I have a practice of meeting a half dozen times with the youth to be confirmed (on the Sunday we celebrate the Reformation) each year. I have them complete some assignments -- some reflective writing, a visit to a non-Lutheran church and a report, and an essay on an assigned topic (from the catechism). We were discussing some of the strange worship practices of the congregations visited (strange at least to most of them). One student, however, suggested that there are Lutheran congregations that do the very same thing as these entertainment style churches. It began a discussion of what has to be there in order for the worship service to be Lutheran. I moderated and asked some questions but they worked mostly on their own list of "essentials" for Lutheran worship in any Lutheran parish.
In no particular order, they said:
- confession and absolution were part of their prerequisites for worship to be Lutheran;
- Scripture readings and, in particular, the reading of the Gospel;
- speaking of the creed (either Apostles or Nicene, in their minds);
- sermon to apply the Word to life (though not too long);
- Holy Communion (they have grown up to our weekly Eucharist as the expected norm);
- use of the Our Father;
- at least some of the songs being hymns from the hymnal
- receiving an offering.
As we spoke about their list, some who have been to Lutheran congregations with worship practices missing some of these constitutive elements began to talk about those congregations. "What about them?" I asked. A few simply said, "They are not Lutheran." Others were hesitant to say that but clearly leaned in that direction.
It was a moment that made me proud. Instinctively they knew that not everything done in a Lutheran parish was automatically Lutheran. And if it is not Lutheran, they knew what to say about it and what to do with it. In the end, most of them agreed with the one who volunteered "After visiting another church, I have new found respect for my Lutheran church and for my Pastor" (it seems the preacher she heard preached an hour and 25 minutes compared to my typical 15-18 minutes and this swung the vote in my direction).
Thanks for your article. I just wrote an article on our Lutheran worship (I am WELS) and was checking out what other blogs said. If you have a chance, check out my recent article and let me know what you think. Thanks!
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