Wednesday, September 4, 2019
Anecdotal orthodoxy. . .
Over on the Wittenberg side of things there are those who advocate for a similar conclusion. Those who practice Divine Service Three (the old page 15 of TLH) and who use the one year lectionary are better Lutherans. They give more money, are theologically more orthodox, and they are more devout in the practice of their faith. I am sure that this does not include everyone who prefers this form of the Divine Service but I have heard it said from some. I do have a horse in this race. I am not at all sure that this would be an easy thesis to prove.
In my parish, the vast majority of our members do not have a fond memory of The Lutheran Hymnal or the old page 15 rite. In fact, most of them have no memory at all of this service. I do. I not only grew up with it but it was the hymnal and the liturgical rite that I used exclusively (along with the one year lectionary) for my early ministry. I do have great affection and fondness for it. But that is not the case in my parish. Most of those who were Lutheran prior to their membership at Grace grew up using either Divine Service I or II (or, increasingly, no liturgy at all). We use LSB Divine Services 1-3 but we do not jump page numbers Sunday by Sunday. We spend months and months in each setting in order to build up our people in the knowledge of the rite and familiarity with the music (which is the way most folks in the pews judge the choice). We use both lectionaries, one for Sundays and one for the regular non-Sunday Divine Service. So I have a foot in both worlds.
I am not sure the rite itself has all that much to do with theological orthodoxy, generous giving, and a serious and devout piety. What I do believe has the greater influence is the preaching and teaching of the pastor. Where theological orthodoxy is preached as well as taught, where people are encouraged to regular and faithful giving (and electronic giving platforms provided those who cannot recall if or where their checkbook is), and where people are challenged to maintain a rich and profound devotion to the Lord in their homes and personal piety, these things generally flourish. Where the pastor treats the liturgical rite with care and devotion obvious even to those in the pew, the rite itself will serve as a source and summit of that devotion as God's people meet the Lord in His Word and Table. It is my experience that neither form in LSB itself is the issue but the example and preaching/teaching of the pastor.
Maybe Rome can prove me wrong and maybe folks in the LCMS can prove me wrong but I doubt it. The strong issue here is not the rite itself but where that rite fits within the preaching, teaching, devotion, piety, and life of the congregation as a whole and every family and individual in the congregation. What I can attest is that where these things flow naturally out of the Divine Service (no matter which form is used), the whole life of God's people is deeply affected, nurtured, nourished, and directed. Worship wars need to fought where the battleground is clear -- between Lutherans who have given up the liturgy in any recognizable form and those who keep to the Augustana's insistence that we have not abandoned the mass. It is not helping anyone to make this about one rite or another.
The truth is that the newest rite to many of our people is the oldest one in the book! That shows how far things have moved over the years -- and the clock cannot be turned back. I am of the conviction that any of the rites in LSB can be used faithfully in this manner (even though I am not a fan of the Deutsche Messe style in which paraphrased hymns substitute for the ordinary -- not even Luther's). I believe that the key to renewing the life of the Church is to be the Church on Sunday morning, to live within the integrity of our rites (adding ceremonial is far different than deleting it), to preach faithfully and to practice orthodox teaching, and to demonstrate this faith and piety in your own life as pastor. It may not be flashy but I think it is the key to parish renewal and to the renewal of our church as a whole.