Sunday service merits the term shocking anymore.

Though the Lutheran Confessions do not insist upon lock step uniformity of form or ceremony as condition of orthodoxy, they certainly do not expect that the liturgical practices of the Church would be one congregation deep and wide nor do they mean that adiaphora allows anything goes.  We find ourselves today in a position in which we must add rather than subtract.  The additions are most often those things that were once commonplace and ordinary for Lutherans (everything from the weekly Eucharist to Eucharistic vestments).  Liturgical reform today requires restoring what has been lost -- not because we want to but because we must if we are to be consistent in practice as well as doctrine.  Lutheran liturgical reform today begins by conscientiously considering, teaching, and restoring what we have lost.  It is not first and foremost a matter of borrowing from others but finding out what it was in form and practice that we Lutherans once knew and have forgotten or chosen to ignore.

It does not follow that Luther's omission of things from the medieval Roman Mass was a liturgical principle for reform in our own day.  Rather, Lutherans face the serious and very real task of rekindling our identity, an identity distorted and disfigured by our own discomfort with the liturgical shape of the doctrine and faith we confess.  Add to that our willingness to borrow from evangelicals and others what we think might work to fill the empty pews and we have shape of the situation we face today.  Though I am indeed an advocate for an evangelical Eucharistic Prayer, the chief and primary force of Lutheran renewal must always be reconnecting with and becoming comfortable with our own past.  Until that happens, Lutheranism will face not only chaos on Sunday morning but, worse, the presumption that Sunday morning has nothing to do with the faith we believe and confess Monday through Saturday.

Luther subtracted what was objectionable in his day for the theological cause of the Gospel.  In our day we must practice liturgical addition for the theological cause of the Gospel in our own day.  If we refuse to know and be shaped by the ceremonial and liturgical that flows from our own catholic confessions, then those confessions are lost to us and they become theory that has no application among us.  When that day comes, Lutheranism will cease its claim to Luther's legacy and will become just another dying Protestant denomination.  Until that day comes, this pastor and the parish he serves will struggle to maintain the liturgical identity that is the other side of our doctrinal coin and will add back into the life of the people those things lost to us by a history of Pietism, Rationalism, humanism, and embarrassment over our own identity.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I know it, you know it, and Lutherans know it:

Special Vestments for the Eucharist are adiaphoria.
A chasuble can be a distraction and draw unneeded
attention to the pastor.

Anonymous said...

When such people get distracted by a chasuble and give unneeded attention to the pastor, they should repent.

Marke said...

To each their own, I guess. Our pastor wears a chasuble on Sunday mornings, Wednesday evenings and often for Matins on Monday mornings. I don't find it distracting, whatsoever. Our liturgical services have ruined me, though, for more casual services that I infrequently attend when out of town. That's where I find distraction.

Anonymous said...

All those who like Friday casual worship services and prefer fewer or no “ancient” church rites and ceremonies, BY ALL MEANS, go find a church that accommodates your proclivities. Lord knows there are plenty of them around. But do me a favor and allow the peculiar people of confessional Lutheranism to cling to the Liturgy of the Divine Service that even Saint John Chrysostom would recognize. You cowo proponents are like vegetarians or vegans. It’s not enough to be one but you must insist that no one is allowed to eat meat and actively campaign against those who do.

Anonymous said...

On the contrary, the amusing thing about this website is its constant uncompromising drumbeat equating only high ceremonial with true faith, without a Lutheran theological leg to stand on.

Anonymous said...

It was not I that sought to engage on a blog that supports the opposition’s viewpoint, a viewpoint opposed to keeping pure doctrine and practice. It was not I that went out of my way to find those whose hermeneutics invite higher criticism of Scripture or denigration of the Conservative Reformation. I didn’t force anyone to go against his conscience and I understand fully there are those who don’t appreciate ancient church liturgy that is derived from Scripture, not merely devised by men. The opposition’s viewpoint deserves rebuke and zero tolerance within the (real) Lutheran Church. The Reformation is settled science in my view and those in opposition should be contained and relegated to American Christianity where CoWo can run its course and where it cannot molest the few who are left who take comfort in the orthodox, confessional, liturgical church. Our differences begin with the fact that I find nothing amusing about the direction in which many LCMS churches are drifting.

Pastor Peters said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

The drumbeat of this blog is to show that the many who presume that rich ceremonial is Roman are completely out of touch with what is Lutheran. Pastor Peter's is right. We live a caricature of Lutheranism today and get our feathers ruffled by things Luther and those with him would have found completely normal. And for that matter Luther and those with him would have found what passes for Lutheran shocking and revolting. Pastor Peter's point is that those who condemn a shasuble or sing the liturgy or bow or whatever are not outside Lutheranism but even more Lutheran than those who don't like them.

Padre Dave Poedel said...

If I could excise one word from the Lutheran lexicon it would be “adiophora”. The word is used by contemporary worship advocates to justify the removal of almost everything we understand as the Mass referenced in the Confessons. It has become a word that can mean whatever we want it to mean....which leads to the situation we are in today

Anonymous said...

"When we cannot recover the ceremonial, we have already surrendered the faith it signed and demonstrated." Oct. 4, 2017

Also, the evangelical mass (1526) was not the same as the medieval Roman mass.

Anonymous said...

We recently had a guest pastor in pulpit while ours were out at a wedding, then conference. In order to accommodate, our normal liturgical procedure things were changed to (i’m assuming this) match the liturgical pieces and parts to which he was accustomed. This was generous in IMHO. It made for comfort on the guest pastor’s part, but the congregation was a little adrift. Please do not hear that as complaint - it was just not the liturgical pieces to which we were accustomed. The sermon was an excellent Law & Gospel presentation.

So C.S. Lewis is correct in his evaluation of the liturgical service. When one is not sure what is coming next, they’re thinking, “what’s this guy going to do next?” When there is Liturgy, there is the ability to concentrate on the Divine Service, rather than the pastor. To be distracted by a chausable seems very minor compared to being so distracted by the man in the pulpit doing something strange one can’t concentrate on Word and Sacrament.

I also find it ingteresting that I don’t hear people complaining of distraction by an alb or stole. Fascinating that there is not much said about the “distraction” of praise songs. Instead the issue from this side is the reverence, and most importantly the absence of (horrors) doctrine.

như thủy said...

Thanks for sharing, nice post!

Giaonhan247 chuyên dịch vụ mua hộ hàng mỹ uy tín cũng như tiện lọi nhất với bảng giá ship hàng từ úc về việt nam cũng như hướng dẫn chi tiết cách order hàng mỹ thông qua các trang thương mại điện tử hàng đầu.