Friday, July 31, 2015

Busy Work. . .

The soft underbelly of much of the liturgical reform of the 1960s and 1970s was the mistaken assumption that lay people were not doing enough in the liturgy.  They had to be kept busy either to satisfy them or to satisfy some strange egalitarian ideal of common work.  So it became one of the assumptions driving liturgical renewal that the parts belonging to the pastor had to divvied  up and distributed so that each person in the pew could fulfill his or her own ministry.  Sunday morning became a variety show in which we all got to do our things and the liturgy was supposed to have benefited from this variety.  Some believed that people were not getting enough from the worship service because they were not doing enough to keep them occupied.

Before I go any further let me begin by saying I am NOT one of those who presumes that everything in the liturgy must be done by the pastor.  We use assisting ministers, lectors, a full complement of acolytes, cantors, choir, etc... almost every Sunday morning.  But this is not done to divide up the pastor's part of the liturgy and disperse it all out.  This is done in acknowledgement of the roles of deacon and sub-deacon in the liturgy and the use of qualified and trained elders and lay people to fulfill some of these duties.  Nevertheless, it is not the right of anyone to demand a place or a part in the liturgy. Historically, we know that church had assistants who were both trained and given regular place in the Divine Service.  Again, this is not done with a nod to everyone getting their chance to do their thing but is driven by and informed by the liturgy itself and the historical practice of the church through the ages.

Nevertheless, there are those who pay little attention to the liturgy except to see it as a loose framework to hold together a venue in which the talented get to showcase their talents and in which the entertainment or captive interest of the rest of the folks in the pew is the goal.  That is my point.  Whether we think we must give folks their moment in the spotlight or whether we think the people in the pew either desire or benefit from being kept busy or entertained, we proceed from the wrong starting point.  Even liturgical ceremony can be used to entertain people in much the same way people are entertained by musical acts in non-liturgical services.  The point here is not to keep people busy or to entertain them.  The point here is to let the Word speak and the Sacraments communicate their grace to the people as God desires.  Even if we have a full complement of lay or minor clergy orders assisting, the focus is not on them but on the Lord working through the means of grace.

Active participation does NOT mean people must be doing something.  The highest worship is faith and faith is the active participation both expected and given by the Lord so that the gifts He gives may be received with joy and thanksgiving.  Much of what ends up being done when the liturgy becomes raw material in the hands of planners who want to make things better is but busy work to keep people occupied.  This is a terrible lie to and demeaning presupposition of those who sit in the pew.  The faithful are not children who must be kept busy or occupied so that they will be quiet!  Indeed, even the children are engaged by the Word and Spirit of the Lord and on every level are given and receive by faith the grace of forgiveness, life, and salvation.  Silence is itself a component of the Divine Service.  Faithful liturgical leadership does not cover every quiet moment with words or music or actions lest people be left without something to do or occupy themselves.

The liturgy is not busy work nor are any of its components to distract or occupy the wandering minds of the people.  The liturgy exists solely for and in service to the Lord who meets us upon the holy ground of His Word and Sacraments and it is the Spirit who equips us with faith to acknowledge His gifts, to believe in them for our salvation, to receive them for our benefit, to rejoice in their grace and blessing, and to be equipped by them for the faithful service of witness, prayer, mercy, and service to neighbor and world.  By the way, a danger to the faithful also lies when we are be too busy in the liturgy -- too busy doing things to have time to appreciate the mystery, the majesty, and the might of God who stoops low to us with grace sufficient for our every need and draws us into Himself that we may be made ready to follow Him and serve Him in the willing and joyful obedience of faith.


Carl Vehse said...

"We use assisting ministers, lectors, a full complement of acolytes, cantors, choir, etc... almost every Sunday morning."

And somewhere in the "etc..." is the... organist.

Chris said...

The highest worship is prayer, not faith.

Unknown said...

We have lost the knowledge that listening is active, not passive.

Steve Finnell said...


Are infants proper candidates for baptism? Do babies meet the requirements to be baptized? The short answer is no.

Acts 8:26-40 ....36 As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, "Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized? 37 [And Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."]

Unlike the Ethiopian eunuch; babies cannot believe with all their heart. Infants cannot make the confession, that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God. Babies do meet the requirements for water baptism.


Acts 2:22-37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?"

There were no infants baptized on the Day of Pentecost. Why not?

1. They could not believe in Jesus the Nazarene.
2. Infants could not believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
3. Babies could not realize that God made Jesus both Lord and Christ.
4. Infants could not be pierced to the heart, nor could they ask, " Brethren, what shall we do?"

Acts 2:38 Peter said to them,"Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Infants do not need to repent; because they have no sin to repent from. Repentance means to turn from sin and turn toward God. Infants are not candidates for water baptism.

Acts 2:41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

There were no infants added to the church that day. Why not? Because babies could not receive Peter's word. Infants are not capable of understanding the gospel. Infants are not qualified to be baptized in water.


Acts 16:31-34 They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.....33.....and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. 34 ....having believed in God with his whole household.

The jailer and his whole household believed before they were baptized. There were no babies baptized. Infants are not capable of believing. Infants are not qualified to be baptized.



Posted by Steve Finnell at 2:44 AM No comments:
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David Gray said...


The Bible teaches that infants can believe, even in the womb. Or you have to believe that John the Baptist was unregenerate when he leaped in the womb because of the advent of Christ. Be Biblical, embrace infant baptism.

Carl Vehse said...

You will need to work a whole lot harder, David. From his website Steve has problems with the practice of baptism by sprinking, not to mention the Lutheran doctrine of original sin.

tubbs said...

I remember the good old days - when trolls lived under bridges, and not in their parents basements...

Anonymous said...

Wow! You have a Deacon and a Subdeacon, in an LCMS parish? Unheard of!! Radical!! I am truly astounded.


Unknown said...

Steve, Been where you are. However: Baptism is God's work, not man's (or an infant's). God's gift is Faith (Eph. 2:8-10). Adults cannot have faith without God's gift. God can give the gift where He wills. I had to stop using my own reason/logic and have Faith in what God's Word says. You cannot reason from the absence of mention of infants in your mentioned passages of Scripture. Believing with "all our heart" is impossible, because our hearts still are sinful, though they may be redeemed.

William Tighe said...

On the topic of paedobaptism, the exchange between Kurt Aland (a Lutheran who nonetheless opposed paedobatism) and Joachim Jeremias (a Lutheran who not only defended it, but who asserted it to be an apostolic practice). The exchange can be found in these three books (I give the English translations, although the original exchange was in German):

Joachim Jeremias, *Infant Baptism in the First Four Centuries* (London, 1960: SCM Press)

Kurt Aland, *Did the Early Church Baptize Infants?* (London, 1962: SCM Press)

Joachim Jeremias, *The Origins of Infant Baptism: A further study in reply to Kurt Aland* (London, 1963: SCM Press)

It seems to me that Jeremias decisively won the debate.

Kirk Skeptic said...

@ mr tighe: paedobaptism is not merely a practice glommed onto Lutheranism, but rather an essential part of the faith: no paedobaptism, no Lutheranism. Mr Aland is but Baptist with Luterhan sympathies.